"Flags": A Tribute to My Mother

Updated on September 23, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Writing poetry became my major composing activity circa 1962, and taking a creative writing class in 1963-64 deepened my growing interest.

Orange Daylilies - "Flags"

My mother called them "flags"!
My mother called them "flags"! | Source

Introduction: "The Grand Old Flag"

You've seen them growing abundantly out in fields, along river banks and old country roads, even along busy highways and Interstates. They are orange wild flowers known as Daylilies. They are hardy and so abundant that some folks feel they are intrusive and seek to stop their spreading abundance. Such an attitude baffles me because I have always loved those flowers, and I have always wondered why my mother called them "flags." I did not know until recently that they were a type of Daylily, and I had no name for them except what my mother called them. Why did she call them "flags"? I think I now know.

An Emily Dickinson Poem

I was writing a commentary on Emily Dickinson's poem, "All these my banners be" (number 22 in Thomas H. Johnson's The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson), which is a fascinating tribute to her love of nature (especially flowers). But tricky Dickinson once again is writing on the two distinct levels as poetry nearly always does. On the literal level, she is addressing flowers and on the figurative level she is addressing her little creations, her poems.

The controlling metaphor employed by Dickinson this poem is "banners," which is another term for "flags." I decided to do a little research on the term "flags" as flowers, and soon was directed to the Daylily. On several sites the phrase, "The Grand Old Flag," appears next the name of the Daylily, for example, here and here.

Mommy and Me

many years ago
many years ago | Source

Things My Mommy Taught Me

I now feel safe in assuming that the name "flags" for the common Orange Daylily stems from certain types of Daylilies boasting the appellation, "The Grand Old Fag." I'm sure my mother heard her mother or other relatives call those flowers "flags." And thus that remained the term for them that she had and passed on to me.

As I write my commentaries about poems, from time to time, I become fascinated by the things I learn, and when those things take me down memory lane, reminding me of the rich treasure trove that was my mother's mind, I feel blessed.

My mother chafed under the fact that she possessed only a sixth-grade education. My father had graduated from high school, and I think that my mother's two brothers and two sisters had completed high school or at least managed to get a grade or two above her mere six grades. But she could read and write, and her memory was outstanding. She remained an avid reader and learner her whole life long.

I now chafe under the fact that I did not do all that was in my power to make my mother know just how much I appreciated her knowledge, her wisdom, her guidance, and her model for a moral life. She could be testy, opinionated, provincial, and I know I disappointed her with some of my choices in life as I grew through my teen years and early adulthood. But I loved her more than I could even realize during my troubled teens and equally troubled early adulthood.

My mother left this earth on September 5, 1981, after having turned 58 years of age on her last birthday, June 27, 1981. Dying at such a young age always mystifies and saddens the living. She seemed so vibrant and full of health, but it is likely that her suffering in childhood the illness of rheumatic fever weakened her heart. She was no hypochondriac, and she seldom visited doctors. She studied nutrition and tried to improve her diet over the years. But she continued to smoke cigarettes, which likely contributed to her early passing.

I am grateful for my mother's love and the affection that she showed me as I grappled my way to adulthood. My love and appreciation for her has grown exponentially over the years. But I do wish I had told her more often and more convincingly just how much she meant to me. As my guru Paramahansa Yogananda said of his mother, whom he lost at the tender age of eleven, "I loved Mother as my dearest friend on earth. Her solacing black eyes had been my refuge in the trifling tragedies of childhood," I can say the same about my love for my mother.

While I loved my father, my sister, uncles, aunts, cousins, and other relatives with all my heart, love for my mother has always been and will always remain a special presence in my heart and mind. She continues to call to me from her home in the astral level of being. I know she knows how I feel, how I miss her, and I long to be able to hold her in my arms and tell her just how much she has always meant to me.

All Things Spiritual

My spiritual arms embrace her always, my mystical mind communicates with her, and her soul power enlivens my thoughts as she continues to shed her special light in the Great Beyond. My mother maintained a level of faith in all things spiritual that only one who had experienced the profound event of seeing her own beloved father after his death could afford. She knew that the soul did not "die." She knew it because of that visitation from her father, whom she loved as her "dearest friend on earth."

