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!
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 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!
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!)
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?