She was married at age 15, had her first child just shy of her 17th birthday, and moved away from both families to another state at age 18. In their new location, she and her husband worked together, building a home for their 15 children, and building a life together. She sewed curtains and made slip covers. She painted walls and scrubbed linoleum flooring.
They planted a garden, raised and butchered chickens, gathered eggs, milked cows, kept bees, planted grapevines, berry patches and fruit trees, and canned the fruits and vegetables to keep the family table spread with good nourishing food. She was an excellent cook and fed us full meals. We could never afford to eat at a restaurant because there were too many of us. There were no fast food places, and cake mixes were about the only prepared items she bought. Everything else she made from scratch.
She sewed shirts and dresses from muslin feed sacks that were decorated with flowers or other designs. She brushed and combed hair, ironed clothes, and shined shoes for her little ones. She scrubbed on a board, bleached, blued, ironed and starched to keep the whites looking clean and fresh. Later she would have a wringer washer in the basement, and a clothesline in the yard to keep the family in clean clothes. Her first automatic washer and dryer came as her last child was just getting out of diapers.
As a mother, she taught her children to work, sing, play games, quote nursery rhymes and poems, and pray. She even stopped her work long enough to play with us at times. She and Daddy made us a horseshoe pit, bought us a bat and ball, a badminton set, and a couple of bicycles and sleds to share. At night we played board games, pick-up sticks, jacks, worked puzzles, or listened to stories on the radio before there was television. Each evening before bed, she and Daddy gathered everyone to the living room where we knelt around the sofa and chairs and had family prayer.
She never learned to drive. With a new baby coming along every two years or so, there was little reason for her to do so. She never complained about her lot in life, although an outing for her was as simple as a day in town shopping and buying groceries to supplement what they raised. Occasionally she treated herself to lunch in the café while shopping or by having her hair done in the beauty shop. She made most of our clothing, but we got a new outfit and shoes at Easter and Christmas. No doubt she sacrificed having new things for herself more often than not. When I married, she made my veil and prepared flowers for the wedding.
Holidays were her favorite times, and she made them special, decorating a tree, buying Christmas gifts all through the year when they went on sale, and hiding them from curious kids. Easter and Thanksgiving were also special because of the turkey and dressing, pumpkin pies, and the Easter baskets filled with eggs and candy.
Her life was spent making meals, raising kids, and supporting her husband. She was a pastor’s wife and a true servant to her family, her neighbors, and anyone who asked a favor or needed a helping hand. She loved people and invited many into her home, though the table was already full, and the beds taken. Several people made our home theirs for weeks, months, and for some even years at a time. She never turned anyone away who asked for her help.
She played the guitar and sang alto, and we sang as a family in church regularly. In her later years, with no little ones, she happily served the church in various functions that she had no time for earlier. She loved the Lord and loved people, and seemed to be the happiest when she was surrounded by children, whether they were church kids, neighbor kids, or grandkids. Children often frequented her table, and she seemed to be able to whip up a meal in 30 minutes for a houseful of people. She continued to keep her home filled with books, toys, music and all the things grandkids loved.
These are the things she DID, but they do not tell enough of who she WAS. She was the most selfless person I’ve ever known. She was keenly intuitive about people and their feelings. She was an optimist and looked for the best in people. She loved to read, loved stories on the radio and TV, and loved to sing. She had a wonderful sense of humor and enjoyed laughing and spending time with several close friends. She loved to cook and eat, and loved to feed people who loved to eat.
Her body gave out early after years of investing her life in birthing and raising children. She died at age 73, but she lived every day to the fullest during her time on earth. She always looked forward to what was coming next, never spending time fretting over what was past.
On this Mother’s Day weekend, I want to honor her. Today, May 7, is her birthday, the 99th anniversary of her birth in 1917. I can’t think of anyone who was more loving and giving than my Mother. I cannot wait to see her again in Heaven, wrap my arms around her, and tell her how much I love her and appreciate all she did for me and others.