My Beautiful Mother

Not long before she died, Mom took a trip to California. While there, she had this picture taken. It's one of my favorites.
One of my favorite photos of Mom, taken during her trip to California not long before she died.

Just after Mom died, her friend, Diann Macbeth, wrote a remembrance of her based on decades of church service together, which my family has treasured ever since. I now share it in full:

Janet, My Friend

Occasionally someone enters our life so softly and gently that at first we scarcely notice they are there. Like a soft breeze on a hot summer day that cools and refreshes, they become balm for our frenzied lives, asking little but giving much. Janet was such a person. Our lives have crossed and crisscrossed for nearly 20 years. I was privileged to watch her work in the various church organizations to which she was called. She quietly did all that she was asked and a little bit more. Always desirous to learn from others she had no idea that she was also a great teacher of humility, love, and compassion. As she was never aggressive and was always content to stay in the background I could easily have missed her sweet and loving spirit, except one day I witnessed one of her truly beautiful smiles. It lit up her eyes and seemed to envelope me in such heartfelt warmth. I determined that I was foolish for having missed knowing her better and set about to rectify that. The Lord granted me my wish and we were called to work in the Young Womens together. I was in awe of the sensitivity and love she had towards the girls. She approached every lesson and assignment with 110 percent preparation and we were rewarded with not only that work, but also the inspiration from the Lord as He guided her in her desire to serve. She was one of my most cherished visiting teachers, and I delighted in the insights she gave to the monthly messages. Our children also extended our love towards each other as they interacted together. As a friend she was a real treasure—never judgmental or too busy for a word of praise or encouragement. My heart and soul will surely miss her presence as will so many others, but I know as sure as I breathe that someday we will get to exchange a loving embrace and be together again.

Dianne Macbeth
March 3, 2003

My mother, Janet Patricia Watson Hansen, was a beautiful person. She struggled in life—oh, how she struggled! At times, each day was a challenge, and she couldn’t even get out of bed. But she was a good person. She was kind. She habitually sacrificed her own welfare for the benefit of others. She was non-judgmental almost to a fault, going far out of her way to try to imagine how another’s seemingly ridiculous or outrageous behavior might actually make sense from their point of view.

Mom experienced life with an inward intensity that one would not suspect from her meek outward demeanor. She was highly sensitive and exposure to sights, smells, sounds, crowds, and other stimuli often overwhelmed her. The smallest slight could put her in tears. And yet the same sensitivity that made each day a struggle was also the source of her tenderness and kindness, her thoughtfulness, her love of animals, and so many of the sweet and wonderful things about her.

In some of the old family photos and videos, you can catch Mom with a sort of pained and haunted look in her eyes, as here:

Family Picture at Zinser HouseThose were the times when her demons tormented her, when the upsets of the world around her were too much for her sensitive soul and she drew inward in self defense.

In other photos, you can see that she’s happy. Demons at bay, she felt safe and free to love and to take joy in life, as here:

Impromptu familiy photo on a windy day at church.

Mom suffered much, but she loved much. She needed much, but she gave much. She was, in her heart, just a sweet and peaceful girl from southern California who did the best she knew how to make the world a better place in spite of abuses suffered and a life that overwhelmed her. I wish things had been different. I wish she had found a better way past what haunted her. But she is gone, and this world that didn’t deserve her has been deprived of her gentle beauty these twelve years. I mourn her still.

Mom's senior class picture for Marlborough High School in Los Angeles.
Mom’s senior class picture for Marlborough High School in Los Angeles.







4 responses to “My Beautiful Mother”

  1. Amanda Rowan Avatar
    Amanda Rowan

    Hey Josh, I know it’s been a while since we were in Russian class together, but I appreciate you sharing about this difficult experience. This was pretty timely. My sister actually just passed away yesterday from an accidental drug overdose (apparently) after struggling for years with addiction to pain meds. It’s really sad when someone with so much potential and goodness in them is overwhelmed by their difficulties and struggles and can’t make it past the demons they face, and it seems kind of arbitrary in a way why it would end up like this and not in a happier manner. That person is not destined to fail just because they struggle, but the finality of one culminating moment can be so . . . final. I pray to God that I can be what my children need. If she realized it, your mom probably felt so much pain at failing so fundamentally to be the kind of mother any child deserves. It’s hard to understand why she couldn’t, you know?

  2. Michelle Avatar

    Josh, these posts are so beautifully and authentically written. They make me want to hug my own children close. I still remember you having to go through this, but I don’t think we were as close during that time as we were freshman year. I think you show such honesty and yet a great deal of compassion for your mom too. You were always a good friend and I love you dearly. I’ll be thinking about you at this time. I am sure it is never forgotten, but anniversaries have a way of bringing the past even more to memory. I am so sorry for your pain and scars. Loss is never easy. Hugs.

  3. Tiffany Kessler Avatar
    Tiffany Kessler

    So well written. There’s no doubt in my mind that putting your words, your life, your mother’s life out into the world like this will help others in similar situations. God Bless.

  4. Violet Avatar

    Hi. I accidently happened across your blog a couple of weeks ago. I heard years ago that your mother had died but I knew nothing about it. I had guessed cancer. I was one of your mom’s best friends at Marlborough. I agree with everything that Dianne said (above). Your mom and I lost contact when your family moved to Washington. Please feel free to contact me if you want to know more about your mom in her early life. Condolences to all of you children. Heartbreaking.

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