A word of love for Frances Wilks Hammock


Last night (Saturday), my mother passed away in Fairhope, Alabama. Holding my brother’s hand, she whispered peacefully to him her last word: “Love.” No word could better sum up my mother’s life.

In April, she would have been 96. Like my father before her, she spent the last few years of her life having her memory slowly and cruelly chipped away by Alzheimer’s or a similar dementia-type progressive condition. But the disease could never take away the memories her family and loved-ones will always hold onto — memories of her wit, her gentle spirit and her heart of unsurpassed kindness.

In 2009, I wrote a Mother’s Day message about her that included the following:

“Whether or not it is true, I’d like to believe that dementia has slowly peeled away all my mother’s memory and thoughts until she has reached the essence of who she is. And for her, that essence is complete and total love and joy. While it is sad that she does not know who I am when I visit her, that sadness is more than compensated by the way in which she showers love on me — and all others — with whom she comes in contact. She is still funny. She loves people. And she loves God. That is her essence. That is her reality. For the past couple of years, I’ve observed that my mother has reached a state of being that is like that described in some eastern and new-age religions as being “in the moment” or the state of now. There is no future or past. Just this moment. And so, embrace the joy this moment brings. (While that may be an eastern way of viewing things for others, for her it’s very much Southern Baptist.) The journey through dementia can be cruel and contain great sorrow. But for my mother, it has brought her to a place where only this moment is real. And, for her, the only real thing is love.”

Earlier this evening, I posed this question to my two brothers: “Do you recall her ever saying anything mean-sprited or unkind to anyone — about anything?”

Never, we all agreed.

“Love.” No word could better sum up my mother’s life.

  • Kim

    Rex: Sorry to hear about your mom’s passing. Sounds like she lived a good, long life surrounded by her family. My mom passed away in October and I never knew anything could hurt so much. May your friends and family bring you comfort and peace.

  • I’m so sorry to hear about this, but what a lovely tribute to your mom.

  • Anonymous

    Rex, I haven’t been a mom for anywhere near as many years as your mother, and yet I don’t think my children could say the same about me. What a wonderful woman and a great tribute. Thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

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  • Anonymous

    Rex, your mother sounds like an amazing woman, an outstanding soul. I remember that mother’s day tribute, and those words were some comfort to me as my father went through the same cruel descent. I hope you and your brothers find comfort, too.