I have struggled these past few days to know what I would like to say about my mom. Mom was born into poverty in 1919; she was one of 8 children. While Mom was not a ‘touchy-feely’ person I don’t think I ever doubted that she loved me; even during those times when she lost patience with me and let me have a good spanking!
My father was an alcoholic and often tried to become sober and stay sober. He moved his family to a new state hoping to begin a new life away from the influence of friends and family that lacked an understanding of his problem. Needless to say, it didn’t work and in the end alcohol killed him at the young age of 40. He left behind a wife with two children still at home who had no means of support. (I do not say that in any way to condemn my dad, it is just a fact.) I was nine and my sister was fifteen. Instead of falling apart and going to find the welfare office, Mom determined to make it on her own. To ask for charity would have meant defeat for Mom and she would have none of that. She would only accept veterans survivor benefits because Daddy had earned them. She once told me that to receive these benefits made her feel like Daddy was helping her.
With only a tenth grade education, this marvelous woman found a job–cooking–and set about providing a stable home for her daughters and herself. She used what little insurance money daddy left her to buy a very modest house using the one modern convenience that she had, a spin-dry washing machine, as a down payment. I never heard her complain when doing laundry in her old ringer-washer even when the thing seemed to eat her arm at times; a few choice words would spew forth but not complaints at doing laundry in such a difficult fashion. My mother provided for us what my father could not, a stable home with a steady income to provide for the necessities of life.
There is an old tradition that gives an individual a verse in Proverbs that is descriptive of the one born on a particular day. For men it is chapter 21 and women’s verses can be found in chapter 31. My mother’s verse says, “Strength and honor are her clothing; She shall rejoice in time to come.” (31:25) I have come to appreciate her strength and understand it more as an adult as I view my mother through adult eyes with children of my own. Mom has left a legacy that I see in my daughter and in her daughter: strength of character that does not give up in a time of adversity and difficult circumstances but rather holds on and keeps on keeping on.
Unfortunately, my mother had a faulty understanding of the Lord and thus, I believe, missed out on the understanding of just how much He loved her and was helping her. While she seldom went to church, she was proud of the path my life took and the calling from God that I accepted.
Even though it was not easy for her to let me go, she did. I graduated high school and left home to go to work in a new city and to get married. A friend of my mother’s once told me that after I left the house, she sat on the stairs and wept. Believe me, I so understand those tears now. My mother died after a long battle with dementia not knowing anyone and trapped in a world she could not comprehend. One of the last coherent things that my mother said to me–quietly in my ear as I was hugging her good-bye to return to home and work–“I love you more than you know.” Oh, Mom, I knew, I knew….
As I write this tribute, I am cognizant of the fact that I chose not to mention any of Mom’s faults. Believe me, she was no saint and I learned as much about what not to do as a parent probably more than what to do. But somehow I understood that she was doing the best she could do and chose to overlook that which she was unable to give me.
I want to encourage those of you for whom Mother’s Day raises conflicted feelings because of a bad or nonexistent relationship with your mother. I love how God can redeem even the fabric of uncomfortable memories to craft garments of grace for His children. Recall: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Thank you, Mom for being you and for parenting me to the best of your ability cause all your kids sure did turn out well….even me!