As we celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, many of us are thinking about the ones who brought us into this world. In this week’s episode, Salvation South editor Chuck Reece explains how he’s been thinking about his own mother, who left him too early but remains with him still.

photo of Flora Reece

A photo of Chuck Reece's mom, Flora Reece, that Chuck's dad carried in his wallet while he was off fighting in World War II.

Credit: Courtesy Chuck Reece


Chuck Reece: On Sunday, we will celebrate Mother’s Day, and I’ve been thinking about Mama: both the word itself and the person it represents.

The Mama we think about when we think about all the women who gave birth to and raised children is an icon, a totem, a symbol. She is our best friend, our confidant, our protector, our guiding light. And for many adults who will actually have the privilege this weekend of celebrating Mother’s Day with their living mothers, they will see their mamas in that beautiful light, sitting right there across the dinner table from them.

But there are also many of us who never knew our mamas at all, or who lost them far too early, as I did.

Flora Louise Smith Reece died two months after I celebrated my 11th birthday. I do remember her as my friend, confidant, and protector. But I also remember the gap, those years of my youth when her presence lived only in the memories of my father, my aunts, my uncles, and my cousins.

Now, I’ve been thinking about my mama a lot lately. Yes, because Mother’s Day was coming, but also because of other reasons. A few weeks ago, I interviewed one of my favorite songwriters, Iris DeMent, who grew up singing church songs with her parents, just like I did. And there are more parallels between my life and Iris’s. First, we were born only five days apart. Second, her mother was named Flora, too. On Iris’s first album, which came out in 1992, the last song was an old hymn called “Higher Ground,” which she sang in a duet with her own mother Flora.

Iris DeMent: No voice has inspired me more than my mother’s. She showed me that music is a pathway to higher ground.

MUSIC: Iris DeMent — “Higher Ground”

Chuck Reece: Twenty years before that album came out, “Higher Ground” was one of the last songs I heard my own mother Flora sing in church. I kinda lost it when I first heard that duet — and I usually still do most every time I’ve played it since.

Talking to Iris reminded me of that duet and the memory that it conjured the first time I heard it: Flora Reece, my best friend and guiding light, standing in the choir of Pleasant Valley Church and singing that song like an angel.

We hope y’all have a happy Mother’s Day, either with the woman herself or your memories of her. And come visit us at, where we have collected our best writing about Mama to help you celebrate.

Salvation South editor Chuck Reece comments on Southern culture and values in a weekly segment that airs Fridays at 7:45 a.m. during Morning Edition and 4:44 p.m. during All Things Considered on GPB Radio. You can also find them here at and please download and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform as well.