COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - In honor of Mother's Day, News Leader 9 met with an extraordinary woman who is a mother to the motherless.
86-year-old Mae Helton, also known as 'Mama Mae' to many people in Columbus, used to work at Sherwood Arms Apartment or more than 20 years. Helton retired in December 2013 due to her medical conditions. She treated her residents like her children, and to this day, the residents Helton developed relationships with still come to visit her.
"They say Mama Mae, Mama Mae," Helton said. "I enjoy their presence so much. Without them, I think I'd be very lonely."
In her lifetime Helton buried two husbands, three out of her five sons, a grandson and a step-son. Despite the tragedy, Helton continues to open her heart for anyone who needs motherly guidance and support.
"It hurts when you lose the ones you love. It hurts to lose your sons," Helton said. "But I want to help those who are struggling. I think of these people as my children. I think about the advice I would've given to my sons if they were still here. I receive healing by helping those who need my help."
May 11, 2014 was Helton's 72nd Mother's Day.
"I became a mother when I was only 14 years old," Helton said. "I guess I've been a mother all my life. Why stop now?"
Nancy Rodriguez has known Helton for more than 14 years. Rodriguez said the two adopted each other as mother and daughter.
"I embrace her and think of Mama Mae like my own mother," Rodriguez said. "I lost my mom seven years ago and my father three years ago. It was hard. For some reason, I didn't think I'd ever lose my parents. We take them for granted so many times. I didn't know what to do. Then I reached out to Mama Mae, and she looked after me. Sometimes I can feel my mom with Mama Mae."
Rodriguez and Helton see each other several times a day. Rodriguez even takes Helton to all of her doctor's appointments.
"This Mother's Day is different," Helton said. "Actually, every Mother's Day was different. When I lost my sons, I spent the day thinking about the times we went to ball games together and such. Then I'd lose myself in those memories and loneliness. But today, I will be spending it with my two sons who are here with me and Nancy."
"I couldn't imagine what life would be like without Mama Mae," Rodriguez said. "But I know she will be with us for a little longer. She will live past 100. She has to because there are so many people who love and need her. Every day we go to the grocery store or stop at a stop light, someone is saying 'Ms. Mae, Ms. Mae!' People continue to visit her daily and seek her advice. She's someone who deserves recognition."
"I hope we'll be spending the next Mother's Day together too," Helton said. "I look forward to it. I hope all mothers will get the appreciation and respect they deserve. Don't take parents for granted. You never know when they will be gone."