A Mother’s Love is unconditional; it is sacred. And the beautiful letters featured here are a testament to the unshakable bond between mother and daughter.
To honor their mothers, asha bandele, Ava DuVernay, and Yara Shahidi share their hearts, and Erica Campbell does the same to honor her daughters.
This is the kind of love that moves mountains. May we all bear witness.
To my sweet girls, Krista and Zaya
You make my soul happy and I’m honored to be your mommy! You are a blessing to our family. You’re both incredibly loved, powerful, beautiful, smart and necessary. You were both born into a room full of a loving family. We were all excited about the possibility of you.
I say possibility because life is and will be unpredictable. There will be many ups and downs and many questions. But there will also be plenty of answers. You will both have wins and losses.
For some battles, your family will be by your side, and others you will fight alone. But I promise you this: I will be there with prayer and a Band-Aid when life hurts you—and it will. But you’re both tough and you can handle it; plus, you have a strong family filled with undying faith in and love for you.
You both must always know who you are and whose you are: God’s children first, then you’re mine. Thank you for always challenging me, and for all the lessons I’ve accumulated in this life with you.
I want you to learn through your own personal experience what a loving mama looks like. Everything I do is for God and for you. My beautiful, amazing, talented, feisty girls. Mommy loves you with a forever love!
“Forgether Forever.” Although I couldn’t get my “together” right as a toddler, I’ve long understood the sentiment. Twenty years later, there is no statement more accurate when describing our relationship.
I consider it one of my greatest blessings that I can call you my partner in crime. Within our relationship there exists an almost divine duality. With ease we go from belly laughing to handling business deals and back without missing a beat.
To maneuver this world with you is a privilege, and every time we make eye contact from across the room, knowing that we have the same thought, it is yet another reminder that we are mirrors of one another.
I’m thankful to you for everything from your cheekbones to your openness to the world. But most important I am grateful that your sheer being exemplifies what it means to be purpose-driven and to be driven by your truth.
The first lesson you taught me: Abundance flows. Life is not about accumulation, but community. The second lesson: You create space for others to exist in their fullness when you commit to living in yours.
To be placed in a world set on making us unsteady as young Black women, I’ve found that being taught these lessons has been invaluable. But witnessing you execute these lessons in every one of your actions has been life-shifting. Thank you for giving me the guidance to understand the importance of purpose and for giving me the space to find mine.
We will always be forgether forever.
You were the first beautiful thing I knew about this life. The first warmth. The first love. The first blessing. The great poet Rumi wrote, “Love is alive, and some- one borne by it is more alive than lions roaring or men in their fierce courage.” I know this to be true because of you.
I remember in grade school being so proud when you came to my class for Parents’ Day. Because I had the prettiest mommy, who wore red lipstick. And big and feathered hair with blond streaks. And cool high heels. And you made every- one smile. And they all said, “Wow! Your mom is great.” And I beamed. I still do.
You are the reason for any light I have in me. Any sweet spot is because of your sweetness. Any street savvy is because of yours. Any bravery is yours. Any boldness. It is yours—just shared with me. Mom, I am your breath and you are my blessing. I love you and I thank you. For all the little things, and all the big things, and all the things I’ll never know.
There’s this memory I have of us.
Nisa is weeks old and my learning curve is steep. I came to motherhood with all this love but few hard skills. I couldn’t get her to sleep, an across-the-board parental challenge complicated by my own life circumstances. Nisa’s father was in prison and I was completely alone from day one. Plus, money was tight, which meant I was back at work three weeks to the day Nisa was born.
But, on that day, the exhaustion felt like a feverish army advancing on me, a defenseless village. I don’t remember asking you for help, but I remember how you took Nisa and laid her softly across your lap. She was crying, and ever so gently you began to massage her back. An incredible five minutes later, Nisa was sleeping peacefully.
I used that method of massage all of Nisa’s life. It never failed. A sophomore at Columbia now, in her more stressful moments when she’s home, Nisa inevitably says to me, “Please rub my back, Mommy.” I do. And for a moment all the stresses go away: the pressure of maintaining a dean’s list GPA; navigating the sometimes treacherous social landscape; confronting the big world problems—climate change and White supremacy. And, of course, the personal matters that are themselves a world.
Maybe we shouldn’t be selfish. Nisa was born the year you turned 71, and the cancer was already inside you. Your first doctor seemed to suggest that we’d gotten our fair share of you. And we can checklist it, right?
Nisa’s had you beside her as she soared, literally as a dancer and metaphorically as a scholar. She’ll be the first in our family to graduate from an Ivy League university. She wants to one day earn the right to wear your Phi Beta Kappa key.
Her fabulous fashion sense and dramatic nails could confuse a person: Our baby looks like a fly girl but she’s really a nerd. Like you, Mommy. You, the beauty contest winner. You, with the finest taste in clothes and jewelry. You, the star student who became a dean of students and started the first childcare center at The City University of New York so that all mothers could reach for their dreams—like you did. You and Nisa, Year of the Dragon women.
Nisa and I hated that first doctor. We resolved to get you away from her and we did. Along the way we learned the harsh language of cancer: leukopenia, dexamethasone, velcade, neupogen. Multiple myeloma is not a cancer you cure; it’s a cancer you die with. But it’s also a cancer you live with. And we’re living.
You treat yourself to a new manicure every two weeks and you’re reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming, remembering your own Chicago roots. We’re bringing you food and you’re telling us we’ve done well, taking on all of your jobs. We’re cleaning the kitchen and doing our best to support Papa’s breathtaking care of you, his wife of 65 years. You, his whole story. And ours. You whisper to Nisa and me, “Thank you for everything. My beautiful, beautiful girls.”
Oh, Mommy. No thank-yous.
Just stay. We need to massage
your back a little bit longer.
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