My Hallmark Mom

Last night my mom went to heaven, just three weeks short of her 95th birthday. Here’s my tribute to her.

You know those sappy Hallmark commercials you hate to love? Those 30 or 60 or 90 seconds that kept you from popping popcorn on Sunday nights because you didn’t want to miss them? Those moments that tell a teeny tiny story of someone “who cares enough to give the very best” expression of their love and touch a heart in a special way? If you’re that rare person who hasn’t, Google it on YouTube, but be sure to have a Kleenex box handy.

Those commercials always remind me of Mom.

She should have been a major investor in Hallmark cards, and in a way, she was. Mom was an avid, expert, and wonderful card giver. For as long as I can remember, she spent hours upon hours searching for just the right birthday card or the perfect anniversary card. She’d search through get-well cards to match the personality of someone who needed a little love, a little encouragement, a little kindness. Then there were the cards for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving Day, and even the Veteran’s Day for my retired Lt. Col. husband.

When someone died, well, she’d find just the right card for that person, and then she’d personally deliver it. For many years, our phone calls were often about her attending a wake or funeral, sometimes going to several in a week. I was beginning to wonder if she had become one of those professional mourners, but no, she was simply a caring, loving friend to each and every one who was grieving. She seemed compelled to show her love and support in a time of need.

When I got married 14 years ago, I found my box of cards that Mom had sent me through the years. I had moved 26 times during my adult life, and there were very few things I held on to throughout all those years. But I kept most of the hundreds of cards my mother sent me. I spent some time reading them again and realized that Mom was not only a thoughtful card-giver, she was also an eloquent writer. Her notes were full of personal, loving, caring comments written in prose that was meaningful and memorable. Words that often brought tears to my eyes. Some were sweet. Some were funny. All of them were perfect for that season of my life. The cards became landmarks of my years, history of my days, and touch points of love. As I pursued them before closing the box, right then and there I dubbed her my Hallmark Mom and have affectionately called her that ever since.

I also remember that at Christmas she would set up the card table in her bedroom and spend hours and hours—and hours!—reading and rereading and choosing and signing and addressing Christmas cards. Sometimes I felt a tiny bit jealous of all the time she’d spend at that table, writing a note in each and personally addressing them during that busy season. But I came to realize that for her, they weren’t just a social expectation or a holiday tradition. They were her way of giving a little piece of herself and an important way to love others and acknowledge that she valued friendship and family and people. They were a gift from her heart, not just a piece of mail.

In her later years, I spent hours and hours in the card aisle with her looking for just the right card. She’d plop down on her walker and I’d help her by handing one and then another and another for some special occasion—a birthday, wedding, get well, holiday, to cheer someone up or to welcome a baby. We’d be there for a long time while she rejected many I picked so she could chose just the right one.

When we had to break up her home, the several—and I mean several—boxes of miscellaneous cards were non-negotiable stay-with-her boxes. Some went in her closet. Extra boxes into her storage unit. Hundreds of pieces of cardstock that were chosen with love and care for others. She never got to send them all, but she bought each and every one of them with love and for a purpose—to bless someone else and cheer up their day and show that special person she cared.

That’s who Mom was. Someone who cared. Someone who loved people. Someone whose life touched ours in a special way. I think that Hallmark lags way behind my mom in the caring, touching, loving category. She is number one.

So every time you pass the greeting card aisle or get a birthday card, a Christmas card, or any card at all, remember Mary Dowe and thank God that she touched your life. She’s not just my Hallmark Mama.

She’s our Hallmark Queen of Hearts!





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  1. Laurie Raker says:

    Such a beautiful tribute to a truly beautiful angel of love! You were blessed Susan to have her as your mother and I know some of that love and caring has been instilled in you. You have the blessing of wonderful memories and now some special cards to continue the tradition of sending you love to others! Praying for peace and the knowledge that Mary Dowe has a special place in heaven!❤️

  2. Kathleen Mastellon says:

    Susan, Mary will be missed here at St Patrick’s. She was a beautiful lady. Your thoughts are a sweet acknowledgement of your love for your mother. May you treasure memories and love for years to come. Kathy Mastellon.

  3. Roz Page says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your mom and a very sweet memory. She sounds like a very sweet lady. I know you will miss her dearly and all those who know her and loved her. Hugs to you and family as you grieve your loss. Love, Roz

  4. Debra says:

    What an incredible person

  5. Michele Wilson says:

    What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful mom. May your writing bless others just as hers did over her lifetime. Praying for you as you mourn her loss even as heaven will reunite you some wonderful day.

  6. Adeline Rockko says:

    Dear Susan, Just read the tribute to your MOM, and it was well said. When I visited Mary in July, we had the greatest conversation about her kids and mine and the life experiences and good times we shared during our 70 plus years of being friends. I was there for her 90th birthday bash and she wanted to be at mine this past Saturday, but that was not to be as she had a more important appointment to keep. Her HALLMARK card arrived the same day yours did and I thought then that you would be carrying on a great tradition. Mary’s note, in her own beautiful handwriting was familiar and the words were very touching. In her lifetime, my dear friend, Mary Dowe, was able to deal well with all that life handed her,. She did this with quiet dignity and prayer because she believed, as I do, that “Life Is Worth Living”. I will never, never forget your Mom!

    This is a very trying and sad time for you. So be strong and keep the memories close to your heart, always.
    Love, Adeline

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