A Letter to My Mother: Posthumous Reconciliation? And A Book Give Away

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bonnetstrings-1Always interested in reading about other writers’s spiritual journeys, I recently picked up a copy of Saloma Miller Furlong’s second memoir, Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds. I just finished reading it and highly recommend you take a look at it.

Next week, one of my readers who leaves a comment on this page, will have a chance to receive a free copy of that book. Just leave a comment. I’ll pick a name at random and perhaps you will be notified that Saloma’s book is on it’s way to you.

Currently, Saloma is at work on a letter to her mother in book form,  in which  she tries to reconcile with her mother, who is now dead. Both Saloma and I have had difficult mothers to deal with during our lives. It is through this new writing, that Saloma is working her way to understanding and forgiving a mother, who like mine, used her children as scapegoats.

Without further ado, I welcome and thank Saloma for being my guest today and sharing her story. 

I have seen Joan around the online world several times. I decided it was time we “meet,” after reading about her incredible journey. Though I have not cared for an aging parent, I can relate to Joan’s story in many ways. I eagerly await the publication of her book. I am honored to be here today. Thank you, Joan, for hosting me.

We’ve all heard the bittersweet stories of people reckoning with their mortality when they are about to leave this world. They took stock of their lives and asked to speak with someone with whom they’ve not spoken to for years. In their waning days or hours, reconciliation and forgiveness happen. The bitter of the story is all those wasted years when reconciliation could have happened. The sweet of the story is that reconciliation did happen.

When my mother was dying, I kept hoping she would come to the place of needing reconciliation, when she would gather her sons and daughters around her and deal with any unfinished business with each of us, alone.

I was hoping there would be a time when she would let her guard down, so that I could tell her how I’ve had a hard time reconciling my memories of her when I was small and innocent from those when I was in my teens.

I know Mem loved me when I was little. I remember her bathing me in the galvanized tub in the living room in winter. After the bath, she would sit me on her big, soft lap, wrap me in a warm towel she had warmed by the woodstove, dry me off, and then dress me in the fresh-smelling clothing she had laid out for me. I remember standing on a stool, helping her knead bread. I remember being terrified of leaving her when I started Kindergarten.

I also remember the sound of her solid footsteps from the time I was a six, and had just said something she perceived as backtalk. Those footsteps would go to the china cabinet, where she would take down the latest whip or leather belt. She would stand there and in her most forceful voice, demand that I, “come here.”

I could not run. I could not hide. I could not resist that voice. I had to step over to her, where she would raise my Amish dress and slam that whip or belt across the backs of my legs, until I thought I would lose my mind from the overpowering pain.

When Mem lay dying, I wanted to hear her admit that she had been taking out her own frustrations on me when she whipped me. That she had harmed me, instead of “doing it for my own good.” I wanted to hear her say, “I am so sorry.”

But that is not what happened. Mem told us not to cling, and said it was her time to go. It seemed that she couldn’t duck out of this world fast enough. There was no chance of reconciling with her. Even before that day, she did not want to dig into the past. “For what good would it do?” she would say.

When I said my last good-byes to my mother, I told her that I would think of her in her heavenly home, and love her always. I wrote her a letter the night she was dying, because I could not be by her side. When I read it now, it sounds like I had no unresolved issues with her. However nine years later, I realize I’ve never reconciled the mother who was so nurturing and caring, with the one who was so harsh and cruel.

In an attempt to reconcile with Mem, I am writing a letter to her. I sift through memories and reflect on them. I do this, not knowing “what good it will do.” I don’t know if I will have a better understanding of her, but that is my hope. I like to think that there is still time to find resolution, even though she is not here in person.

So far, I find the act of writing to be powerful. Instead of sitting down in the inner reaches of my unconscious, I am recalling the past, allowing it to surface, one piece at a time. I am examining my memories of Mem, my relationship with her, and ultimately, my life.

As I write this, I don’t yet know who my audience is. Right now, that is not as important to me as doing the writing. Maybe I will decide to publish it. Or maybe someday one of my sons or grandchildren will find it, and at least learn something about their lineage.

I cried when I read the quote, by Christina Baldwin, that Joan uses at the top of her home page. I recognized it as the compelling reason for why I feel the need to write down my memories. “Making story of our family history doesn’t mean we change the realities of our forebears’ lives … we don’t turn a thief into a pillar of virtue … but we learn to carry the story differently so the lineage can heal.” What a beautiful thing to hope for: “for the lineage to heal.” What more is there?

Are there issues with your mother you wish to come to terms with? Do you think it is ever too late?


dsc_0017Saloma Miller Furlong is the author of two books, Why I Left the Amish and Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds. Her story is featured in the PBS documentaries “The Amish” and “The Amish: Shunned” on American Experience. You can read more of Saloma Furlong’s biography by following the link.