My gratitude to my mother has grown deeper over the years, as I have realized that her describing that experience of having seen her father after he died is likely responsible for my ability to understand and accept the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. Without that early, tangible hint that life does not end at death, the concepts of reincarnation and karma would likely have been more than a highly educated college graduate could accept.

(The blight of agnosticism and atheism inflicted by a college education on so many unsuspecting minds remains a sad, destructive force in modern life. If losing one's faith in a spiritual level of being has to result from becoming highly educated, I would choose to stay at the sixth grade level where my mother's formal education ended and remain steeped in the faith that there is more to life than books and professors have to offer, or as Hamlet put it to Horatio: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy," Hamlet, 1.5.167-8).

Without the concept of reincarnation and karma, very little in life on this mud ball of a planet makes sense. Accepting the notion, "Life is not fair," is the sad result of a lazy mind; for if one continues to question, "Why is life not fair?," keeping an open mind, eventually answers will come. And they come in the concepts of reincarnation and karma.

And although, I never got the chance to fully explore and examine those concepts with my mother, I have faith that she intuitively understood them without the intellectual fever such a discussion would entail. She needed no philosophical discourse to convince her that the "afterlife" exists, because she knew that the soul was an everliving entity. Her father taught her that souls do not die on the day that he appeared before her.

My Dear Mother, Helen Richardson

Photo taken at Olin Mills Studio, Richmond, Indiana, late 1960s
Photo taken at Olin Mills Studio, Richmond, Indiana, late 1960s | Source

My Poems and My Mother

My mother continues to provide me with material for poems, so any tribute to Mommy would remain incomplete without offering her one of my favorite poems penned several years ago, celebrating my affection and appreciation for her love and guidance.

Mommy, I love you, I miss the physical reality of you, but I feel your spiritual presence as my mystical mind opens itself to the astral home in which you continue your existence. Accept this tribute that I am offering for the purpose of sharing with you my thoughts, prayers, and abiding love that I will always harbor in my core being for you, a beautiful soul.

Om! Peace! Shanti! Amen!

Dust of a Baptist

for my mother

In Memoriam:
Helen Richardson
June 27, 1923 - September 5, 1981

You let loose on this world a maudlin tongue
And wore like a veil your woe and worries.
Died of a broken heart at the edge of autumn,
You are tucked away with the old fathers and mothers.
You grieved like a child walking in a melancholy fog.
Kept your dead alive in the wrinkles of your heart.
Pain gathered you in his arms and sorrow became your passion.
You hollowed out of life your space to mourn.

But I have felt your prayers and lived their answers.
You spent your heart to save me from my miseries.
If you could have, you would have spared me
The evil that goaded me into marrying the devil.

The road through this life covers us with dust
But the clear soul moves us to drink at the spring of living water.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

    Comments

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    • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Sue Grimes 

      4 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Rinita, thank you so much for your kind words! The melding of information and emotion can make a powerful statement. This "flags" story is only one of many pieces of culture and folklore that I learned from my mother. As she grew up among many diverse peoples in southern Kentucky, with a Greek father and Irish-American mother, she assimilated a wonderful stock of useful terms and stories that make life worth living and make living more profoundly livable. I am blessed that she was my mother, and I hope I can honor her memory with my poems, essays, and stories.

    • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Sue Grimes 

      4 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Thank you, Louise! Yes, she was an amazing woman, a couple inches shy of being 5' tall, she had a personality that measured to the sky. She died when I was young lass of 35, and now I have lived more years without her than with her. But I cherish the memories we made together, and I am blessed that she was my mother.

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      4 weeks ago

      I feel so overwhelmed (in a good way) after reading this beautiful tribute. I have never seen those flowers, but totally appreciate the similarity between flags and banners, and what they meant to the flowers.

      The poem, as part of your offering, truly stands out by being a unique voice specially designed for your mother, rather than a generalized version of a parent's life.

      I am so glad I read this today. Oh, and the picture of you with your mother is heart-warming.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      4 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

      That is a lovely tribute to your mother. She sounds like she was a truely wonderful lady.

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