Ridgway, Colorado
May 15
A sometimes artist and photographer, sometimes I write too.  


Editor’s Pick
MAY 8, 2009 2:17PM

thank you mom

Rate: 72 Flag




Audrey Frances Doyle née Reed



The picture above was taken when she was about 24 in 1941. 

She drove an ambulance during the blitzkrieg in London during World War II. 


The greatest thing my mom taught me was empathy—it is something that children have a capacity for, but I think that empty empathy vessel is never filled without being modeled, without the example of seeing it in the family. Even in one as atypical and dysfunctional as ours was.

She had a naïve and endearing ability to only see the good in people until they proved otherwise, not pollyannaish, but a choice.

So the ability to place yourself in someone else’s shoes, and transubstantiate their pain and discomfort, is a gift. Though I’ll never be as good at it as she was, it has, to my ontological relief, provided a basis for my lifelong progressive and democratic values and pursuits.

My mom may not have been brilliant—though she was gifted in many ways. But her strength was an extraordinary kindness and as a bestower of gifts to the five children plus one lost that she raised alone—all alone—as an immigrant in 1952. She followed my father who came to America the previous year, traveling with two young children and a 13-month-old who was not yet walking. She was pregnant with me at the time of passage on that ship now residing in the Long Beach harbor, the RMS Queen Mary. They had a difficult relationship that ended a few years after I was born, so she was left to raise five on her own without much support from him. 

She worked hard most of her life, too hard, and mostly from a position of trying to keep everyone afloat.

May you rest in peace that you’ve earned many times over. I love you mom.



The family gathering in 2003 to commemorate our mother’s life, and the gifts bestowed. Four of the five children with some spouses/in-laws and many of the grandchildren and two great grandsons shown.



Addendum: I've added three images to this post. I can't thank you all enough for your kind words—I mean that literally, it's difficult to express my appreciation for the affection and affirmation. Thank you very much.



A family portrait taken about 1960. On the top left, my half-brother John and half sister Jennifer from my mother's first marriage to an RAF pilot in England. We didn't consider each other "halfs" though, we were a family growing up together, so we were brothers and sisters. Dear mom is at back right. Sister Maureen, brother Paul, Tammy our poodle, and me in the front. I wrote a story with my brother John here on OS about his saving a life. That can be found here. My hair courtesy of Brylcreem.




Mom, a few months before she passed away at her community center a short distance away from my brother's place when he still lived near Napa. She was bright and true to her nature till the end. She always had creative artistic abilities and was constantly making things, painting, and giving the things she made away as gifts. A couple of things she made near the end of her life, and that I now happily possess are shown below. Two primitive dolls, the one on the left a crow in a sun hat. The primitive on the right has a heart medallion that says "PS, I love you." She made it all, the dolls and the dresses from scratch. She was always giving things like these away.


For Leah 

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Beautifully done.
Your Mother must have been truly wonderful. She did such
a great job with you. She was/is beautiful.
A lovely memorial, Barry.
This is a great tribute to your mom!

I love that all of you got together to celebrate her life.
Lovely tribute, lovely mother. Thanks for sharing.
What greater gift could you have asked for? Thanks, Barry's Mom.
Greta piece Barry - I love your mum
You are a good son. To remember her this way.
Thank you all for your lovely comments. It never is all sweetness and light, but the enduring things, the beautiful things, still remain.

And Derek, I love you. Nice to see you join us here on Open Salon. Your talents, multifold, will fit well here. Cheers friend. And yes, I'm edging closer to making that aeolian harp for you.
Thanks for such a beautiful tribute to your beautiful mother. I am in awe of any woman who can raise 5 children by themselves.
And after reading that tender tribute, I think we can all come to love her as well.......seeing her humanity through you........
She must have been some kind of wonderful to have raised such compassionate and aware kids.

There will be rays of sunshine come Sunday, my friend, her smile just beaming down on all of you.
This says it all. Beautiful tribute Barry!
Barry, I'll bet your mother would be thrilled to see this post about her! Sorry to hear that the marriage did not last more than a few years after coming to America, but given that she raised you and your siblings with minimal help speaks volumes of her determination and love. So nice to see that family gathering to commemorate her!
5 kids? By herself? She deserves this tribute! Beautifully done! And she was gorgeous! Now we know where you get all that cuteness.
Aww Barry, this is lovely. Your mom did a wonderful job if you are any example. If you are like me this Sunday will be bittersweet.
What a lovely memorial to your mom! She was beautiful inside and out.
Nice Barry.. very nice.
She would be proud.
this is beautiful. your mother sounds like an extraordinary woman. a beautiful tribute.
Thank you for sharing such a beautiful tribute to your mom - a woman full of kindness and the ability to see the good in others, sounds like that may have been passed down through the generations.
Barry, after hearing of empathy in the news regarding the Supreme Court nominee choices it is refreshing to read about your mother who was the real deal in the empathy dept. You are clearly the a perfect example of her fine qualities that she so well represented!
This was quite lovely. My mother worked for the OWI in London during the Blitzes too. I have a lot of memorabilia from the time. And she was equally as beautiful .... that however, is where the resemblance ended. She was not so nice.
I know you must miss her. I miss mine, and she has been gone 30 years. This was really a sweet tribute to someone I can tell led an exemplary life.

This is such a beautiful tribute to your beautiful mother, her attributes, gifts, sweet nature and giving spirit. Wow, you come from good stock! Your family photo is terrific, too!
This is a lovely look at your mother through one of her loving children's eyes. I can see her when I look at your picture.

