As young as 5 years old, Twan Woods would wake up at night and hear his mother having a seizure. He would know exactly what to do. He would run into her bedroom, hold her, put a cold rag in her mouth, comfort her and keep her from falling until it was over, he recalls.
"My mom, she's a sick lady. She's like, handicapped, she's been like that all her life," said the 37-year-old who grew up in Ward 8, a crime-ridden section of South East Washington, D.C.
Despite the hardships, his mother, whom he identified as Francine Ward, raised him and his younger brother the best she could--with love and wisdom.
"She couldn't come out and chase behind me as I was growing up ... She couldn't even teach me how to go to school and how to become a man, but one thing she did teach me was to depend on the Lord. She put the Bible scriptures in me. When I was younger, I didn't want to hear it. But it was in me; so when I got older I had that to fall back on. She gave me the Word."
In part, because of his mother's heroic influence on his life, Woods and a few of his friends have pulled together a singing group called Ward 8 Entertainment. Their inspirational CD that he gives to anyone for a small donation is called, "Waiting for Better Days." One of his prize singles on the CD is fittingly titled, "Mama, What Would I Do Without You?"
This week, millions of men, women, boys and girls, are asking that same question and preparing to pay respects to their mothers and the motherly figures in their lives. In various interviews, some discussed their most touching memories and most important lessons ...
When Kiona Daniels was only 16 years old, her mother was killed in a car accident. Her grandmother, Ella, took over the mothering. But, having been raised until the age of 16 in a household with three matriarchs--her mother, grandmother and great grandmother--she had a triple dose of love that most people have not experienced.
"In retrospect, I think it had a huge impact on just developing me with a foundational basis of who I have become as a woman; especially as it pertains to relationships," said Daniels, who was set to receive an executive master's degree in public administration from American University this weekend. "Oddly enough, you wouldn't think that two very older women would have an impact on me from a relationship standpoint," but they taught by example, she said.
"My grandmother, Ella, she was just a loving, caring wife and had her own independence and had her own identity. And, so, just having my own identity in a relationship and having my own independence financially without any reliance or dependence on a dating partner was something that I took from my grandmother a great deal. That was one of her main things: 'Never depend on anyone. Always have your own,'" she quotes her grandmother, now 98 years old.