The Timeline of Your Life


It was Mother’s Day five years ago and I found myself sitting on the kitchen floor in the home of a stranger surrounded by water-soaked pictures of people, places and pets that had meant so much to her. Just one week earlier, large sections of the city of Nashville had been devastated by the Flood of 2010. Some lost their lives. Thousands lost their homes…some returned to rebuild…many never did.

For this particular family, the flood came at a time when they were preparing to move out of state. The single mother that other volunteers and I were helping out that day had several boxes packed and sitting in her basement in preparation for moving day. The flood waters rose quickly and soon took over her basement where she had, unfortunately, already packed some of her most prized possessions. That included those old photographs and many of her then-teenaged daughter’s childhood school papers and drawings.

During the course of the day, we took those mementos of a young girl and attempted to salvage them as well. We hung the river-soaked drawings and homework assignments on a fence and on a clothesline in an effort to dry them out. Many of the papers were so damaged that you couldn’t even see what was on them anymore. All of us were careful with them, as if we were trying to salvage $100 bills. To this mother, those pictures drawn by her child so long ago were worth much more than money. Losing them—even the ones damaged beyond recognition—would have just added to the stress she was feeling at the time.

In times like that, people cling to simple things for comfort and it was the words of a child that summed up that day for this family. A little girl of about 9 or 10, who was there with her mother to help out, looked with amazement at all the pictures that we hung on the clothesline. She looked at the teenaged girl (the author of those papers) and told her, “This is a timeline of your life!”

She was right. What many people would see as beyond saving and ready for the trash can, this mom found worth keeping…as any mother would. Like all of our mothers, she was there when the timeline began.  A mother who gave us life is maybe the one thing we all have in common, even if that woman was ultimately not the one who raised us.  It’s the reason why we celebrate mothers on this day—birth mothers and adopted moms, spiritual mothers and women who loved us like moms…unconditionally.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who add to the timelines of our lives.

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