Posted by: krpooler | January 28, 2011

Tribute to a Memory


On January 28,1986, the world watched in horror as the Challenger space shuttle exploded 73 seconds after lifting off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral,Florida. Anyone over the age of  thirty-five will remember what they were doing on that day. School children everywhere tuned in that morning to watch the launch of the first schoolteacher and ordinary citizen bound for space,Christa McAuliffe. While this high-tech catastrophe was unfolding on live TV, life was unfolding in living rooms,kitchens and offices around the world; moments in time when life events will forever be connected with the Challenger explosion.

For my Mother,Kathryn, it was the moment that she asked her Mother,my Nan, for forgiveness. She and Nan seemed to have a tentative relationship at times. From my point of view, Nan was a wonderful,loving grandmother, but there were times I would sense from my mother that there was friction between  Nan and her children. I never really knew why. Nan had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer  in November 1985 at the age of  83. She was living with my Mother’s sister, my Aunt Rose and my Mother was visiting to help care for her.  My Mother recently shared the following story of that day in January,1986 with me:

     “ Mama and I  were sitting in the living room of my sister, Rose’s home watching TV. Mama  was in the floral upholstered rocking chair in the corner and  I  was on the blue Broyhill couch across from her. A Special Report on the Launch of the Challenger Space Shuttle interrupted the Maury Povich show. I looked over at Mama. She looked so frail and thin.  Her eyes were sunken in and her skin had turned yellow .  I thought to myself,

” I have to go back home soon and I may not see her alive again.”

In the background, the seven astronauts, one of them a young school teacher from New Hampshire, flashed across the screen,smiling and waving  before boarding the Challenger.

I got up from the couch and knelt before her  as she sat still and quiet in the chair. Holding out my hand,I put her tiny ,wrinkled hand in mine and,sobbing, said,

“Mama, will you please forgive me for all the times I may have hurt you or was mean to you?”

Looking surprised, she said,

“Kathyrn,  you have nothing to apologize for. You have never hurt me.”

I felt her small,weak hand rubbing my shoulder as I  sobbed uncontrollably ,my head bobbing in her lap.

We remained in that position for while. With my head  resting in her lap,I watched  the smoke from the space shuttle furl up in the sky out of the corner of my eye. I sat straight up and we both glared in shock at the scene.

The moment of the Challenger explosion was the moment my Mama forgave me. “

This memory is precious to me  because I realized that my Mother allowed me to have a special ,loving relationship with my Nan even though she was not able to experience that same special relationship with her, until the end. When Nan died on May 28, 1986, my Mother had the peace of forgiveness in her heart.

So today, on the anniversary of the Challenger Explosion, I pay tribute to  the seven astronauts who sacrificed their lives as well as to my Nan who showered me with love  my whole life and who showed compassion , love  and forgiveness to my  Mother when she needed it the most and to my Mother for  allowing me to have a lifetime of precious memories with my Nan, through her love.

These memories are  a treasure.

What memories do you have that you  pay tribute to?


  1. Oh, my gosh, what a beautiful and painful story. I’m so glad you wrote this, Kathy. You have demonstrated again how much love lives inside you. God bless you, Sis.

    • Thanks,Lynne. It seems like there so many layers to the story that came out just by writing it down. I have heard my Mom talk about this before and she shared it again with me today. I read the newspaper article and boom, let the writing begin. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Ditto what Lynne said! See how powerful these memories are when they’re told so honestly? How could that NOT be part of a memoir? Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story on this painful anniversary.

    • Hi Deb, I love how we kind of “get together” on the blog! Thanks for your comments and yes, it will be a part of my memoir as I share how the extraordinary power of hope has manifested itself in my ordinary life. So glad you stopped by!

  3. I never heard that story! Thank you so much for sharing it…I sat here and cried as I read it…such love, such compassion, such mercy. What a beautiful, albeit painful, moment that must have been for both of them, especially mom. The power of forgiveness is so healing and freeing.

    • I know,Paula. I am so happy Mom sought Nan’s forgiveness on that day. Yes, it has been healing and freeing for her. She has told me this story before but she told me again today as this memory is forever linked to the Challenger explosion.

  4. I felt the need to call mom after I read your post…we both had a good cry together! See the blessings from your writing?

  5. Yes, tears of healing have flowed a lot today~ so happy my writing is helping!

  6. wow. that’s such a poignant story.

    it’s amazing how two such significant events, one only significant to two people sharing a moment together, the other significant to the world, come together in one moment.

    such incidents really bring home the power of memoir, and the way you wrote it is incredibly moving.

  7. Thanks,Dave. I think the power of memoir lies in the healing that results when the words are released. I never really made the connection about my Mom’s role in allowing me to have such a wonderful relationship with my grandmother when she herself(my Mom) struggled. She never shared her painful memories until years after my grandmother had died. Writing really does facilitate connections. Appreciate your comments.

  8. My mama died shortly after the 9/11 tragedy. I went to see her on 9/11 and she told me to watch history — the tragedy would bring out the best in some folks and the worst in others but how we each reacted was our own responsibility. She meant for me to rise above and keep a peaceful heart. Then she was gone too and I miss her dreadfully. I’m thankful that your mama has such a memory of her mother.

  9. Thank you for sharing the story about your Mom,Katherine; a wise woman indeed. Love that message-“rise above and have a peaceful heart” It is amazing how powerful these precious moments with our loved ones are and how they carry us through long after they are gone. I’m grateful too , that my Mom is at peace.

  10. Beautiful story, Kathy, about how much we need forgiveness and how it cleanses our souls. And it always is inspiring to see how mothers and daughters can connect despite whatever bumps there were along the way. Thank you for a story that transcends time and space.

    • Thanks Linda Joy. This piece was very cleansing to write. Like you always say, writing does have the power to heal.

  11. Waou, what a treat–.in the form of a story-we get from you ! I love the story and it is powerful. I feel through you—-you loving Nan and visiting her, your mom was getting reconnected with Nan and she( your mom) got lot of joy out of it. As if she herself got to be with her mother. Your mother realised and repented and learned a lesson from the past, and in a way, encouraged you and Nan to be together whenever possible. Nan was such a loving soul and she enjoyed being connected with you. Maybe she missed her daughter a little less when you were with her. She healed your mother’s wound by denying that your mother did anything wrong. Nan loved her daughter too much.

    • What beautful,healing thoughts you have shared. Thanks so much Smita!

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