(Originally published on January 20, 2012)
The past couple of weeks have been some of the most difficult in my life. My mother, a woman I both loved and admired, passed from this world on January 6, 2012. To most, she was the little lady with the ready, warm smile. She was a quiet, country lady who was uncomfortable when any attention was focused on her; yet, she was always available to lend a helping hand. She was mostly a stay-at-home mom. But when she did work, it was usually the night shift so that she would be home, both before I went to school and in the evenings. Because of this, it is understandable that she would teach me many important things during my childhood. As a tribute to Mom, I want to share with you ten significant lessons that she took the time to demonstrate in front of me.
Anything worth doing is worth doing right.
Mom always expected us to put our all into life. It was not acceptable to simply be involved; she modeled a desire for excellence.
We are a large family and Christmases would have been quiet expensive if she bought a gift for every child (and spouse), grandchild, great-grandchild, and great-great-grandchild. Mom’s solution was to find something she could crochet for everyone. According to her work ethic, it would have been unacceptable to give a gift that had mistakes in the handiwork. Multiple times, I watched her re-do hours of work because of a single missed stitch. She would do this even though the recipient would never notice the flaw. She knew it was there and needed corrected, no matter how much work had to be undone. Some of our daughter’s most favorite presents were the dolls that Grandma made for them.
Food breaks down barriers.
If you were to visit my parent’s house, you were compelled to eat. If you turned my mother’s offer of food down, she would ask you again within a few minutes if you were hungry.
I don’t know if Mom did this because she realized the result of her actions, or if it was simply a simple desire to meet a perceived need. However, I learned that food breaks down barriers. It is impossible to be angry or think ill of someone when they are hospitable. Over the years, I saw Mom’s food melt many cross words, hurt feelings, and broken hearts.
If you don’t have anything good to say – don’t say anything.
I do not recall Mom ever having a negative comment about anyone. She always found something good to say.
Mom did not like all of my choices for friends, but I do not remember her ever speaking negatively about them. Now, that does not mean that she was a weakling. She would readily give correction and advice when needed. Yet, she never concentrated on the person, always the action. While this gave me much valuable training and taught me much about life and my choices, we rarely argued and when we did, it was focused on the real issues – my actions.
If Jesus loves everyone, then we should, too.
Mom was a friend to everyone, from the severely mentally handicapped people she cared for at the Arkansas Children’s Colony to the former town mayor of Jonesboro. Yes, the mayor. Because of his friendship with my parents, he attended both our wedding and her viewing.
Mom modeled this in front of me daily. When a sibling’s marriage would end in divorce, she still maintained the connection and never became entwined in the disagreement. I heard her say many times, “She may not be _____’s wife, but she is still my daughter.” Mom was quick to forgive any perceived wrong, regardless whether forgiveness was requested or not. Mom truly loved everyone she knew.
Why frown when you can offer a smile?
Mom had a beautiful smile, and it even caused a mischievous sparkle in her eyes. In fact, if you were down she would put her best effort into cheering you up.
Mom could show the entire range of emotions. As an ornery son, I often invoked anger and frustration in her, but I also knew that after she applied “the board of education to the seat of knowledge,” she would walk away and return to her lighthearted way of life. I can confidently state that Mom passed with a clear conscious, harboring no ill will towards anyone. How do I know that? You can’t truly smile when you are angry or bitter.
Expect the best of everyone.
Mom truly believed that just because one performed bad actions, it did not make them a bad person.
Mom could find a good quality in anyone. She was the eternal optimist. It did not matter the circumstance for she knew that with God’s help, the person could change. She instinctively saw the good qualities in people. Because of this, I learned that people generally live up to the expectations presented them. If they were considered a loser, they would act that way. Conversely, if they were considered valuable, they would consider themselves worthy. She always gave both me and others a high expectation to live up to and obtain.
Your spouse is your best friend.
Mom and Dad were married over 71 years and rarely had a strong disagreement. They considered each other above themselves. Dad told me last week that every night, they prayed that God would take them at the same time because they did not want the other to experience the grief of being alone.
I had the privilege of watching their example for 45 years and have endeavored to practice this principle in my marriage. It has helped us to weather the storms of life and, if God tarries his coming, I plan to match Dad’s and Mom’s example. Ironically, as I look back at the week I spent in Arkansas, the pain of being away from Glenda was almost equal to the pain of the loss of Mom. I consider that a testimony of this very principle.
Family is precious.
The phrase “blood is thicker than water” definitely applied to Mom.
Her priority list was (1) God (my next topic) & (2) family. She never deviated. If there were problems in her family, nothing else mattered. If one of us was hurting, she hurt also. Mom realized that her memory had begun to slip over the last several years of her life. Family was so important to her that she developed a daily routine in which she would write down the details of her family. If a birthday slipped her mind as she was writing she would ask, “Bartes, when is ____’s birthday?” or “When did _____ get married?” She purposed in her mind that she would not allow those memories to slip away with the others that had gone. In looking through her papers, we found countless lists like these.
Jesus is important.
There was nothing of greater importance to Mom than her relationship with Jesus.
Another list that we found many copies of was her “personal record.” These statistics included her natural birth year, the year she repented, the year she was baptized (titles), the year she received the Holy Ghost, and the year she was re-baptized in the name of Jesus. She even regularly tallied up the years between the dates.
I must admit that in my teen years, I did not appreciate this part of her life because it regularly forced me to admit my own lack of proper perspective. I cannot count the times I would turn off my music, or change my conversation, because of the conviction I felt due to the prayers that were coming through the heater vents in my room. I cannot begin to quantify the number of times I walked into the house and saw Mom reading her Bible. Although it frustrated me during my teens, I wholeheartedly credit the prayers of Mom for my being where I am today.
You don’t have to be a “somebody” to impact someone.
Most who knew Mom cannot recall her performing any grand accomplishments. She was a simple lady, quiet, and easily embarrassed. Rather than seek the limelight, she was content in the background. To most, she would fit the category of classic “nobody.”
If you visit her tribute site, you will see several references to her kind, loving, accepting personality. Many of those events occurred 40-60 years ago. You see, this “nobody” had a knack for making others feel like “somebody,” and they remembered that interaction many years later. My best friend called her “Mom” and considered her his “second Mom.” During my recent visit, everyone I spoke with had an antidote about how her simple love and care impacted their lives. Mom never had a prestigious title. She never was considered a leader on life’s stage, but that did not stop her from being influential. This has taught me to never overlook anyone. Everyone has value and should be encouraged to do that which they are capable of doing and not be ignored because of their seeming incapability.
Mom set a high standard for us to follow. At her home-going, Rev. Stephen Judd called her a “quiet warrior.” If we could just have a handful of quiet warriors like Mom praying for God’s work in Finland, there would be no limit to what He could accomplish. A lifetime of prayer birthed a ministry in her youngest son. Even though I felt incapable, her prayers prevailed and I turned back to God, willingly giving Him my all.
I miss you, Mom. I’ll forever cherish your prayers and your example.