California Forum

Remembering Mom is easy; missing her is anything but

Inez Favre with her grandchildren in 1965.
Inez Favre with her grandchildren in 1965. Courtesy of Gregory Favre

Mom died 35 years ago, and like all of us who have suffered such a loss, I don’t need an earmarked day to remember her.

And I certainly didn’t need it when she was alive to remind me to tell her how much I loved her.

But that doesn’t diminish the significance of what we are celebrating on this May day. Or what we have celebrated in the past.

For those moms who are with us, we do it with flowers and candy and brunches, or some other gifts, or maybe just a card, a hug and some loving words. For those who are no longer here, we do it by embracing and cherishing our memories.

Remembering Mom is easy. Missing her is anything but … even after all these years.

She taught me so many things – some I pray I do as well as she did, others I am not even close.

She was the mother of 10, grandmother and great-grandmother of dozens before her death, 98 direct descendants at that moment. Since then the numbers have spiraled, and all of them, as well as the unborn, will know her only through the wealth of stories that will be passed from generation to generation.

They will talk about her kindness and her goodness; about her sense of humor and her laughter; about her concern for others and her service to many.

They will talk about how she taught us more by doing than by preaching; about the strengths she modeled for us when faced with the crucibles of suffering.

They will talk about her pride and her tolerance and about the queenly way she faced challenges and obstacles without complaints.

And the grandchildren, many of whom have grandchildren of their own now, will laugh and cry happy tears as they recall how their Maw Maw created her own sanctuary city in her kitchen. Once they entered that sacred place they were safe from any who might seek to render judgment about their childhood behavior. She was the judge and the jury, and they were almost always innocent.

Oh, Mom could be stubborn and on rare occasions she could show a little anger, but she couldn’t be mean. And like my dad, she truly understood the biblical meaning of forgiveness.

She was widowed at age 51 and died at 82, and for those decades in between, her family, her work and her faith were the center of her world.

After my dad died, Mom and my oldest sister had a cake business that was run out of that same sanctuary kitchen. And she also worked for the newspaper that used to belong to my dad and which she inherited and later sold.

For years she wrote all of the social notes, marriages and engagements, births and deaths, who was visiting whom, news that is vitally important for a weekly in a small town.

Then one day Mom called to say that the new owners had decided she was no longer needed, and I soon learned a lesson about trust that I have related to journalists in many conversations.

She was crushed. It wasn’t about salary; that’s not why she did it. She did it out of love. And it kept her connected.

A couple of weeks later, she called with new news. The owners hired her back. Why? The people in town knew her and trusted her. They understood she would treat them fairly and report accurately. Their connections couldn’t be replaced so easily.

As I stood speaking at her funeral and looked out at the crowded pews, I understood even better what I always knew:

Mom brought people together to heal and to resolve their differences. And she was loved.

Last Christmas. I thought about that when our oldest granddaughter Melitta gave her grandmother Bea a handmade and engraved necklace. She has always called her Beadaddy.

The engraving simply says: “The best mothers are promoted to Beadaddy.”

Mom’s grandchildren would say: “The best mothers are promoted to Maw Maw.”

Both would be correct.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Gregory Favre is the former executive editor of The Sacramento Bee and retired vice president of news for The McClatchy Co. He can be contacted at