Mother’s Day 2018 seemed to be different than many other Mother’s Day Sundays in the recent past. In my 32 years as a pastor, I have given--well, most likely--32 Mother’s Day messages. For most of those years, I rarely returned home to Ohio to spend Mother’s Day with my mom.
Mom was always very understanding about the day being a very important day in the life of a church, a day that called for the pastor to be present. I found ways to make it up to her, either by going to Ohio in the weeks prior to Mother’s Day or in the weeks after. Honestly, I wish I had taken more of those weekends off, flown to Cincinnati, and spent Mother’s Day with Mom.
Mom is now 85 years old and in fairly good health, but only God knows how many more Mother's Days I’ll have with her. Thankfully, she moved to Oklahoma City in May of 2015. An added blessing was welcoming my brother and his family as citizens of Oklahoma City several years ago when he was hired by the Integris Hospital System here in Oklahoma. So, Joey and I have now enjoyed three Mother’s Day weekends with our mom.
Mom was what might now be called an “old school” mom. Her dream was to be a wife and mother. She became a wife in September of 1955. She grew up north of Cincinnati, so moving to a small town in northeast Tennessee was a shock to her system. She grew up in a large church and in a middle class family of home builders. Dad grew up in a loving pastor’s family, with a dad who worked full time jobs in order to pastor the local church. While middle class might not properly describe my dad’s childhood, to use the words “low” or “lower” in front of the word class seems too extreme. But let’s just say that Mom grew up in a more progressive environment than my dad.
Soon after their marriage in 1955, they moved to Kingsport, Tennessee. Kingsport was a beautiful town in what is called the tri-cities area of northeast Tennessee. The fishbowl of ministry would prove to be a tough experience for Mom. It seemed Dad thrived on every minute of the ministry, while Mom felt continually alone in that journey.
I came along in February of 1959 and Joey was born 22 months later in November of 1960. My earliest memories of Mom were her presence, her warmth, her love, and her doting attention. Mom made sure home base was always spotless; not just clean, but germ-free, sanitized, steam-cleaned, environmentally dust-free, sterile--you get the picture. If the local hospital had known of the impeccable cleanliness of our home, no doubt they would have hired her to oversee the sterilization of the hospital.
On most days after school, my brother and I would arrive home to the sweet aroma of something in the oven--I especially remember freshly baked cookies served with a glass of milk. As we grew up, it was not uncommon for us to have new clothes on our beds, with strict orders to try them on to be sure they fit before having any alterations.
Mom did not necessarily need fancy cars or jewelry, but oh, did she love nice clothes. She managed the money and was very careful in how it was spent. She found temporary jobs that allowed the extras and most of those extras turned out to be nice clothes for me and my brother and my dad. Looking back at old photos, Mom and Dad were always well dressed, always tasteful and classy.
Mom was always a worrier. If we didn’t feel good, she would jump into full-blown healing mode. Rest. Good soup. More rest. More good soup. This seemed to be the right prescription for better health.
To this day, my mom worries about both me and Joey, our schedules, our kids, our wives. When Mom hears that one of us is not feeling well, the offer of soup is still the miracle cure.
Today, even at 85 years of age, she still dresses up. My kids always tease her about not having any shoes other than heels. When she would take the kids on a walk in their younger years, it was always in heels. I’ve never seen Mom wearing tennis shoes, and it’s a safe bet that she’s never owned a pair. And given her fondness for bling, the kids remember gold: gold jewelry, gold heels, gold glittery dresses. Never mind the arthritis, the pain in the lower back and hips. If comfy shoes were the prescription, she’d rather die!
For Mother’s Day 2018, Kim and I felt it best to have the whole family at our house. The food was ready as we arrived home from church. We ate, laughed, reminisced, and took a bunch of pictures. It was a day to remember.
Joey and I are thankful for our mom. It’s nice to have a doctor in the family; together, we are able to make sure she’s well cared for. Her husband of 25 years, our stepdad, Doug, is a kind and caring partner. Two of her three grandchildren live less than half a mile from her house. Her house is less than two miles from the church.
Mom gave us our start in life. Without her, we would not be here. While it is hard to believe we find ourselves in this season, we are so thankful that God has allowed us this time together in the same city.
The Psalmist prays, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
We would all be wise to recognize every day as a gift, and receive the wisdom that calls us to focus on what really matters.