My Mom, a Pearl of Peace

On this Valentine’s Day, I treasure the love that parents show to children and especially the love from my mother, Lois Treasure Whitacre Clark. My 99-year-old Mom died a week ago and her Celebration of Life memorial service occurred yesterday. A 500-word blog can never capture the whole story of parental love but here are some pearls. Mom not only loved me dearly, but her love was widespread.

Mom taught the value of lifelong learning. For many of my childhood years, every week I checked out 10 books from the public library. Our home was filled with books — my home is filled with books. My brothers and I read different books, but all of us are avid readers. Throughout decades Mom often was the first person to check out new books from the library. She usually had a stack of library books at any one time, but she seldom read whole books. She told me that she always started reading at the end of a book…Mom gleaned what she needed in the last chapter and moved on to the next book. I think the Bible was an exception to her usual practice, as she quoted more from the Gospels than from Revelation.

The oldest child of 10, many of Mom’s values came down the line from her parents, Bertha and Joseph Whitacre, and countless ancestors. Each new generation takes on some of what their parents modeled…and takes a pass on some things. My 2 brothers would agree with me that we are glad that Mom took a pass on having 10 children!

My Mom taught the value of making a difference. We will never know what happened to the letter Mom sent to Nikita Khrushchev, urging him to embrace world peace, but Mom was a frequent letter-writer to her newspaper, her senators, and state/national congressional representatives. She frequently called their offices as a witness for peaceful expenditures of tax dollars. The number of peace posters that Mom created is amazing.

Her enduring symbol was the butterfly. She collected butterfly pictures and wore butterfly earrings. In ancient Greek the word for butterfly is “psyche” which means “soul,” but about a year ago, I asked Mom what the butterfly meant to her. Mom’s words were a self-description:

“…momentary brush with beauty…heart-warming…shear fragile strength…unbelievable endurance ability…capable…bonding influence…affection…attention…amaaaazing (spelled with 5 a’s).

Mom’s present-moment living is an example of how to make our world a better place. My mother worked tirelessly on her many projects, mainly world peace for the coming generations of children. In the words of poet Naomi Shihab Nye,  “… the real heroes of race and culture would always be the people who stepped out of their own line to make a larger circle.” Mom always lived her life with the larger circle in her mind’s eye.   

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

56. When do you contact your congressional representatives?  

57. What is one thing you might do today to consider a wider circle of influence in your life?

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.

8 comments

  1. The service for your mother was moving and inspirational, and your words are so good in depicting who she was. Thank you! I have been thinking about the story someone told about your mom in a picket line against the Iraq war and how she crossed over to talk with those in opposition to her. Not in a negative way, but in order to tell her story and listen to theirs in a peaceful way. What courage and love!

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  2. Your mother was a living example of how to live. She reminds me to try to step out of my comfort zone and while smiling walk over to talk with some scary people! I also often think of her when I see the butterflies in my garden. I am sure her Spirit will stay with me!

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  3. Your tribute to your mom is so lovingly written. As a book lover, and author, I really liked your description of her reading habits. Maybe, as we age, gleaning what we can from just the end of a book is not such a bad idea. So sorry she is no longer with you, but what a blessing to have had such a loving mom.

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  4. Yes, Mom was trying to make the best use of her time every day. She was an avid reader, not wanting to miss out on the newest publications. She read the endings as a way for her to peruse many authors!

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  5. What a beautiful tribute to your mom and her long and impactful life, Jan. I can see she taught you well. I know I would have liked her. Very much. May her memory always be for a blessing. ~Anne

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