Person of the Week

Audree McConnell

Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother

Along came my first child….I didn’t know what I could possibly give. I was so limited.  I had no talent.   I learned what it means to be a parent.  What it means to be a parent is just to love.

1.  What led you to the mission of mother, grandmother, and great grandmother?

My husband served in the Navy and we decided not to have a baby until he got back from the service.  I know it sounds silly, but there was a fear at the time of being widowed and having a baby.  I don’t know when wanting to be a mother got into me.  I had dolls and played with them until I was fourteen years old.  Then along came my first child.  I wanted this child and wanted to be able to help her, but I had no talent.  I loved things like music.  But I just didn’t have any talents, so I didn’t know what I could possibly give this little baby.

Then a friend told me, “Aren’t you glad, she is not yours?  Her real Father and Mother will give her all the talents she will ever have.”  She was talking about her real Maker, God.  (This was over sixty years ago.)  Recently this daughter made a sculpture.  I asked her, “How did you learn to do this?”  She said, “It was just in me.”  What more proof do I need to know that my children are God’s children and that it is my job to nurture them as best I know how.  It was just in me to have them, but they were born with a knowledge all their own.

2.  What does this mission mean to you?

I never assumed the responsibility of being a mother.  That sounds dumb, but I recognized that my children were all God’s.  I was so limited. Neither of my parents finished grade school.  They had to work.  There was a depression. My grandmother had come over from Ireland and my mother and grandmother had to work.  I was raised by the extended family.

I was educated, but educated to what?  We never went to the library.  We didn’t go to the art museum.  My mother worked all the time.  I do remember when I was three years old, my great grandmother said to me, “You talk to God and he will talk to you.”  I was raised in the Catholic Church and relied on the saints to meditate for me.  Then I changed to see that my connection to God was one on one.  I had no foundation to be a parent.  All I could do was love them and rely on God.

I read a chapter in a book on prayer.  I learned what it means to be a parent.  What it means to be a parent is just to love.  Children come in all different ways.  My daughter was so far ahead of me in her kindness and purity of mind.  I knew she came with this ability and that I couldn’t have taught her.

3.  What was your best day as a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother?

I took care of my grandchild, my youngest, when she was only six weeks old.  Her mother had to go back to work.  I decided that I wasn’t going to do anything but take care of this baby.  I would sing hymns to her and feed her.  I had never just sat and watched a baby.  I laid a sheet on the floor and I could see her trying to roll over.  She would nap and then try again.  Finally she rolled over and rolled from one end of the sheet to the other.  I would pick her up and put her back.  Then came sitting up and standing up.  To watch that inner drive!  I never did this with my own children.  Watching that motivation!  It didn’t come from me.  It’s that identity that is already in there, in children when they are born.  I just didn’t have time to do this with my three children.

4.  What was your worst day as a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother?

My worst time was when my daughter took her life.  She was in the generation who had to get outside to find themselves – born in the early 1950’s.  She bought a backpack and started out.  She was going to hitchhike.  I prayed for her and knew she was under God’s direction.  She would go out and then come back.  All the kids were doing it.  So many of my contemporary friends’ children were all doing this.  Once in while she was away for a long time, I prayed for her.  I prayed, “Father, it’s been a long time since I have heard from my daughter.  I’d like to hear from her.”  Then the thought came to me, “She is with God and right where God is, I am too”.  I felt a great sense of peace.  I fell asleep.  The phone rang in the middle of the night.  It was my daughter.  She said she felt so close to me and she wanted to call to see if I was all right.  It was my daughter checking up on me!

One day, around Thanksgiving, I had been working on a church service.  I got a call that my daughter was in the hospital and that I had to come.  I had given her my car that morning, so my neighbor drove me to the hospital.  A foreign doctor came out and said in broken English, “Your daughter dead.  Commit suicide.”  Can you imagine?  That was all he said.  Then he just walked away.  We made arrangements for her funeral.  I climbed into bed at nine that evening.  I had my talk with God, “I would have thought that with all the time I have spent with you, that you would have warned me that all this was going on.  I’m not moving until I have an answer.  I’m not getting out of this bed, until I have an answer.”

5.  How did you survive this worst day?

The answer came.  I did not make this child.  She was a gift from God. She was the reflection of God.  We talk about the sun being hot, but we don’t talk about the sunbeam being the source of light.  The sun is the source of the sunbeam.  The beam comes from the origin.  Our children are like sunbeams.  They come from the origin.  They are like the rays.  So I asked myself, “Do I believe in God?  Do I believe in forgiveness?”

