Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

May 11, 2003


Some things I wish I had said to my mother before she died


          My mother lived to be 95 years old. She discovered America in her Grandmother Carmichael’s home on October 15, 1902, in Newnan, Georgia. Her life on this earth ended in Jackson’s Hospital in Montgomery where she breathed her last on April 19, 1998.

            She was the second child born to her parents, Seth and Neva Johnson. The first, an unnamed son, lived only nine hours. Her parents named her Caroline, though within her family she was called simply “Sister.” Four sisters and eight brothers followed her into the large Johnson family.

            A brief summary of her life, in a family history prepared by her brother Wylie, states that she died of old age and was buried beside her husband in Wetumpka, Alabama. She was described as an “excellent cook” who “loved flowers.” Over a period of some 60 years, she won many Alabama State Fair first place prizes for her entries of flowers, canned fruits, and vegetables.

            All that is true, although a short synopsis can only hint at the esteem held for her by her family. Like most people, her significance to her family could hardly be described in a few sentences. Her siblings loved and respected her and, after her parents died, she became the strong matriarch of the family.

             Mama was one of the toughest, most resilient women I have ever known. She wrote the book on overcoming adversity, repeatedly demonstrating unusual courage to her family. Some 20 surgeries failed to quell her zest for living.

            She was a cancer survivor. After eleven hours of stomach surgery at age 59, she learned to live with a colostomy. With little complaining or self-pity, she endured its inconvenience and embarrassment for 36 years.

            On this Mother’s Day, five years since Mama died, my own mind is flooded with a mixture of gratitude and guilt. I am embarrassed, frankly, to admit that there are many things I wish I had said to Mama before she died. I will share a few of them today.

            I wish I had thanked Mama for the sacrifices she made for my sisters, my brother, and me. As a child, I had no idea that Mama denied herself many things in order to provide opportunities for her children. I only realized this years later when, with a family of my own, I saw my wife doing the very same thing for her children. Only then did it begin to dawn on me how much I owed my own mother.

            I thought of Mama this week while reading again Proverbs 31 and its description of a virtuous wife and mother. “She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household.” That was Mama. By the time I rolled out of bed every morning, Mama was in the kitchen preparing breakfast.

            I wish I had thanked her for the thousands of mornings she rose before daylight to cook breakfast for her family.

            “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.”

Growing up, it never occurred to me that Mama was wise. However, when I became a man, I began to realize that Mama never gave me any bad advice. Indeed, her counsel was sensible and always for my good. She never encouraged me to do anything but the right and Christian thing.

            I wish I had thanked her for the wisdom I learned from her during those first 18 years of my life.

            “She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.” That was Mama. Above all else, she took care of her family. The needs of her children and her husband came first.

            Idleness was never one of her problems! She was constantly busy – sewing, cooking, cleaning, canning, and tending her flowers. Many times when I called her, she proudly reported, “Your Daddy and I canned 40 quarts of beans, squash, and tomatoes last night; we were up until midnight.”

            I wish I had thanked Mama for all the hard work she did so unselfishly for her family.

            “Strength and honor are her clothing.”  That was true of Mama. Her strength to endure, and persevere, was remarkable. No illness or injury slowed her down very long. She bounced back from trouble like a rubber ball.

            She was indeed a woman of honor. Daddy never had to worry about her faithfulness. He knew she was a “one man woman,” and her children knew it too. We never had to wonder if Mama was off somewhere drinking, gambling, and messing around. Whatever flaws there may have been in her character, she never once caused us to doubt her commitment to Jesus Christ.

            I wish I had thanked Mama for her example as a virtuous mother and wife. She taught me so much, by precept and example. I wish I had thanked her for her patience with my sometimes stinking attitude and reluctance to accept her “warts and all.”

            During her last days, I often sat for hours with Mama, for she was bedridden for several years. I could have said so many things to her then, but I did not. Now I must deal with the guilt of my neglect.

            If your Mama is still living on this Mother’s Day, allow me to suggest that you find the time to tell her some of the things you need to tell her – before it is too late.

If you take my advice seriously, you may have the finest Mother’s Day you ever had!

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