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It's been 30 years since my mother died, taken too soon by a southern-fried heart, taken too soon to know her second grand daughter, my daughter.  I miss her, and I wish I had told her more often and more clearly that I loved her.

Mary Lillian Forsythe Protzman was a beautiful woman, but a nervous woman, never quite sure of her standing in the world. The Navy wife of a hospital corpsman, she found herself a single parent far too often, as my father deployed to Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean.  One long deployment, when we were living in Long Beach, California, took an especially hard toll.  The Navy doctors called it a nervous breakdown (I was ten at the time), but whatever it was, she never quite recovered.

The most satisfying slice of my mother's later life had to do with god. I was raised in the Southern Baptist Convention, and oh my goodness did we go to church.  Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, circle meetings, prayer meetings, you name it, we did it.  

My favorite part involved the monthly ritual of filling hundreds of communion glasses with grape juice and breaking saltines into little pieces of Jesus' body.  People loved taking communion, and I secretly reveled in the small part I played in saving them from burning in hell.

When she was on her death bed, I promised mama that I would be there for my brother and sister and stay close to god.  I've done okay with that first commitment, but can't seem to manage the second. Most days when I look for god, I find myself disappointed.  The idea that this world and this nation are somehow blessed by a magical, omnipotent being requires a level of faith and delusion that I can't quite manage.  

For better or worse, I have come put my faith in people. In the long run, I believe that faith will prove to be well-placed.  In the short run, I am generally embarrassed to be a part of the human race.

Originally posted to Zinc on Sun May 08, 2011 at 06:43 AM PDT.

Also republished by Personal Storytellers and Southern Liberal Living DK Version.

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