I do.  She is that sunbeam.  The body is only the house people live in, but their individuality can’t be taken away.  She still lives as a spiritual reflection.

Yesterday, I went to see a movie about the Olympics and the United States Hockey team beating the Russians who had won every year for many years.  It was about the coach’s vision and how devotion of thought to an idea makes the idea possible.  (Miracle On Ice, 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York)

I also I read a book, Heaven Is For Real (by Todd Burpo).  A child on the operating table had an experience and saw his baby sister.  I am devoted to the idea that my daughter is still reflecting God, even though I am not able to see her.

In regard to my daughter, it was an instantaneous healing of grief.  I think it is because of my foundation that God is my life and hers.  My great grandmother had instilled that in me.  She had blood pressure medicine in her wardrobe.  One day I sneaked in and took some.  Grandmother knew and said to me, “If you were in a closet, way back in the corner, and doing something you shouldn’t be doing, God will tell your mother and father about it.”  She never mentioned what I had done.  She never spoke of it again.  At that young age, it kept me from smoking and drinking – even if my friends would tell me, “Why not try it?”  I knew my Father would know.  They said, “How will he know?”  I told them God would know.

If you really, really know God, you know your child is God’s child and this child will always have a parent.  The prodigal son story is a good one.  If the child goes out and gets in trouble, they will eventually come back.  The road to destruction is wide, but the road to life is straight and narrow.   We are forewarned.  Everyone has to say, “Count me in and show me how.”  Praying and listening is the way God shows me how.

Years after this happened, my daughter’s suicide, I gave a testimony about this experience at church and a woman circled me and asked me to tell this story again.  I don’t care what it is – if you have lost a mother or father – all you can do for that person is love them.  All I can do for anyone is put my arms around them and say, “You will find a way, if you will be willing to accept the inspiration that comes to you.”

So there are three stages:

1.  My daughter calling me in the middle of the night.  (My daughter finding me.)

2.  Getting called to the hospital, coming home from the hospital, and needing to know why God didn’t warn me. (Me finding my daughter.)

3.  Verifying everything I have come to accept:  That life is eternal.  Life is beautiful.  Life is joy.  Life is principle.  Life is love.  It’s like a flower unfolding.  Letting it unfold.  What is unfolding is the eternality, the beauty of life.  All I can do is love.

8 Comments

  1. Barbara Sheets 04/15/12
    5:47 pm

    This was a beautiful and inspiring story and added even more dimension to someone I have always admired and loved. I would add that her talents are UNlimited because she has an INFINITE capacity for love!

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  2. This is such an amazing story of truly being able to release your child to God and accept God as the parent of your child. To be able to continue on with such courageous strength is quite inspiring. Thank you, Audrey, for being a fine example of parenting with LOVE and showing us how listening to God helped answer some of life’s toughest questions for you.

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  3. Judith Felch 04/2/12
    8:17 am

    Audrey truly exemplifies an unselfed love. I too had a daughter who left home and was gone for long periods of time. I stood at the front window many nights agonizing about what more I could do to find her and what had we done wrong to cause her choice to leave. Audrey, your conclusion about “just love” was the revelation that also came to me. To release a child, to love the promise of the child, to know who the Father-Mother of the child is……well, that is “a pearl of great price”.
    While the trials of life can get pretty rugged, the sunbeams of Love bring out blossoms of extraordinary beauty in all parts of our experience.

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  4. This lady has been a lifelong inspiration to me. Her ability to learn from the tough times and to experience the blessings has blessed my life tremendously. I’m grateful she shared her story.

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  5. Your story took me through so many emotions: so very happy and so very sad. Your approach to simply loving the children God gave to you was inspiring to read. The tragic loss of your daughter was a surprise to read. It is as if you had the best and very worst that a parent could experience in your life. Your picture shows a woman who eyes communicate the love of Christ within and I am sure that those who know you experience Him by knowing you.

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  6. Your story took me through so many emotions: so very happy and so very sad. Your approach to simply loving the children God gave to you was inspiring to read. The tragic loss of your daughter was a surprise to read. It is as if you had the best and very worst that a parent could experience in your life. Your picture shows a woman who eyes communicate the love of Christ within and I am sure that those who know you experience Him by knowing you.

    Reply

  7. Favorite quote, “All I can do is love.” Thanks for your inspiration Audrey!

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  8. Audrey, you are a hero. You are an asset to the community. There aren’t medals given out for being a mother, grandmother, or great grandmother. But if there were, you would get the National Medal of Honor for Mothers! Congratulations for all those years of helping behind the scenes.

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