Website: http://salomafurlong.com/
Blog: http://salomafurlong.com/aboutamish/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SalomaFurlong
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4487564.Saloma_Miller_Furlong
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Saloma-Miller-Furlong/e/B004SXYJXE/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0



  1. Thank you, Joan for bringing our attention to Saloma Miller Furlong and providing us with an opportunity to hear a little of her story. So many of us are deeply wounded children and it gives us courage to hear from those who are wrestling deeply with the issues and finding a bit of peace. I look forward to reading her book. Thank you, Saloma, for sharing your story and not being afraid to speak the truth. In the end, it is what will set us free.

    • Dorothy, thank you for stopping by and for your comments. Giving voice to what wounded us is a powerful way of connecting first with this experiences, and then also sharing our stories with others who are in a similar struggle.

      Bonnet Strings is a different book, though. It is about feeling caught between the two worlds in which I have lived… the Amish life that I was born into, and the life I have chosen. I hope you get a chance to read it.

  2. Joan Rough says:

    Thanks, Dorothy for stopping by and welcoming Saloma. Her book is rich with stories of how she found her truth and hard as it was, went for it.

  3. Joan Rough says:

    Saloma, First of all, thanks for reaching out to me with your email note and secondly for being my guest today and sharing your continuing story. I think many will find deep connection with you whether they are Amish or not. There were many instances in your book when I said to myself, “I know how that feels.” I wish you continuing success in writing and sharing your story.

    • Joan, it has been my pleasure. I’m so glad you could relate to my book. Thank you for your good wishes, and I wish you the same. I really look forward to reading your book.

  4. Joan – Oh how wonderful to meet Saloma Miller Furlong in this post, thank you for the introduction. It was an incredibly interesting read that touched many chords within myself, not so much with my mother, as with my father. I intend to find and read Saloma’s other work.

    • Laurie, I am happy to meet you here too. I believe I’ve seen you around… perhaps on Shirley Showalter’s blog? In any case, it’s good to meet you here.

      I had issues with my father too, but for some reason I was able to reconcile with him several years before he died. The abuse I endured from him came from him being mentally ill. Once he was treated, he ceased being violent. That to me was somehow easier to come to terms with than with my mother who didn’t want to admit she made mistakes, right to the end.

      I hope you’ll enjoy my books. Also be sure to check out my blog.

  5. Joan, I can see why Saloma is drawn to your story and vice versa. I’m honored to know you both and to respect the way you wrestle with what is perhaps the most intimate and fraught of all human relationships — mother/daughter. No wonder we have so many rich Greek myths on this subject!

    It’s also fun to see other blogger friends appearing in this space. Saloma, I highly recommend Laurie and Dorothy’s blogs to you –and I recommend especially your most recent blog post to them also because you have located a young agent who has great advice for all authors and potential authors.

    “Everything is related to everything else.”

    • Thanks, Shirley. In Saloma, I’ve found a sister in our struggles with our mothers. And I agree with you about Laurie and Dorothy’s blobs as great places to hang out.

    • Shirley, thank you for your thoughts… I like your comment about Greek myths. I will be looking at Laurie and Dorothy’s blogs, and several others’ as well. Gosh, the world of blogging is rich!

      Thank you for helping to spread the word about Amanda’s post.

      Thanks for that nice quote.

  6. I am very moved by Saloma’s story here, and thank you, Joan, for having her. I’ve had a difficult relationship with my father, who is now 87, in failing health, lives 2,000 miles away, and is reaching out to me for support, both physical and emotional. The dutiful daughter and the hurt child rage a battle inside my head, and I look forward to reading both Saloma’s and Joan’s stories for insights that might help me with this all-too-common dichotomy.

    • Candace, It seems that dealing with one’s aging parents for many is an issue. Unless you’ve grown up in a home filled with unconditional love and kindness, The problem of reconciliation before it’s too late, is often impossible. Thanks for stopping by and do check out Saloma’s books. I know you love them.

    • Candace, my heart goes out to you. That sounds like a difficult situation. It’s hard to know whether this is his way of trying to reconcile, or if it’s all about him. You would know that better than I would. When my father-in-law was dying, he was very difficult. And it was all about him. There was no chance of reconciling anything because we could never utter the “D” word, and we couldn’t mention Hospice. My husband and I were getting counseling through it.

      And you are right, this is a common dilemma for many people with aging parents… the same parents that once abused us.

      Many Blessings to you as you travel this difficult road.

