The memoir, WARRIOR MOTHER by Sheila Collins, is a story about using rituals to heal. However, in all honesty, that part of the book did not resonate with me, and I found myself skimming over those parts. Ironically, it was the story of her daughter’s Christian faith that struck a deep chord within me.

While Sheila was a liberal thinker and open to what she refers to as “alternative and complementary” treatments, her daughter, Corinne, was not. Corinne was a devout Christian and was open about how her faith helped to steer her decisions. Although Corinne received many books that people wanted to share, she knew better than to think that she “wasn’t thinking positively enough if something negative came into her life” or “The disease may be something she created to get her out of a bad marriage or a dull job.” Her attitude was that she “didn’t need the disease to teach her gratitude for what God had given her. She loved her husband. She loved her job. She loved her children.” 

There was one point in the hospital when her daughter had gone for testing, and Sheila was drawn in to conversation by a woman from a local evangelical Christian church. The woman had stopped by to visit with Corinne, and while waiting asked Sheila“Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” Sheila’s reply was “My daughter has,” “Jesus is the center of her life. Me? I’m closer to his mother.” That was one of those moments where their different religious orientations created a spot of uncomfortableness for Sheila.

Corinne was someone whom people were drawn to. She made friends wherever she went, and while in the hospital, had a wall of post-it notes of people she was praying for while she was on her own cancer journey. While others may have felt sorry for themselves because they had cancer, Corinne looked beyond her illness, and put other’s needs first.

While there were people around her dying, there were also people being healed, and although her journey ended in her dying at a young age, Corinne made a difference in so many lives. She began writing an online journal about her illness, and had many people praying for her. Having to spend two weeks in the hospital in isolation left her wondering what she’d do to fill her time. Corinne had already begun a wall of prayer, and with so many empty hours looming ahead decided to ask those who had been praying for her to send pictures and prayer requests so that she could pray for them.  “This will keep me from focusing too much on myself.” The prayer wall grew daily as more and more people who had been praying for Corinne sent in their prayer requests. Turns out the e-mails that she had been sending to her family and friends keeping them abreast of her medical developments had been forwarded far and wide, inspiring others to pray for her.

Here is a quote from the book that I loved. “As the number of pictures grew, I (Sheila) began to recognize that my daughter’s energy and influence were growing way beyond the confines of our family and her small community. By the end of her two-week hospital stay, the wall had grown to fifty or so pictures, enough to fill the large poster frames I’d bought to transfer the wall to the apartment when she was discharged. She told me later, “I asked God to use me, to use me for His greater purposes.” It was clear her prayer was being answered. She was being used beyond anything my protective mother instincts would have selected for her. Years later, I read about a principle in Zen: ‘Generosity is the antidote to fear.’ I thought of Corinne’s prayer wall and how she had focused on others in the midst of her own challenges and how that became a gift to her as well.”

There was also humor in the sadness. “I envy her faith,” Pearl (Jewish) would say, “but I don’t understand it. I can’t imagine how she stays so faithful.” …I was talking on the phone with Pearl form our hotel room in Houston. She felt so bad about all that Corinne was going through, and on this day, her anger at the situation got the best of her. “So where is her Jesus now?” she said, her anger erupting abruptly into my ear. From where I was seated in our hotel suite, I could see Corinne in the next room, sitting on her bed reading. “I can’t say about Jesus,” I told her, “but right now Corinne is reading a book about Job. I think he’s one of your guys.”

“The subject of Jesus came up another time, in a more subtle conversation with one of Corinne’s friends. The friend had asked Corinne what she though Jesus was doing in relation to her situation. “I’m sure Jesus is crying too,” Corinne said. “Prayers are always answered. It’s just that sometimes the answer is no.”

A story of courage and hope, it is a gift to the world.

Corinne wrote the following in response to a newspaper story about her journey with breast cancer a few days before she died: “Reading my story is far from encouraging if you just hear the story over and over…This is a story about growing in faith, depending on God’s provision…I have tried to do the right and Godly ways but it is not our acts that bring us to kneel before him. Instead of Him being a part of this world and His attention revolving around me, I AM HERE TO SERVE Him, and I revolve around HIM.  I can say I would trade this cancer experience but am still working on realizing (that) the meaning of this will come as I approach His throne and he calls me his good and faithful servant…Rejoice in Him and look to Him for all you need.”

I am going to use another’s words to sum up my feelings on this book. I completely concur with this review and could not have said it better myself.

“What I like most about this spiritual memoir is how Collins honors her children by valuing their differences and choices while maintaining her strong mothering bond. She also honors herself by doing what she needs to do to take care of her own needs, letting go of her need to control how they live their lives. While I may not prescribe to her belief system, I have a great deal of respect for her ability to not only find a way that works for her but also to reach out to others in a healing way. Her writing is engaging and believable and her story lingers in my mind and reinforces that healing is possible after the most profound losses any mother could experience. She delivers on her promise of showing us in vivid terms what it means to be a ‘Warrior Mother.’ A story of courage and hope, it is a gift to the world.”

With that, I am giving WARRIOR MOTHER five stars.

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About the Reviewer

Donna McBroom-Theriot
Writer. Book Reviewer. Southern Lady. Connoisseur of Chocolate. My Life is like an episode of "I love Lucy!" I'm a writer, book reviewer, and a Southern Lady who loves her Sweet Tea. My blog, My Life. One Story at a Time. is where I've been writing short stories since 2009. As luck would have it, the very first short story I wrote was published within months of my writing it. This quote pretty much sums me up: "Deep in my heart, I know there’s no promise I’ll be free from trouble in this life. In fact, I’m usually either getting out of trouble, currently in trouble, or about to meet trouble around the next corner." Well, you know that old saying, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions" - that road is usually the one I'm on! And, as much I used to mock (we all grow up eventually) the Cajun dialect, 15 years ago, I found myself marrying the sweetest Cajun boy - complete with the requisite white trawl boots and a trawl boat. I love writing stories about the South and life with our two German Shepherds, and the four kids who meander in and out of our lives as they live their own journeys. Most days you'll find me out on the front porch swing, with the dogs at my feet, a tall glass of sweet iced tea close by, and a good book. It's what life in the South is all about. - See more at: