Of course I’m thinking about mothers on Mothers’ Day. Interestingly, by the way, this was a day originally enacted by women as a protest against war.

In any case, I’m thinking about mothers. I knew my mother. I suppose I spent the first five or six years of my life with her. I guess she must have been responsible for potty-training me. Maybe she was the one who taught me to read.

But I was one kid among around thirty. And by the time I was aware enough of my surroundings to understand things, I didn’t feel part of a mother/son relationship, much less a family. I felt part of a group of cult orphans- children who for the most part were orphaned by the Process/Foundation Faith of God’s demand that its members have one single primary relationship: with the group.

So, in a formative sense, I didn’t have a mother.

I do spend quite a bit of time thinking about my mother– who I never called “Mom” and still can’t do in my head. I am unconditionally grateful for her goodness and her love. I admire her purity of purpose. She certainly didn’t spend much of her life or my life being what I understand now is a typical mother, but I don’t have it in me to bear her ill will for it.

I love her. I’m confused by her. But I love her.

I’ve had the privilege of having several remarkable women fill in for a time as sort of mothers. They filled a gap here or there. They’ve been crucial to my life and I have tender feelings for all of them. Some moms that have made a significant difference in my life– in some ways changing the course of my life:

Susan Garrett. My first look at a mom acting like what I imagined a mom would be. Her protectiveness and fierce support of her daughter, my lovely half-sister (and my only sister so she’s my sister, period), helped me understand a little bit about what parenting should be. That Susan was also a mother in many ways to me, showing me love and support and kindness and teaching me, usually indirectly, about family is huge. I love my step-mother. I wish money and geographical distance weren’t in the way of our being closer.

Bridget Lester. She was in the cult with us and she became the teacher of my age/grade group in the Foundation’s little school they called Faith School. She made things fun at times. Looking back, I can see how seriously took what she was doing- and today that is very affirming. I can see she was looking out for us. I remember a time on the porch of the building we held Faith School in when she was expressing disapproval of some books I was reading. I kept reading them, but that she felt I was important enough to have her take that time is comforting. I wish I’d appreciated it then. I love Bridget for her having my back.

Bev Willis. Bev was friends with my father and Susan when they left the Foundation and started a regular life in Kanab. When I moved in with them, she adopted me as a friend and I think she saw me as a project. I was godless, arrogant, directionless, but overall a good kid. She gave me unconditional affection and love and hospitality. She still does on the rare occasions I see her. I think her husband is mildly amused at the way Bev does this adopting, but he’s also an example of a good, service-minded, righteous life. I’ll always love Bev for her invitations to her home and church and for her ceaseless cheerleading for me.

Donna Casebolt. Donna was the drama club teacher. She was fun, demanding, creative, determined, sweet, loving, adorable, and she raised extraordinary children. How she had space in her heart and life for me I don’t understand, but she also gave me unlimited love and was always deeply supportive and good to me. I’ll never stop appreciating her goodness and example.

Cherry Owens. Cherry is the mother of some dear friends and her home regularly was filled to bursting with a bunch of loud, smelly, mess-making gamers. Cherry has passed on and the world grew slightly dimmer when she did. She could tolerate and accept the most insane behavior and some truly weird people. And she did it with love, kindness, and warmth. Her home felt like home. One of the first truly comfortable places I’d ever spent time in when I was young. She raised creative, original, strong-minded individuals. I’ll always love this woman for her unflagging support and hospitality.

Dianna Hintze. Dianna has seven daughters. Her sixth daughter is named Annemarie. Annemarie is incredibly smart and has an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Dianna supported that and made sure Annemarie had the opportunities she needed to spread her wings. Annemarie went to Japan on an exchange right after high school, followed by moving to Provo to attend BYU. I met Annemarie at BYU and fell in love pretty fast– although I only understood what was happening several months later. I love Dianna for raising the woman who is my wife. And I love Dianna for being the only person I’ve ever called “Mom.” She is fiercely devoted to her family and has welcomed my family into her home on countless occasions. I have a great mother-in-law and I love her and the incredibly family and legacy she’s built.

Annemarie Hintze Garrett. Nothing I write can capture how much I cherish this lady. When we met, I was an immature kid still trying to find my way into thoughtful faith. I’ve done a lot of growing up since then. I’ve spent the better part of my adulthood with her. She’s been a mom for over 14 years and I can truly say she is awe-inspiring. She doesn’t hesitate to put our kids first- a fact of our lives that I’ve seen since she first got pregnant. Seeing her and being a part of the relationship she has with our kids is part of what makes me wish I’d been able to have a more typical mother in my life. If I were a kid, I’d want her to be my mom.

The family that she and I have created is the living fulfillment of my greatest lifelong dream. This is a family I would not have had with anyone else. She’s fun and sweet and good and strong and thoughtful and mighty and lots more.

So happy Mothers’ Day to all of you lovely women, whether you’re a mother or not. You’re changing lives and lighting up the world.