Published in the Sunday Gazette-Mail May 8, 2011 ~ Mother's Day~
Sometimes, when we lose someone dear to us, we begin to reflect upon life’s purpose and wonder if all the pain and heartache one experiences in a lifetime are worth the final outcome. When a person has lived a long life and it’s over in the blink of an eye, you can’t help but wonder, “What’s it all about? There has to be more!”
When my mother-in-law passed away, all of her belongings fit into an ordinary sized room of our home. I looked around at the boxes, clothing, dishes and furniture that were left after grandchildren took what they wanted, and said, “Is this all there is to show for living seventy-five years – one room full of insignificant bits and pieces?”
When my mother died, besides her home and car, there was very little to represent a life of eighty-five years. Makes you wonder why we want to live so long, struggling to get through each day’s pain and uncertainty. Thankfully, there is some real joy thrown in occasionally to give us hope and keep us going.
Both of these women experienced much happiness during their long lifetimes, even though they lived in more challenging times and had to work a lot harder than women do today. Both were strong and did whatever was necessary to survive and care for their families. That’s what women did in those days. They never gave up because something was too difficult. They persisted. They prayed. They trusted God.
When I was very young, my mother used to get up at 4:30 a.m., after my father had built a fire in the coal stove and warmed the house. She’d cook his breakfast and pack a lunch for him to take to his job at the coal mine. When I got up, she’d fix my breakfast, tidy up the house, and do laundry – the hard way. A galvanized tub on the coal stove was used to heat water that she’d pumped from an outside pump. She’d put the clothes in, rub them on a wash board, rinse them in another tub and, weather permitting; she’d hang them on the outside clothesline to dry.
Those post-depression years were not easy for anyone. My mother was only in her twenties, but she’d been taught early that wives and mothers must care for their families. She didn’t question it. She just did it.
No matter how difficult the week, when the bell on the little white country church rang on Sunday morning, we were there—my mother teaching a Sunday School class and my father doing whatever deacons did in those days.
The years passed. My dad left the coal mine and things got somewhat easier, but make no mistake, it was my mother’s strength and faith that saw us through the hard times! She took care of family finances and, sometimes, when there wasn’t enough money to go around, she’d say, “Don’t worry. God will provide.” And He did. I don’t remember ever being hungry.
After I was married, I heard similar stories from my mother-in-law. Although they didn’t live in the coalfields, my father-in-law was occasionally without work and times were difficult for them, too. My mother-in-law was a devoted wife and mother who worked hard to make a good home for her husband and children. She was adept at stretching money and, using her imagination at mealtime, always managed to feed her family of four. My husband doesn’t recall ever being hungry either.
While neither of these women amassed a fortune or a wealth of material possessions, their children loved and respected them, and that was enough. They were proud mothers who received a great deal of praise for a job well done! “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” Proverbs 31:28.
In the end, it’s not the material things we leave behind that matter. The greatest legacy a mother can leave her children is wonderful memories. To close my eyes and see my mother’s smile and hear her laughter; to revere her strong belief in God; to lovingly recall her sometimes humorous efforts to teach me right from wrong—these are priceless recollections!
If, like my mother, you leave behind children whose eyes fill with tears at the mere mention of your name many years after you’re gone, you will leave something far more precious than any material item—children who love you very much.
Happy Mother’s Day!