She Gave Us More Than Life

Three times over a ten-year period, she brought new life to this world—May 1950, again in November 1954, and yet again in January 1961.  Her three children were born healthy and whole—well, except for that spiritual part, that is. 

 Yes, Hazel Peterson gave life to the three of us (Dennis, Gina King, and me); but she gave us more than life, that we might live.  She also gave us an marvelous model by which we could live.

She gave us more than life—she included good partnering for our father—an example we could follow

Both mother and daddy (that’s what we called them when we were small) set as great an example of what husbands and wives ought to be as any couple I’ve ever witnessed.  In retrospect, I couldn’t have asked for better parents, because they laid a proper foundation by being great partners for each other.

Dad was a quiet unassuming man, who worked long, hard days—especially during the years when he and my paternal grandfather owned and operated the largest dairy farm in eastern Tennessee, combined with his construction business as a brick mason.  In my mind’s eye I can still see him coming home from work and kissing my mom—or see him standing behind her as she looked across the farm from the large window over the kitchen sink, one arm on either side of her, his hands pressed against the counter. 

Mother's High School Graduation

Although I can still hear them discussing family matters, Mother did most of the organizing.  They were so homogenous in their relationship that they seldom discussed anything for very long—at least not in front of us as children.  Whatever one presented as an option made so much sense to the other, they just agreed!  I never remember hearing them argue—not even once. 

They loved each other, and it wasn’t until I was in college that I discovered that not all husbands and wives enjoyed the kind of partnership that mother and daddy did.  Other people knew it, too, and have told me so through the years, especially when I conducted their funerals.

In fact, a year or so after mother had died (as the result of a head-on collision caused by a drunk driver), Dad was visiting my family.  The day he was heading back to the family home on Fort Sumpter Road outside of Knoxville, as he opened the car door, he turned and asked, “Dale, do you think I loved your mother too much?”  He was hurting, missing his mate, and I had no clue what he was felling.  I replied, “Dad, unless you loved her more than you do God, how could you love her too much?”

She gave us more than life—she included good parenting for us as children—an example we could follow

Dad wasn’t the only hard worker in the family—mother was right there, too.  While I never knew which parent was the first one up in the morning as a rule, I know they were both already up and dressed for the day when they awaken the children.  We also awakened to the aroma of breakfast cooking six days a week—most of it cooked or fried in bacon grease.  Only on Sunday mornings did we eat boxed breakfast cereals, and that was because Dad didn’t want mother to have to cook on Sunday.  In fact, it was quite common for Dad to do the cooking for lunch and dinner.

We also awaken to a list of to-do’s that are still my habit to this day.  As soon as our feet hit the floor, we made the beds we’d just slept in.  Pajamas were folded and placed under our pillows.  We dressed, washed our faces, and combed our hair before going to the breakfast table. 

Ralph, Hazel, & Dale, circa 1954

There was always order in the Peterson’s household—not just with things, but also in our relationships. If we were told by a parent to do something, we were expected to do it.  Mother never counted to three—unless it was three whacks across our backsides when we did not do what we were told.  That expectation later morphed into the tag line that I used with my own children, “Quickly, cheerfully, I will obey.”  It’s apparent to me when I see young parents today—giving a “time out” to their three-year-olds—they must not have had parents like mine!

She gave us more than life—she included good principles for our lives—an example we could follow 

Some of these principles have already bled through in previous paragraphs—things like cleanliness.  Generally speaking, my wife does not have to follow a trail of crumbs or dirty clothes through our condo, cleaning up after a thoughtless husband.  In fact, she chuckles sometimes with my banal obsessions for orderliness, but somehow I think on the inside she is grateful that my mother (whom she has never met) instilled cleanliness in me!

Mother also instilled good study habits in her children.  In fact, I may very well be the weak link in that chain, since both my younger siblings have greater formal education than I do.  But all three of us are students of life—not merely of textbooks in classrooms, though these certainly have their place.  While Dad was a B/C-level student in school, mother excelled with straight-As, and she wanted her children to be good students, both inside and outside of a classroom. 

We were also provided an excellent moral compass in our home.  Life’s daily routines and travels afforded us many family discussions of right and wrong, as well as the reasons behind each.  As I look around the country in which I live today, I can’t help but think that although we have more possessions, we have fewer godly principles at play today.  Sadly, our country is adrift morally in every way.

Dale, Dennis, & Gina, circa 1963

One last principle that mother instilled her children was respect.  Respect (or a lack thereof) can be seen in so many ways, from the manner with which one family member treats another to the way in which total strangers interact.  Not only did mother (and Dad) instill a sense of proper respect in their children, their very lives commanded the respect of all who knew them.  Again, I’ve heard this time and again through the years. 

Finally, she gave us more than life—she included good prospects for the future—an example to follow  

Dennis, Gina, and I come from “good stock,” as people used to say.  We know it, we are thankful for it, and we want the same to be said of each of us and our families.  Mother and Daddy laid the foundation.  They weren’t perfect, although they were closer to it than I will ever be.  It was through their lives and my upbringing that I had hope for the future in a family of my own.

Yet, the good prospects for the future are larger than this life.  It includes the life to come.  You see, mother lived her life in such a manner that her children would come to faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior.  She lived daily the Christ life—we could understand Him better by looking at, listening to, and sensing it in her!

So, on this Mother’s Day 2011, although Dennis, Gina, and Dale will wear white flowers on our lapels, our mother is very much alive, no doubt standing at a heavenly kitchen window above the sink, daddy’s arms around her, both of them looking this way, waiting and watching for the kids to come home—each of us, for the last time.

There’s one family circle that will not be broken!  Meanwhile, her children will rise up and call her blessed, with gratitude for a godly mother who gave us so much more than life!

Dale, Gina, & Dennis

2 responses to “She Gave Us More Than Life

  1. Well said Dale. She was a good example for not only you children but her niece as well. I can still hear saying ,Ralph honey, will you——-? What ever it
    was she wanted him to do. She was beautiful inside and out. They were the perfect couple.


  2. Larry and JoAnn Giesler

    What a beautiful tribute to your wonderful Mother (and Daddy). Our lives are much richer for having known both your Mother and Daddy! They were wonderful friends, and we have great memories of times spent with them.


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