I'm not sure if the soft pink glow of her cheeks was a reflection of the beautiful rose sweater she wore to the ceremony that day or not. What I know for certain is that this amazing mother was radiant.
But Katrina wasn't beaming or prancing for the crowds like some show horse or proud peacock. Rather, her ambiance was quiet, confident, fulfilled -- something akin to the demeanor of a wise seaman who had stayed the course through rough seas and calm, never veering from the desired goal -- not in the midst of storms, or solitude, or lonely nights, or seemingly endless days -- and finally made it to shore.
Katrina Atkins is a single mother, and I recently had the pleasure of watching her present her fine son, Hunter, with a symbol of what is perhaps the greatest achievement of male youth -- the rank of Eagle Scout.
Since Hunter was five years old, when his father was killed in an accident, it has been just Katrina and Hunter. Oh, there have been plenty of friends and extended family members who have stepped up to help along the way. But Katrina provided the vision and carried the mantel of parenthood alone -- never complaining, never flinching and never yielding to despair or self-pity.
She did everything from volunteering at school, to tossing balls in the front yard during baseball season, to making certain Hunter had a church family. She went to innumerable Scout meetings, helped make pinewood derby cars, pitched tents on campouts, had sleepovers and made sure homework was done right. Katrina assumed the role of both mom and dad, and she did it with style. I've never once heard her whine or complain or use her circumstance as an excuse for anything -- and, the Good Lord knows, it would have been an acceptable excuse on many occasions.
Making the rank of Eagle Scout is no easy task. I know: My two boys will soon receive their own Eagle ranks, and even with the support of both my husband and me, the going has often been tough. It takes a lot of time, effort, planning, studying, organization and gumption over many years to achieve all that is required to be an Eagle.
A Scout does not do these things alone. Behind every Eagle Scout there usually stand two parents who have given of their time and talents, who have cheered and encouraged, and, yes, sometimes even threatened, to keep their son on the right track. And so the Eagle ceremony has a place for both mother and father to be recognized for their sacrifices and commitment to their son through the worthy journey. But Katrina and Hunter stood alone during the ceremony -- just the two of them, as they have been for so many years.
Katrina has managed to excel in her own life, too. She has many close friends, and I'm honored to be among them. She has a successful career, is active in her church, and is always ready to lend a helping hand to those in need. She's funny, contemplative and one of the most thoughtful people I've ever known.
In short, Katrina is an inspiration -- not just for single moms, but for married moms, too. As I point out in my book, Home Invasion (www.HomeInvasion.org), when it comes to the extraordinarily hard task of raising our children with character, parents get only one chance to do it right. The job is much harder for the single parent, but Hunter is living proof that the children of single moms can thrive and rise to the top of their peers when they are blessed with a mother like Katrina.
If there existed a global "Mother of the Year" award, it would go to Katrina Atkins. Hunter is a remarkable young man who will continue to do well in life. He will go to college, because his mother worked hard and budgeted carefully. He will understand what it means to determine in his heart to achieve great things, because his mother showed him how. And he will one day become a wonderful father, because his mother makes sure he understands that love, commitment and sacrifice are all necessary components of any good parent.
Katrina, Hunter may have just been awarded the Eagle Scout rank, but because of your amazing example, he has always known how to soar with the eagles. Thanks, Katrina, for the gift you have given all of those who know you. May this be the happiest Mother's Day ever. You deserve it, and so much more.