Monday, February 7, 2011

Mother's Example

Note: Little did I know when I wrote this column on May 4, 2010, that it would be read at Mother's funeral on January 16, 2011.

At this writing, my mother no longer knows me—or anyone else in our family—but we know her and remember the love she gave us and the many things she did for us as long as she could. It feels very strange—and terribly sad, of course—to see Mother looking quite well (for someone age 93) and so familiar to us, yet to realize that, to her, we are just some nice “strangers” who’ve come to visit her. No mention of names of dear ones evokes any emotional response in her, because Alzheimer’s has erased all memory of them, as far as we know.

But, as I said, we do remember her, and we are still so very grateful for her loving care of us throughout the years and for the things she taught us. For example, she taught me how to cook and to sew, although I never reached her level of skill in the latter. She tried to teach me how to quilt, but, sadly, I wasn’t an eager learner.

However, I did learn many other things Mother taught me, among them: the love of reading, the value of quietly accepting whatever happens and making the best of it, the need to make good use of the time, the satisfaction of completing creative projects, the willingness to share with others whatever possessions and talents you have, the need to rely on God in every situation, and much, much more.

Mother and I are alike in many ways, different in others. Yet, we’ve always been very close. The older I get, the more I realize just how wonderful she was—and still is. Until the past few years, she was a treasure house of knowledge about our family and friends. She knew birthdays and other special days, ancestors and descendants, etc. She could tell interesting (and often funny!) stories about happenings in days gone by.

Mother has always been a quiet person, often looking frail; yet, she has incredible inner strength, even now that she is no longer able to take care of even her most basic needs. Each day, she exhibits dignity and grace and remains kind and cooperative. She never whines or complains about her situation. She simply does all she can to make it work for the best, as she has always done.

Now, as when I was a child, I cannot truly understand what life must be like for her. She has always made the hard things look easier than they really are. For example, when I was a child, Daddy worked in a town miles from where we lived. So, very early each Monday morning he drove off in the only vehicle we owned and didn’t return until late Friday afternoon. While he was gone, Mother did everything at home. She took care of the cow, the chickens, the garden, all the household chores, and, of course, my sister and me. We had no telephone at the time and no running water. But Mother seemed to manage just fine and didn’t fuss on Daddy for being away for days on end.

I often think about such things, especially when I read Proverbs 31 or Proverbs 1:8-9, which says, “Listen, my child, to what your father teaches you. Don’t neglect your mother’s teaching. What you learn from them will crown you with grace and clothe you with honor” (New Living Translation).

So, day by day, I give thanks for my precious mother and try even harder to follow the wonderful example she set for me.

© May 4. 2010 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill. For permission to use, please send e-mail to johnniegaskillATgmailDOTcom.