” And make sure my chin isn’t so tilted up like on some bodies. I hate that.” As she neared death Byron Rempel’s mother Evangeline issued instructions about how she wanted to look in her coffin.
Howard Dyck’s first memory of his mother is her screaming at him in German to “Run,run, run fast” as he was being chased by an angry cow. He is certain he would have died or been badly mauled had it not been for his mother’s vehement instructions.
“Maybe the world doesn’t need God so much as everyone needs my mom.” says Lukas Thiessen. “One who loves you even when you are an aggravating, drugged-up, sex fiend, vagabond atheist………..”
To say that I found Mary Ann Loewen’s recently released book Sons and Mothers- Stories from Mennonite Men interesting would be to understate my total engagement with almost every story between its covers. Mary Ann has assembled, edited and introduces memoirs from a dozen men raised by Mennonite mothers.
The men are different ages and look back at different times in their mothers’ lives. Most contributors are experienced writers with a well established publishing history and that is evident in their evocative prose. Mary Ann has collected much more than just factual histories. These are beautifully written tributes that examine in a very honest way, both the difficulties and blessings of the men’s relationships with their mothers.
I was acquainted with a number of the women profiled or had heard of their sons, and that familiarity added an element of added interest to my reading of the narratives. It was also interesting to see that almost all the mothers were very religious and while the men loved their mothers, they did not for the most part, share their mothers’ passionate faith or deeply held beliefs.
The book ends with Canadian poet and author Patrick Friesen’s story of having to tell his mother she is going to be sent to a nursing home. She is angry but later she reaches out “to gently ruffle what was left of my hair.” Patrick describes this scene in such a moving way I was in tears.
Perhaps one of the reasons I was so taken with the stories in Mary Ann’s book is because I too am the parent of sons and the book has made me wonder what my two boys would say about me, were they to write a memoir about their Mennonite mother.
Mary Ann’s book is available at McNally Robinson. I have already purchased a copy for our church library. I can highly recommend Sons and Mothers.