My mother’s name was Ruth. She was born on May 21, 1921, in Brooklyn, New York. She attended P.S. 92 and graduated from Erasmus Hall High School. During the Second World War, she went to Pratt Institute and studied dietetics. After graduation, she moved to Jersey City, New Jersey and worked in a hospital. She began working on her master’s degree but one night everything changed. On that night the work and the studies were placed to the side, and she attended a social gathering at the Marble Collegiate Church. The Second World War had just ended, and dances were held so returning soldiers could meet single women. She met a young dark-haired man from Ashtabula, Ohio. His name was Ron. At first, she wasn’t interested in him because she thought he was Catholic. That suddenly changed when she discovered he was a Protestant. In time, they married and moved to a magical place called Warren, Ohio. She returned to her trade and in more time, they had three children. I am the youngest, so I am qualified to say their simple house became a home. It was in that home I learned the valuable lessons of my life.
Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) once said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but we must live forwards.” I find that quote to be the perfect balance between wisdom and common sense. Recently, I celebrated my sixty-sixth birthday. Now retired, I have the time to look back on my life. Some memories are fun to remember. I have had a great life to this point. Some memories are painful. Like you, my life has been hard at certain times. During my time of reflection, I discovered something I have known from the very beginning. My mother had a great influence on my life. In many ways she showed me how to live. Let me give you three examples.
First, my mother was my Christian role model. If you want to improve the next generation then be a positive role model, yourself. With all the women who had lived God selected one to be the mother of the Messiah. Her name was Mary. In the second chapter of Luke, we are told Mary visited Elizabeth, who was also pregnant, during her pregnancy. Do you remember what Elizabeth said to Mary when the two met for the first time? Luke 2:42-43 says, “In a loud voice she (Elizabeth) exclaimed, ‘blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you bare! But why am I so favored that the mother of the Lord should come to me?’” Elizabeth was the first to say what the world would come to know. Mary was a great person, which made her the perfect role model for son, Jesus. What kind of a role model are you for younger generations?
My mother was my role model. In other words, she influenced my understanding of the Christian faith. Don’t misunderstand me. My mother was never part of the professional clergy. My mother was not a missionary. My mother never went on a volunteer-in-mission trip. My mother could not quote chapter and verse from the Bible. However, none of means we wasn’t a wonderful Christian model. I never questioned her love for God or her concern for those who were in need. My mother was the embodiment of the quote, “Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.” My mother lived the Christian faith. Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) once said, “No man is poor who has had a godly mother.” What are your actions and opinions teaching others about the Christian faith? I am thankful my mother modeled the Christian faith.
Second, my mother was a motivator. In the second chapter of John, we find Jesus and Mary at a wedding reception. Everyone is having a good time. They are having such a good time that the wine runs out. Mary looks at Jesus and says, “They have no more wine.” (verse 3) Jesus hears what his mother says, “They have no more wine” but he also hears what she means, fix the problem. Mary is encouraging Jesus to change the water into wine. She is encouraging him to perform his first miracle. She wants him to maximize his potential. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) once said, “My chief want in life is someone who shall make me do what I can.” Are you motivating the younger people in your life to reach their full potential or are you making excuses for them? God expects you and me to reach our full potential!
Like Mary, my mother was a motivator. She never expected my sisters and I to get straight A’s, but she did expect us to do our best. From time to time, we needed to be motivated. From time to time, we all need to be motivated. Are you motivating the people in your life to live up to their potential? Or are you making excuses for their lack of accomplishments? Could it be you are enabling them to live second rate lives? If you want to be a better mother, if you want to improve the next generation, then you better be prepared to be a motivator. I am thankful my mother was a motivator.
My first childhood memory included my mother. I was of preschool age, three or four years old. I was in the kitchen of our family home. It was a cold winter’s morning, and I was still wearing my footy pajamas. The rest of the family had left. It was just my mother and myself. Normally, my mother would have rushed into action to clean up. However, that day was different. On that day she ignored the dishes and focused on me. She pulled out a chair and placed me on her lap. She began to read a book to me as the heat rushed through that floor register. I remember feeling safe and secure. It was as if time was standing still, and I was the only one who really mattered. It isn’t much of a story, but it is mine. I don’t know why I remember that morning, but I will never forget it. That is my first childhood memory.
That story reminds me, my mother was wise. My mother was wise enough to embrace that moment. My mother embraced every moment, regardless of my age. Motherhood does not end at high school graduation. Motherhood lasts a lifetime. I did what all children do. I grew up. That is not an easy time for many. Many struggle when their children grow up. They long for the days when their children were completely dependent on them. The goal was to make an independent self-sufficient person. You did a great job, but you struggle with your success. You long to be needed. Do you know of anyone who is mourning because their children are independent? Have you ever mourned the independence of your children? Let me give you some pastoral advice. The age of your adult children does not mean they don’t need you. They just need you in a new way. I am convinced adult children need their parents as much as babies. It is difficult being a sixty-six-year-old orphan because I no longer receive my mother’s approval. I no longer receive my mother’s love. I encourage you to be wise and embrace your children now because they need you.
It was early spring in 2002, I sat near my mother’s death bed. She was sleeping comfortably. My father died six years earlier and she was unhappy. My sister, Susan, and I did what we could. We were taking turns sitting with her so she would not be alone. It was my turn and I sat in the shadows of her room at the Crandall Medical Center at Copeland Oaks in Sebring, Ohio. The hour grew late, and I began to think of everything that had to happen the next day. In the silence of that room, I decided to leave. I leaned over and kissed her. I said, “I love you.” From some unknown power source, she opened her eyes and responded, “I hope so. I am your mother!” I believe I am a better person because she was. Proverbs 6:20 says, “My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”