***No one has ever entrusted impoverished Emmalee with anything important, but she takes it upon herself to sew her mentor's resting garment in The Funeral Dress, by Susan Gregg Gilmore. Join From Left to Write on Oct 15th as we discuss The Funeral Dress. As a member, I received a copy of this book for review purposes.***
This book really struck a chord with me. It's a sad story in many ways, and it's a story of strength and resilience and hope in other ways. But what really struck me is that Emmalee was a motherless mother.
How do you learn how to be a mother, when you don't have one yourself? Her mother died when she was a young girl, and her father didn't give her much to go on. Emmalee had to fight for every single thing she had, and she didn't have much. The women that surrounded her at her job became her surrogate mothers, although they may not have realized it at the time. Her own family did not support her or offer her any kind of shelter from the storm and she was essentially alone. Her parting gift to Leona, the one woman who really cared about her and tried to help her in a time of need, was all that she could give, and it was everything. It was a perfect gesture in keeping with the relationship she had built with Leona.
Leona had taught Emmalee how to sew, but she taught her so much more along the way. Leona mothered Emmalee
In some ways, I can relate to Emmalee's situation. No, I didn't grow up destitute in a mountainside holler, and I wasn't a young unwed mother, but I lost my mother when I was a child, and I had to learn to be a mother without having one of my own. I was lucky enough, like Emmalee, to have a few people around me who were willing to step into the void and help me learn. Those women are thankfully still with us and not in need of a funeral dress. I don't know how to sew, but reading this book and thinking about my childhood made me wonder. If I had the chance, how would I repay that debt to them? How could I show my gratitude for how they shaped my life, and by extension, how they affected my children's lives?
I don't know if I ever can.