Moms are something else. Mine sure was. As a little tike, I was always near mom, tugging on her leg or at least leaning up against her. I didn’t move too far without her. The Great Protector. She loved me like nobody else.
As I grew a little older, I can remember going with her to Parson’s Department Store. She’d drop me off on the mezzanine where I found a world of books – specifically a category of sports books. I’d flip through the pages and narrow it down to two or three books and then she’d always buy me one. It was tough sometimes to make that final call, but I did it. Mom didn’t care if it was a sports book I was reading because, well, I was reading. Being an avid reader herself, that’s what she wanted anyway. Mothers are sneaky that way.
She always wanted what was best for me and my brother and if that meant she was sacrificing something, well, then that’s how it would be. My brother and I never wanted for anything. My parents were Christian role models for us, too. For all my growing up years, she was either on the piano or organ at Oakland Avenue Baptist Church, making beautiful church music and putting in hours and hours of practice at our house. It was her ministry and she loved it and it worked well with my father too, who may have the record for being the longest-acting “interim music director” in church history. He never wanted to take on the title full-time even though he led music for decades.
Church music was a big part of their lives and one of the joys of their experience in worship. Ask anybody about either one of them and church music will surely come up in the conversation. With mom, she will always be remembered as the receptionist at the Ashland Oil R&E Building. Salesman would come and have to wait and she’d carry on long conversations with them. The next time they showed up, she remembered their names, the names of their children and everything they were doing. She was amazing. She may well have been the kindest receptionist in Ashland Oil history. Mom was a sharp person with a friendly personality that made everybody comfortable. She had the gift of hospitality in that business setting.
Mom would tell you she didn’t have a happy childhood, but she made sure her sons could never say that. Our stockings were always full along with (too?) many presents under the Christmas tree. She loved Christmas because she loved giving. Mom wanted to make people happy, make them smile, make their day. She also loved my father with all her heart. Their love story would rock anybody’s world. They were both giving people who had a heart for others, along with each other. I’ve heard stories of times when they taught Sunday School at Second Baptist Church that would melt your heart, how they gave and gave to make others lives easier.
When my grandfather (mom’s father) was in the nursing home, every Christmas Mom would gather up perfume, lipstick and other items and individually wrap them up so we could pass them out to the residents. It must have taken her hours. Those residents unwrapped those packages and smiles and squeals were the result. Mom just flashed her beautiful smile back at them.
Of course, she also had to keep my filthy uniforms clean and take me to practice. I can remember after Junior Football League practice one day we gave one of my teammates a ride home but first stopped at McDonald’s. They paid for everything and made sure my teammate had enough to eat, even asking if he wanted to take something home. I learned later they did more than pay for his meal. His family had some needs and so did he. They met those needs without attention.
There are a million other instances of her generosity and her spirit of service to the church and love to our family and community. Her grandchildren enjoyed a bounty fit for kings and queens. She showered them with gifts and with love. When they came along, they were her pride and joy – and could do no wrong in her eyes even if they were caught doing wrong in ours.
Mom had her own weaknesses, like we all do. She loved purchasing dolls, many of them collectables, but never knew when to stop. It became an addictive habit. So if you’re looking for a doll … we have them.
Mom died on Wednesday afternoon about 12:15, her kind and sweet heart stopped beating for the last time. She was 90, about two months shy of being 91, but you wouldn’t have known it by looking at her. Her skin was still so pretty, so smooth. How can anyone be 90 years old and not have wrinkles? She was a beautiful woman, inside and outside, always. The nurses at the hospice center noticed. One of them had to do a double-check the charts when they saw her. “Is she 90 years old?” she asked. “I thought I was in the wrong room and somebody had written something down wrong.”
Mom spent two days in hospice and our family is thankful for the care she received. Our community is lucky to have this hospice center that respects everyone, the dying and the living with the dignity that everyone deserves. God bless them all.
Her passing wasn’t unexpected. Mom has been dealing with breast cancer for at least three years and has spent the past 18 months in our home. My wife, who retired from teaching after 37 years, found the calling of caretaker. Mom called her “my nurse.” Beth never claimed to be a nurse but her care for my mother would push her toward super-nurse status in my family’s opinion. She changed dressings every four days, sometimes in the middle of the night, and showed her grace when she needed it or honesty when it was warranted.
Mom loved her daughters-in-law because she knew those women loved her sons. That was most important to her. She wanted us happy and knew a meddlesome mother-in-law would interrupt that goal.
Mom was a good mother-in-law who didn’t interfere. She was so helpful, especially to me and Beth, because we lived close. They went on vacations with us when the kids were young and mom always stayed behind at the hotel to hang with the kids so we could go out and eat or relax on the beach. There was nothing she liked more than being with her grandkids and spoiling the daylights out of them.
(I may have learned how to do that from her).
In whatever accomplishments that came my way in life, my mother was always the proudest person in the room. She was proud of my brother, too. Her boys made her tingle inside. They could do no wrong in her eyes (unless we were disciplining the grandchildren).
She was a good, good mother and I’m sad that her life has come to an end. But the reunion with my father, her other daughter-in-law and many of her other relatives and church friends that went before her had to be something else. I’m sure they brushed off the piano bench for her. She probably hasn’t stopped playing and singing yet.
And you know what, face to face with Jesus ain’t a bad place to be.