Last year, we began a series called “Real Women,” an exploration of the real women in our lives (and throughout history) that have made a difference—one way or another—in our world. Today, we are finishing a chapter of that series: real women as seen by men.
Here you find a tribute from son to mother, written by Nashville singer/songwriter (and former English professor) Jon Byrd. Jon grew up just outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and is a dear friend of our editor, Sara. Please welcome Jon and enjoy his beautifully candid account of his mother, Margaret Tidwell Byrd.
The most important woman in my life, past or present, is my mother. I’m adopted; that’s probably why I feel this way. I don’t remember our first meeting, at the Alabama state orphanage in 1955, but it was obviously a life-changing moment for me.
My mother was sweet, but tough. She was not a pushover and didn’t have to win an argument or always be (perceived as) right. She had an amazing way of speaking her mind, calling someone out, and standing up for herself that made the other person in the conversation question why they were resisting her. Her strongest quality was, without question, her determination. She encouraged with empathy, compassion, integrity, and consistency.
I don’t know that I would have changed anything about her, but I do wish she’d taken up for herself more with my dad. She stayed in the traditional gender role she grew up with. She maintained an allegiance and loyalty to my father that he didn’t always deserve. I wish she’d been more “selfish” sometimes. I wish she’d told me more about her failures so she didn’t always and forever seem so perfect. (I’ve been married three times. None of them ever came close. I know: not fair.)
The most important things that she taught me: to love without understanding everything first – God, friends, women, ideas, etc. And she taught me that having respect for yourself matters most in the end. You ask me to sum up my feelings about her in a short word or phrase but, as with all great folks, this just isn’t possible. So, I’ll just say that my feelings about my mother are present in The Great Commandment: Love…with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbour as thyself. The Elizabethan English makes it sound so formal, grave, even ominous when, in truth, it couldn’t be more simple.
P.S: Jon says that, of all the moments he had with his mother, his memories of singing Christmas carols with her and his brother are his most cherished. He pays tribute to those memories in his song, “Silent Night.”