  7. Dear Joan and Saloma, I am so happy you two have found each other in cyberspace! You both have poignant stories of reconciling painful memories with your mothers and finding a places of peace and forgiveness. The courage it takes to face these painful memories and get on the other side of them is awe-inspiring. And . Saloma, just the act of writing letters–getting your feelings on the page–is such an important step n the healing process. I loved Bonnet Strings and I eagerly await the publication of your next work. I was a beta reader for Joan’s memoir and know it will be a powerful testimony to the power of forgiveness. Thank you both for sharing your poignant and powerful stories.

    • Kathy, thank you for stopping by and for your kind comments. I am so looking forward to reading Joan’s memoir.

      I wish you all the best in the publication of “Ever Faithful to His Lead.” It is another story of moving beyond abuse and healing.

  8. Kathy, You are such a swee heart. Thanks for your continuing support and encouragement. I too, hope your “baby” is doing well. It is an important story!

  9. Saloma’s blog is very heartfelt and interesting, as is this one. Please enter my name for the Bonnet Strings book giveaway. Thank you.

  10. I’ll be picking a name out a hat on Monday morning and will announce the winner on Tuesday on my next blog post. If you haven’t yet entered, leave a comment and you’ll be included!

  11. I really found the interesting. I can’t wait to read Saloma’s book. Thank you!
    campbellamyd at Gmail dot com

  12. Beverly G says:

    I have read Saloma’s first book and would love to win “Bonnet Strings.” I am so sorry, Joan and Saloma, that your mothers were not the kind that every child deserves.

    • Thank you, Beverly, for your comments. We all have trials in life. It’s not good when it happens in the formative years, though.

      I hope you enjoy my books.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Beverly, Thanks for stopping by. When we live with adversity, we learn very important lessons, that teach us what our strengths are.

  13. Sarah Rubin says:

    Saloma, and Joan,

    I watched with total curiosity, fascination, and interest both the American Experience presentations on the Amish. I both admired and was fascinated with Saloma’s personal, painful journey to leave the community she both dearly loved, but knew that her life would not be found there. The struggles she faced were heroic, and the challenges she endured could have easily broken her spirit. I connected on a personal level when she shared how she was fascinated with Vermont, and during the first leaving she traveled to Burlington, Vermont. As a Vermont native myself, I spent a lot of time in Burlington during the 80s prior to moving to where I live now. I can relate in a similar vein, as I had to leave my own family to find myself in my own way. The struggles were very hard and painful, yet, it was a journey I don’t regret taking. My Vermont values of simplicity, hard work, faith and integrity (among others) have carried me all my life, and like Saloma, they are precious to me. Thank you very much, and I am very grateful for what you have done.

    • Sarah, Thanks so much for your comment here. I, myself, spent almost 20 years living in Vermont. My brother ives in Burlington and we’ll be seeing him during the leaf season this fall. And thankfully those “values of simplicity, hard work, faith and integrity,” are still important to Vermont and Vermonters.

      Saloma couldn’t have found a better place to go to when whe left her family.

    • Hello Sarah, and thank you for your compliments and comments. Vermont was exactly the kind of world in which to discover my freedom and myself. I lived there for nearly thirty years before I moved just south of the border where we live now. Whenever we drive to Vermont, we always draw a deep breath and look at one another and say, “Isn’t this just so beautiful?”

      I am grateful for readers like you, Sarah, and I thank you for letting me know how you relate to my story.

      Have a wonderful week!

      • Sarah Rubin says:

        Saloma, I just finished reading your first book, “Why I Left the Amish,” and I must admit I had tears in my eyes. You are a very strong woman for all you endured, and I admire you even more now than when I watched the 2 American Experience documentaries. You even weave your beautiful love story with David, and what a beautiful son you have in Tim. Thank you again for sharing what you did–you are a significant inspiration to women who grow up in similar situations, no matter what religion, ethnic background, or financial status. I admired your heroic courage to leave on your own accord with little money and lots of faith. Hugs! Sarah

        • Why Sarah, that is very kind of you to say such nice things. I am so glad you enjoyed the book.

          We all have inner strength, if only we believe in it. There are times in our lives when we need to call on that strength and reach down deep to retrieve it. I hope you are not the only one who is inspired by that aspect of my story.

          May you be showered with blessings along the roads you travel. Hugs to you, too!

          • Gail Livingston says:

            I’d love to win that book. Sounds wonderfully written. When I finish reading it, I will donate it to the library book sale so others can hear of her.

  14. Gail, You’re too late. We gave it away weeks ago! But you can find it on Amazon.

  15. You’ll be able to then subscribe along with your print account.


  1. […] being invited to write guest posts for others. I have written one for Joan Z. Rough, called "A Letter to My Mother: Posthumous Reconciliation? And a Book Giveaway." Next week Joan will be selecting a random name for a drawing for the giveaway of a copy of […]