Three Mothers

by Cheryl Darwent and Ellie

Ellie, the mother of three young children, had just given birth to twin girls. Cheryl, her friend and mentor, was supporting her and also keeping vigil with her own dying mother. Here are the letters they wrote to each other at that time.


Oct 24, 2018

Dear Ellie,

I hope your transition or should I say submersion into family life with five little ones hasn’t been too overwhelming and that you are finding moments of grace. I have been keeping you in my prayers. This is the reflection for today from the book Grace in Every Season by Catherine Doherty.


“I hope and pray that you, now and in the coming tomorrows, will remember the holiness of little things done well over and over again [like nursing, changing diapers and trying to be present to your other children] for the love of God.

Every task, routine or not, is of redeeming, supernatural value because we are united with Christ.”


I am so looking forward to meeting your two beautiful daughters. If there is anything I can do for you or to help out with the baptism, please let me know. Thank you for the pictures, they are so beautiful.

All my love and prayers,



Nov 1, 2018

Dear Cheryl,

I’ve been meaning to write you back. Thank you as always for keeping me in your prayers. It helps to not feel so alone in the struggles.

Recovering from the C-section was very hard and so is just twin life in general. Up until now, it’s been very hard trying to juggle everything and extremely busy, but I’ve had good support so it hasn’t felt so bad.

Then again, I’ll have rough moments like today where it seems like I have to hold a baby in my arms all day because one baby can’t seem to sleep well, a baby throws up, and the two are on different rhythms.

Having Mike’s support has been a huge lift to my spirits and I am feeling like I can do this twin thing. Other people’s prayers and grace and my trying to surrender have also helped.

So that’s where I’m at. A mixture of trying to survive, of really feeling the dread of taking care of newborns, a fear that it’s going to keep getting harder, yet having these moments of just trying to enjoy holding a baby and be present with them, because these girls really are gifts.

And these are probably the last moments I’ll hold such tiny babies of my own, and there are others who are not as fortunate as me to experience this or who may have lost their babies.

I hope you and David are well and that your ministry is being blessed with many graces! God bless you!



Nov 3, 2018

Dear Ellie,

Thank you so much for your letter. I am sitting here at a hospice by my mother’s side as she is in her last hours or days of her life, and I reflect on motherhood and life.

She is like a little child as I hold her in my arms, sing to her, stroke her face and kiss her. My mother who nursed me, cared for me, worried for me, ached in her heart when she knew I was hurting and felt real joy with my accomplishments.

Life is such a mystery. Life and motherhood are a weave of suffering and joy, of feeling utterly weak and incapable but at times having a strength that you never thought possible.

This ordinary life which can be so hard at times, so mixed with all kinds of trials and joys in just one day, is all so holy because God is present. He is in all. He knows, he loves.

Yesterday when my mom was in and out of sleep and pain she started to talk. She was talking about the shepherd boy David. How God chose him, that he was the last and smallest.

“I like him,” she said, and “Did he become a king?”

Then she asked me, “Do you know what you need to get to heaven?”

She said you need to be little, God wants you to be little. I said, “Yes, Mom, you’re right.”

Those words touched me and early the next morning, as I was getting ready to go back to my mom, there sitting beside me on the table was a pamphlet from Madonna House and in bold letters I read, “Be Always Little”.

On my drive to the hospice, I reflected on this. Here I am 60 years old, a mother for 35 years and now taking care of my mother of 95. What does it mean to be little? It means being real, authentic, calling out for help when you are needy, afraid, hurting or angry.

It is being humble, knowing you need a Father, knowing that you don’t want to do this life thing on your own. It’s calling on your Mother, wanting to be helped, comforted, taught, guided.

Then trusting, knowing your littleness one day at a time, one joy at a time, one suffering at a time. We are not alone in this crazy journey; there is beauty in it all.

Ellie, I hope this all makes a little sense as I sit here at 2:45 in the morning.

God loves you, He’s with you; he is present. He has given you this gift of motherhood. It is hard and you will fall many times and at other times you will be in awe of the beauty of it, even if it is fleeting between nursing, changing diapers, spreading yourself thin between all your children and husband.

I am praying also for Mike. For him to have wisdom and courage to be radical for God’s call in his life. Dear St. Joseph, walk with Mike, speak to his heart the holy will of his Father. God bless you, Mike, and your beautiful family.

All my love and prayers, Cheryl

P.S. Please say a little prayer as you nurse your little Madeline and Clare that my mom has a peaceful death and that God will take her swiftly to heaven.


Nov 3, 2018

Hi Cheryl,

Your words are so beautiful and they made me cry. You are so right in everything you said, and I see the cycle of natural life and death reflected in our need to die to ourselves, to be small and to be reborn in Christ’s image.

Thank you for always, always, always, being an amazing witness of the inherent beauty of motherhood and for teaching me and showing me how it truly is a sanctifying path to Jesus and the Father.

Your example really gives me strength and shows me what is possible as a mother. I will keep your dear mom in my prayers throughout the day when I look into my little ones’ eyes and search for Jesus the way you might be seeing Jesus reflected in your mom’s eyes.

I know it must be a bittersweet time for you, and I pray that you also have the graces you need to be as present as possible for your mom and to be docile to the Father, to let him and Mary embrace you with mercy and comfort. God bless you, your mom, and your family.



Nov. 4, 2018

Dear Ellie,

My mom passed away peacefully early in the morning with her loved ones around her.


Cheryl and her family are what we at Madonna House call “a Cana family,” that is a family who has spent time at Cana Colony, our retreat/vacation for families.