Love the family tribute photo, it is wonderful you could do it.

We have "oceans" in common while invitro! :0)

Rated for love.
I'm moved to tears. What a tribute! The minute I saw her photo, my thought was, "What loving, beautiful, compassionate eyes."
I also have a number of old family photos. Many of these photos have an ethereal, other-worldly look about them.

And in a sense they did come from another world, and the things that they endured are almost unthinkable to us today.

And your mother's photo -- what to say about that?

Her expression is very moving. There's innocence, but an innocence tempered by experience, tempered by suffering and war. She tries to smile, but can't quite manage it. And her eyes . . . her eyes . . . what was she thinking the moment the photo was taken?
In addition to having inner beauty, your mom was a looker.

Love the tribute.
Lovely, and beautifully presented.
Your mother was gorgeous. And then being a WWII ambulance driver? And riding the Queen Mary with three kids and pregnant?? And then being a single mom of five in the fifties and sixties??? Holy yikes! She really must have been an amazing woman -- she certainly had quite a life!
Beautifully done, Barry. How comforting it must be to carry her spirit inside you in the way you describe, through her finest attributes---empathy, kindness, gift-giver.

You, too, are a gift-giver, and we at OS are the lucky and grateful recipients.
My goodness - she's stunning. Beautiful on the inside and out. Wonderful piece Barry.
Your mother is so beautiful--her gentle soul seems to shine from her face.
Bless you.
She sounds like a strong and beautiful woman. I'm glad she lives on in you and her other offspring through the generations.
What a lovely tribute. And she's a beauty.
PS: The Repubs would apparently have hated your mom, given their animosity for empathy these days :D
Of course, I was first drawn in my this stunning photograph of your mother, and then moved greatly by her story. I'm sure you miss her very much.
What a lovely, heart-felt tribute to one of my favorite person's mother. Bravo, to you and Mom.
this is beautiful, she was and is, you are too, someday tell us more about her and your times with her, if you would care to share...
She's incredibly beautiful ~ looks like a '40s starlet.

Kindness is hard to overrate. I'm glad she passed the gift along to you and your extended family. If everyone in the world could just be kind to others, most of our world problems would evaporate.

Paws up.
I think that empty empathy vessel is never filled without being modeled
No doubt this is a true and powerful statement. This and the rest of your post is a beautiful tribute to your mother -- as always written with a grace and respect for life's beauty that I have come to know as uniquely Barry -- you are always a delight!
Absolutely lovely; both the post and your mom.
A moving, wonderful story. I can't imagine the struggles your mother had raising five kids on her own. Thanks for letting us get to know her.
And don't forget; she carried you for nine months and didn't put you down once! Rated!
What a wonderful tribute to a strong and beautiful mother. There's something in her expression, her eyes that is mysterious and ethereal.
Your mother was beautiful. That is really some photo, and such a sweet tribute.
Nice job. Hope you duly appreciated her when she was around,too:)
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, Barry. Lucky mom, lucky kids...
Wow. Your mother was absolutely stunning. Both on the outside, and on the inside.

(Dang - have I mentioned this? Your mother was STUNNING!)
So beautiful! All of it. And her. An inspiration to us single moms out here. :)
What a gorgeous woman and an equally stunning tribute. I think you really did inherit that empathy. You exhibit it with your words, photographs and observations. Proud to know you. A big hug to you.
Missed this earlier, sorry, could have enjoyed it even longer. Beautiful tribute, beautiful family. Happy Mother's Day to the equally beautiful lady who's the mother of yours.
So great. Your pictures always knock me out but that first one... that first one is transcendent.

You are a lucky man and a good, helpful man. I'm sure she had a lot to do with that.
Your mom was always giving gifts away, and now you are giving gifts to readers here. This is just beautiful Barry. Your mother must have been a woman of gentle strength as well as empathy to have raised a family on her own. Wonderful pictures, wonderful Mother's Day story.
Your post is a gift in itself, thanks.
A beautiful story about a beautiful woman. Now I know more, but I suspect you've merely scratched the surface about this exceptional person, but I know more about how you are the you you are.

You are correct: Empathy must be shown, understood, appreciated, then given.

Your mom was quite beautiful as well. Too bad your dad couldn't stick around to benefit. I'm sure it was to his detriment he left.

Happy Mom's Day, Barry.
What a lovely tribute for such a lovely lady.
Lovely touching tribute. Your mom had the greatest gift, kindness and wonderful children. Thanks for sharing her with us!
This was a great tribute to her.
Aw...your mom has the same chair as mine in the last pic. Hugs and understanding. Mother's Day can be a bitch.
Barry, the additional photos are a nice touch to an already great story. It's amazing to consider that your mother made those two pieces from scratch!
Aww...I love that family photo, the pic of your mom, later in life, and the dolls! The way she's looking at you in that photo just oozes love.
I love the extra pictures. The dolls are beautiful and that is such a good looking family.
I couldn't bring myself to read this on Mother's Day, but did this morning. What an interesting and loving life story. How about driving and ambulance during WWII!

The photos add so much. Thank you for this.
Very brave woman, heading off to raise 5 children on her own at that point in time.

And she was beautiful until the end.

Sweet bbd.

What a beautiful family....what a beautiful Mom! Thank you for sharing your Mom with us!
She sounds like my mom. It truly is a blessing to be raised by a kind person.
she must have influenced you a great deal, your artistic bent, your generosity, and your kindness.
A beautiful piece and a beautiful mum.
This is the magic that happens when a love-filled post about a mother gives birth to so many exquisite comments.

Mother love happens in so many ways.