Tag Archives: Dennis L. Peterson

Happy Mothers Day, Mom!

With Mother’s Day looming in a matter of hours, and having read several Facebook postings and blogs about other people moms, my own thoughts have turned to motherhood and memories of my own mother.  One thought in particular hit me—have spent more of my life without my mother than I have with her! hazel summers peterson

While my eyes brim with tears at that very thought, there is also a measure of happiness that mingles with thankfulness that encourages my spirit in spite of a seat in our family that has been left vacant for nearly 36 years now.  One cannot escape the void in his heart when God, in His perfect wisdom, calls a godly mother from the humble hovel of an earthly home of clay into that land that is fairer than day—a heavenly home that fadeth not away.

However, with each passing year of my own life I can honestly say that my gratitude for Hazel Margaret Summers Peterson grows.  Although time and space prevents sharing everything—even if I could remember everything, which isn’t going to happen, here are a few worthy elements to be considered, especially by young mothers who may have more life in front of them than in the rear view mirror.

Mother was the kind of mom who set a great example for her children … well not just her children, but for anyone who knew her … but I speak/write from the vantage point of a son.  Frankly, I was at times the one child of three who could have been labeled “the black sheep” of the family.  (Don’t expect me to admit to the specific reasons behind that!  Those events and times have long been forgiven by mom, dad, and God—and are buried in two graves behind the old buildings of Salem Baptist Church and in the depths of the sea!)

I suppose you could ask my brother Dennis or my baby sister Gina, but they won’t tell you either, because mother taught us not to gossip.  Thankfully, the two of them were much more obedient, caused fewer worries (and mom worried about everything, I think), and received fewer spankings, though those repercussions were called whippings when and where we were raised.

Our petite 98-pound mother knew how to discipline when it was warranted, unlike so many modern moms, it seems to me.  Oh, I see them in the stores and other public places.  Some of them yelling at their children (which our mother never did, at least that I recall) or threatening their offspring with a “time out.”  We didn’t have “time out;” we had “time in”—time in the garden, time in the strawberry patch, time in the barn!  Come to think of it, I did spend a few hours in “time out” in the bedroom, waiting on dad to come home from work!

Mother's High School Graduation

Mother’s High School Graduation

Mother taught us with her words, to be sure, but perhaps she taught us mostly by example, as I reflect on those early years in the 1950s and 60s.  It was a wonderful example of the disciplined life—and I don’t mean punishment.

She was disciplined in her person.  She was always up early.  The bed was made, she was dressed, and breakfast was prepared by the time the family could get to the kitchen.  Good grief, it isn’t uncommon today to see moms (and dads, too, to be fair) get on airplanes still in their pajamas!

The Prince of Belgium at the Peterson's, circa 1955

The Prince of Belgium at the Peterson’s, circa 1955

Although dad was not a good reader, mother was, and she read and studied daily.  When she walked into a Sunday school class filled with children on Sundays (as she did for decades), she had not only prepared her lesson, and she had prepared herself.  It was a lifestyle for her.

She was disciplined in private.  I remember overhearing a member of the church where I was pastor some years ago.  He did not know I was at his house yet, but he was yelling angrily at his children, but when I came on the scene, I realized that I was dealing with a Jekyll and Hyde!  Not mom—she was in private the same Hazel that she was in public!

We were taught to clean up and pick up after ourselves.  If we opened it, we were expected to close it.  When we came to the table for a meal, we were expected to have washed our hands and combed our hair.  Proper table manners were a way of life.  (Lord, I could write a book on the kind of manners I see in my travels!)

Hazel Peterson, circa 1978

Hazel Peterson, circa 1978

She was disciplined in public.  Perhaps the greatest aspect of this would be good manners, which again, was a carry-over from home.  Because of who she was as a person, mother respected others and treated them with pleasant courtesy.

She was disciplined even in her passing.  After her injuries from a horrible head-on collision caused by a drunk driver, mother’s swollen body was kept functioning somewhat by various forms of life support from Sunday until it was all removed the following Friday.  Since dad was in another intensive care unit and could not see mom, I was with her until she was pronounced dead.

Afterwards I made the all-too-familiar trek down to dad’s bedside.  Looking him in the eyes for the few seconds that seemed like minutes, I quietly said, “Dad, she’s gone.”  We wept together and then I prayed with him, as I had done many times before with others.  This time, though familiar in many ways, was different.  This was my mother.

Following a few moments of silence, I said, “Dad, I suppose you want me to call Bud?” which was more of a matter-of-fact statement than a question.  Our neighbor and daddy’s friend since childhood, Bud Coomer, was the funeral director at Mynatt’s Funeral Home.  I knew they would handle the arrangements.

