the pearl

My Mother

I want to tell you about my mother.

"But," you say to me, "We already know about your mother. Look at the festival we have to honor her and the other heroes of her time. See the statues in great halls and the tributes to her across the known worlds. Hear the ballads and the stories that spread from planet to planet about her. For she was the wisest and the fairest in all the land."

No, that is not my mother. That is Madame President, Entil'zha, the One That Is, Setai, and the million other names you know her by. That is Delenn.

I do not want to tell you about her. As you have said, you already know about her.

I want to tell you about my mother.

My mother was very beautiful. Anyone who views the old footage can see that. But only a few got to see the true beauty of her — the life that flowed from within her, spreading through everyone around her.

But, my mother was also very sad. This was obvious even to me at a very early age, although I did not understand why. For me, being sad was when I was being punished, or when I had fallen down and hurt myself, or when one of my toys was missing.

I could not understand the pain of knowing that your husband was going to die. Of having every second of your life tainted with the bitter taste of mortality at the back of your throat.

She did not outwardly show her sadness — always too busy saving the universe, as my father used to joke — but it was always underneath the surface, a faint sheen of gray upon her skin. Her smiles seemed to catch at the edges, her eyes glittering with something unsaid.

I only see it now, of course, in retrospect. Perhaps she wasn't sad at all, and this is my memory applying my own grief to her life.

But there are moments I remember, things I can recall with a clarity that makes other moments in my life seem blurred and pointless, where I know my mother was grieving. Not for my father, who carried life in him like he carried me in his arms, strong and proud and joyful, but mourning for the future, for her life without him. And for the countless others who had gone before him.


My mother's closest childhood friend was a poet, and when she wasn't touring the known galaxy, reciting her poems in front of dignitaries and beggars with the same calm manner and precision, she would stay in our house, sharing cups of tea with my mother as they spoke quietly in a dialect neither me nor my father understood.

I would sit in front of them and play as they talked, being comforted by the low whispers even as I heard my mother sob, knowing that Mayan would kiss away her tears and hold her closely.

I believe my father, if he did not encourage it, at least knew about it. He knew that my mother had spent her marriage waiting for his death — he told me so in the last letter he sent me. And I also know that he would have done anything — he would have allowed anything — to make that pain as small and as insignificant as possible.

That if Mayan could take her pain away — if only for the briefest of moments — then it was what she needed. To see her smile and laugh as Mayan recited poems about me — childish things for her sweet child, as she said — that must have made my father's life easier, if only by a little.

My father was not a foolish man. He was not the type to become easily jealous, to think he owned the woman who had become his wife. And he would do anything for her — he had, in the past, in stories that you have already heard. And, in this, he was as brave and as strong as he was in those great battles.


My Aunt Susan was there when I returned from my training to attend my father's funeral. She stood tall, and proud, her eyes red-rimmed, the robes of a Ranger flowing from her as if she was born into them.

Uncle Mike pulled me aside, afterwards, and told me what happened, and, in my grief and folly, I showed the jealousy my father never did. How dare she take my father's place like that? How dare she wear his clothing? How dare she stand next to my mother — especially when I should have been told what was going to happen, I should have been here as well, I should have been able to say goodbye to my father before he left.

And my uncle nodded, and listened, filling in murmurs when I paused, letting me shout and scream and cry for the loss of my father, for the pain etched on my mother's face, for the red-rimmed eyes and haggard looks on the men and women I grew up knowing, my aunts, my uncles, my mentors, my friends, everyone I knew who had been here when I was not, and had seen him leave.

And as I wiped my eyes and smiled weakly at my uncle, breathing deeply as the rage fled, I saw my mother and Aunt Susan sitting in the garden, my aunt's arms around my mother as she wept, raw racking sobs over and over, as if she had not known this day would come.

And I saw my aunt stroke her hair, and hold her close, and, gently, kiss her forehead. And, despite my grief, I felt that my mother would, eventually, be happy again.


I want to tell you about my mother. My mother was brave, and strong, and powerful, and all the things you say about her in your tales...

But my mother also loved. She did not always love wisely, but she always loved, her arms held open to the universe, holding it close to her as she lived.

This Babylon 5 story was written by Kate Bolin. If you liked it, there's plenty more at And you can feedback her at