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My mother’s tears

A Mother’s Day reflection from a problem child

My mother’s tears

The author and her mother (Sophia Lee)

It’s hard to erase the memory of your mother’s tears—especially when you know she’s crying over you. Oh, how I made my mother cry.

I will never forget the day I sliced my leg open. I was 21 years old and 52 pounds, a college dropout suffering from anorexia in my parents’ house. All my fat and most of my muscle had melted off from excessive exercise and insufficient calorie intake, so instead of walking, I hobbled, and instead of climbing stairs, I lifted myself up one leg at a time. If I tripped, I had no muscles to support me, so I would crash chest-first into the ground, a heap of bones smacking concrete.

One day, I tripped while walking down the stairs of the porch. On my tumble down, my left knee folded, and my shin grated the edge of the stairs as I fell. I was wearing long sweatpants, so I couldn’t see the wound. My leg hurt like fire, but otherwise I felt OK, so I went for a walk around the block. By the time I got back, my body was aching, and a neighbor screamed when she saw me. I looked down, and saw that my sweatpants were soaked with dark, red blood.

My mother came running out. She also let out a cry when she saw the blood, and she half-carried me up the porch and into the living room of the house. When she rolled up my pant leg, we saw about 3 inches of flesh hanging out like a tongue, dripping water and blood. And as she stared at the open wound, her hands trembling, unsure what to do, my mother wept.

To be honest, I got annoyed. It’s not a big deal, I thought. It’s just a wound. Why is she crying when I’m not even crying? “Omma, why are you crying?” I snapped. “Stop crying. It’ll heal.”

My mother didn’t answer, but her tears kept dripping, like the blood on my leg. As I look back, I recognize that she wasn’t just crying about my wound—she was crying for me, delivering tears that I couldn’t even shed for myself, hurting from a mother’s sorrow that was greater than my own suffering.

This is a mother who laughed and wept when she felt me growing in her womb, who screamed and wept as she pushed me out into the world, and who continues to laugh and weep alongside my every joy and pain. And I am blessed for it, for my mother’s tears and prayers cover me with a special grace from birth till death—and she is also blessed for it, for the problem child who causes her to weep also keeps her knocking for intimate access to the throne room. If she was ever languid in prayer, her child’s problem turned her into a prayer warrior. If she was ever timid or weak, her child’s problem emboldened and strengthened her to cling to God, begging and demanding His blessings for her baby.

My mother’s tears and prayers cover me with a special grace from birth till death.

This Mother’s Day, I’m remembering all the mothers who weep for their children. Over the years I have met many mothers whose hearts break daily to see a son or daughter suffering from unrepentance, a broken marriage, homelessness, mental illness, cancer, Down syndrome, eating disorders, drug or alcohol addiction, or depression. The more their hearts break, the fiercer they pray for that child—the bold, desperate prayers that unfurl the fragrance of the sweetest incense toward heaven. God cherishes a mother’s prayers, for they reflect—imperfectly but beautifully—His own fatherly heart toward us.

Every time I meet such a mother, I remember my own mother’s tears over me. And I remember how the greatest blessing I have is my mother’s tears.

That day I skinned my leg, we went to urgent care. I didn’t have enough skin or flesh left for stitches, so we had to fold the remaining slab of skin back over the bone and let it fuse into a scar under rolls of bandages. Every evening, my mother would unwind the old bandages and bind my leg with new ones. And every time she saw the ugly wound that made even the nurses cringe, she didn’t flinch but did what she had to do: She disinfected the wound, poured ointment over it, and wrapped fresh bandages around it. She did this every evening for months, and she was both tender and strong.

One night, I felt my hard heart softening as I watched the back of her head bent over my gradually healing wound. This time, I was the one who had to fight back tears—who can satisfactorily describe the power and grace of a mother’s love with mere words? Not me. But I know that I am where I am now because of my mother’s tears, and as challenging as it is to be my mother, God blessed her through her problem child.

Here’s to all the dear mothers who weep: Happy Mother’s Day. God keeps count of all your tossings; He puts your tears in His bottle, and He remembers each drop (Psalm 56).


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  • Linda Bronkar
    Posted: Sat, 05/11/2019 02:37 pm

    Beautiful. Thank you, Sophia Lee.

  •  Deb O's picture
    Deb O
    Posted: Sat, 05/11/2019 04:11 pm

    That verse from Psalm 56. And this from Psalm 6:6: "I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears." Many a night. Praise God; He sees.

  • Kiwi's picture
    Posted: Sun, 05/12/2019 04:20 pm

    Thank you!


  • OrthodoxJ
    Posted: Sun, 05/12/2019 10:06 pm

    Thank you for sharing.

  • DH
    Posted: Mon, 05/13/2019 08:49 am

    Absolutely beautiful. As a new mother (and former problem child), your perspective was exactly what I needed to hear for this Mother’s Day. Thank you!

  • Tfarr
    Posted: Mon, 05/13/2019 08:59 am


  • JD
    Posted: Mon, 05/13/2019 12:28 pm

    Thank you, Sophia! I needed this!

  • Kirk
    Posted: Mon, 05/13/2019 02:22 pm

    Beautiful article about a beautiful relationship with God's loving arms wrapped all around you both. Thank you for using the gifts God has given you through your authentic self to encourage others.