As though I were still standing by that ICU bedside, I can still see dad’s lip quivering as he spoke, “Yes.  You mother and I talked through the details last week.  In the closet is a garment bag with everything Bud will need—all the clothing and jewelry.  And, son, your mother had a request.  She wanted you to preach her funeral.  Can you do it?”

I guess what I’m conveying is this—because of her disciple in life, she was prepared in death.  That preparation was evidenced by the conversation she and dad had together on Friday before the auto accident on Sunday.  More importantly, preparation had been made years earlier at a little country church hear her childhood home, when she had a conversation with God Himself, asking Jesus Christ to be her Savior.

The notes for her funeral are buried somewhere in my files, I suppose … haven’t seen them in years … but I remember this above all else.  Neither as her son nor as a minister preaching her funeral did I have to hunt for good things to say about her.  Good things abounded from her life as a Christian, much as it had been reflected in her grade cards from school days, when she received A’s … sometimes with as many as four plus-signs after them.

BTW, do you pray?  Have you ever had that all-important conversation with God?  You know … the one where you get really honest and admit that you, like everyone else in the world, are a sinner.  You know … when you get honest with yourself, too, admitting that you need Him as your Savior, and then asking Him to wash away your sins?

If not, wouldn’t this Mother’s Day be a great time to do that?  I mean, if not now, when?

Dale, Gina, & Dennis

Dale, Gina, & Dennis

Remembering Mom

Thirty-four years ago today, I stood before a standing-room-only audience in the chapel of Mynatt’s Funeral Home in Knoxville, TN and delivered a eulogy—one that was at the same time one of the most difficult that I have ever given and also one of the easiest.  It was for my 53-year-old mother—Hazel Peterson—whose life had been cut short by a drunk driver.


Also three and one-half decades later, I have forgotten many of the details.  However, there are some things I haven’t forgotten.  Let me divide those memories into two categories—the difficult and the delightful.

Once the word circulated that I was preaching my own mother’s funeral, many people asked, “Oh! How will you do that?!”  To be sure, I knew that it would be difficult, but that was what mother wanted.

When mother died on Friday, December 19, 1980, I was with her.  Other than the few medical staff who quietly came and went, she and I were alone.  From my arrival at her bedside in the wee hours Monday morning, December 15th, I had spent the majority of each day and night by her side.  Though mom initially tried to respond to both my brother Dennis and me when we each arrived in ICU, she remained unresponsive thereafter.

In spite of the missing responses, I talked to her, prayed with and for her, and even sang to her.  Friday morning, was no exception, although that day would be different.  It would be the last day that I would hold those hands that had cared for me since the day three decades earlier when this lady had given birth to me in that same hospital.

As the medical staff reverently removed all life support, I silently watched the heart and respiration monitors until someone broke the silence by softly stating her time of death.  The staff slipped from the room, I prayed once again, and quietly walked to another room a few doors away.

Because of his own injuries from the same accident, dad was confined to another ICU room down the hall at St. Mary’s hospital.  All week I had reported any changes in mother’s condition to him immediately. Now I am standing by his hospital bed, his hand in mine, and our eyes fixed on each other.  “Dad,” I said softly, “she’s gone.”

I do not recall how long we remained almost motionless with silent tears coursing down our cheeks, but I think it was dad who spoke first.  Among the things he said were these words, “Your mother had a request.  She wanted you to preach her funeral. Can you do it?”  With my eyes still locked onto his, I replied, “If that’s what mom wanted, then that’s what mom will get.”

Now, with the most difficult behind me, I stand before those assembled to pay their respects to my mother.  The sheer magnitude of the crowd—hours of visitation that went past midnight on Sunday, combined with this audience—told me something of this simple woman’s impact in the lives of others.  What a delight to see her influence on others!

Skipping the details that were used that morning thirty-four years ago, let me summarize the delight this way—my mother lived a life that gave me something with which to work at her funeral!  I did not have to dig for positive things to say about her life—the evidence was everywhere any of us looked!  The people on those pews had their own testimonies of how her life had impacted them for good and for God!

BTW, do you pray?  If so, perhaps this would be a prime opportunity to join me in praying that our lives can be lived that way, too!  Perhaps in this life we may never know the magnitude of our influence for Christ.  However, we can faithfully do our best each day in obedience to His Word, perhaps like an old song says:

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,

Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;

Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

To my way of thinking, the child of God’s daily life should stand in stark contrast to the world in which we live today.  Such a life will certainly stand out for the right reasons, and will impact positively the lives of others.  Thank you, mom, for setting that kind of example for your three children!

Dale, Gina, & Dennis

Dale, Gina, & Dennis