Wonder of Wonders

Today is my mom’s 62nd birthday.

She really wanted to be loved and the thought of leaving BYU unmarried was unthinkable. She met my charimatic looker of a dad and they got married right after they graduated. He was bi-polar and I think the marriage only took a year or so to reveal the complications of his mental illness.

It’s hard to hold a job being both manic and depressive and it’s hard to show love to others when you’re that way too. They plunged deeper and deeper into debt, my mom grew even more unloved, and they had more and more children. My dad hated himself, my mom was excruciatingly lonely and we were poor problem kids.

I can never remember the ins and outs of their financial lives, but I know they were in pretty deep doo-doo. Cops pounded on our door one night and took my dad away because of an unkept financial commitment. We went to the Bishop’s Storehouse, ate off the free lunch program at school, shopped DI and lived off of the often anonymous help of our ward.

All told, they had 7 kids, 17 years of marriage, thousands and thousands of dollars of debt, and years of plagues from mental illness, when my mom finally kicked him out.

My mom and dad had pretty near wrecked themselves. I think my mom must have believed herself completely worthless and unlovable,with any sound money skills gone defunct. But she went back to school and got certified as a teacher and started teaching. She found every program that would help her family get away from the wreckage and she just plodded forward. Plodded. Plodded. Plodded.

She had a few mishaps, a bad marriage to a crazy guy named Terry, but she’s only moved forward financially. She’s set to retire in a few years and when she does, she’s all set. She’s paid off all the financial obligations from my dad and saved like a maniac for her future. She’s one of the best special ed teachers in Oklahoma and can teach pretty much anyone to read no matter what their disability.

And then there’s us. Almost all of us have graduated from college and have advanced degrees. Five of us are married in the temple to wonderfully stable and good people. All seven of us have served missions. We’re all financially stable and responsible. No one’s on drugs, in jail, hunted by creditors. My brothers are all responsive and involved dads. We all still care about each other. We’ve made peace with my dad, who died four years after the divorce and we love our mother.

This is a miracle to me. Given the circumstance, my mom shouldn’t have been able to surface from that financial ruin. She shouldn’t have been able to survive the emotional and psychological fallout of her life. We shouldn’t be as happy and healthy as we are. We should be stuck in unhealthy relationships, poor, and troubled.

My faith moves constantly. Is the Church true? Was Joseph Smith inspired by God? Is the Church led by a higher power today? Is there a God? Maybe Jesus didn’t even exist. Maybe religion is all made up. I’ve felt it all. I’ve thought of explanations for it all, except that I can’t explain my mom. I cannot explain how she came to be the woman that she is.
I am certain that power from herself, mixed with power from God, mixed with power from the Atonement, mixed with the structure and aid of the Church made my mom more than she was, more than she is. All that power has made our family more than it should have been.

And it means I’ve witnessed a miracle.


  1. Beautifully said Amri. I’ve witnessed similar miracles in the lives of my children. With God, all things are possible.

  2. That is an amazing story–especially the part about all seven kids serving missions. Very inspiring to anyone who has found himself behind the eight ball and wondered if there was a way forward.

  3. Amri–you always have a beautiful way with words!

  4. Hooray for Amri and Amri’s mum.

  5. Yes,

    Its a miracle. I have to admit that you have a great story to tell. Where in OK does your mom live?

  6. Granted we’re all riddled with anxiety and bits of depression, but I think we should be much worse. You know the nice people with “baggage” that never quite get their lives together? That should be us. But somehow we’re not.

    My mom lives in South OKC. I graduated from Moore High School. (as did Toby Keith–sorry to name drop heh heh)

  7. I love to hear stories like these. Thanks very much for sharing, Amri–and a very happy birthday to your Mom!

  8. Steve Evans says:

    Happy birthday Amri-mom!

  9. Amri,

    Thank you for posting this. You are correct that your mom utterly and completely rocks. I still treasure the wise things she told me when I met her on that summer visit eons ago–back in the era of Crazy Terry. I can only imagine (and envy) how much MomBrown wisdom you and the gang have available to treasure. Send my best to MomBrown on her big day, and to AllBrowns generally.

  10. Amri,

    I think most of us fight with depression or anxiety at some point. It seems to be part of the human condition.

  11. The miracle of the healed soul still strikes me the greatest of God’s works. Thanks for the reminder.

  12. Thank you. My mother died last summer and stories like yours bring back fond memories of her service to so many people in the ward and neighborhood, while struggling with her own inner demons.

  13. Goodness. Great story. Many happy returns to your mum.

  14. Proud Daughter of Eve says:

    Wow. Amazing story! Congratulations to your mom not just for the number she’s reached but the style she’s managed to do it in.

  15. A fitting tribute to an admirable woman. Human beings are such an interesting combination of fragility and resilience.

  16. I enjoyed your post, Amri. Is Mark IV part of the same Brown clan as Amri and Sam?

  17. That’s a powerful post you wrote Amri. Nice job. Thank you for sharing so much about your family. That’s quite a tribute you wrote.

  18. Amri, you are your family are incredible! Thanks for sharing a personal yet tremendously inspiring story. I strongly believe that Our Heavenly Parents and their firstborn Jesus Christ smile down on you and your family, and they want you to have the faith that they were involved in the miracle that has occurred, even though you have all clearly demonstrated great courage and fortitude on your own.

  19. Stirling, # 16,

    As far as I know, the only familial or clannish connection I share with Amri and Sam is our common adoption into the bosom of Abraham.

  20. Wow. What a testimony. And Happy Birthday to what sounds like a stellar mom!!

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    Terrific, Amri. Cheers to your momma and her kids.

  22. That is a beautiful post Amri. Thank you.

  23. That gave me chills. Thank you for posting this beautiful tribute to your amazing mother and the amazing Church, gospel and Atonement.

  24. wonderful! i love such success stories!

    and then there’s my husband’s family… all raised in the church, loving and intact parents, six kids, no missions, one temple marriage (ours), about a dozen dui’s, five kids addicted to various drugs at various points in time (they tease my husband for NOT ever trying any drugs), and so on. but we keep hoping…

  25. Melissa De Leon Mason says:

    Beautiful, Amri. Happy birthday to your mom. She raised an inspiring family.

  26. What an awesome story. Thank you. It sparked in me respect and admiration for a woman I do not know. But also a deeper love for my own mother and the mother of my children. I count each of these as blessings.

  27. #19, and such an ample bosom.

  28. Your words are a beautiful tribute to your mom Amri. You and the siblings I have met are a witness to her goodness. You are salt of the earth kind of people. Even if none of you had served missions or graduated from college, the way that you are as people is enough to tell anyone that your mother is an incredible person.