Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

May 9, 2004


It helps to slow down, smell the roses, and remember Mama


          Mother’s Day is a festive day. Florists sell bushels of flowers that help us convey our love to Mom. Families that honor Mom with a nice meal she does have to prepare crowd restaurants. Many other businesses prosper, selling jewelry, clothes, and cosmetics as gifts that recognize Mom’s value to the family.

          Churches respond to the commercialization of this day by celebrating the difference Christian mothers can make. Many pastors today will preach about the good influence Timothy received from his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice. Mothers will be thanked for their hard work and challenged to work hard to make sure home provides the family with strength, encouragement, and peace.

          Not many of us will realize that Mother’s Day is a sad day for many people. Among the saddened will be women who remained childless despite wanting a child, and women who have outlived their own children. The latter will have no one around to say, “Thanks, Mom, I love you.”  

          Some moms will nurse a broken heart because they have been forgotten by their children. No phone call, card, gift, or visit will brighten the day for these mothers. They may cry themselves to sleep tonight, trying to console themselves by thinking their children simply forgot, or they were too busy with their own families.

          Some children may be depressed trying to decide which mom to recognize, the one who gave them birth, or the one who has been Dad’s wife in recent years. The answer, of course, is both; though it is likely one may receive greater affection than the other. Despite the hollow hope that “the children will not be damaged by divorce,” most children do suffer serious emotional injury from the divorce of their parents. Evidence indicates that little children are more the victims of divorce than their parents. Such scars do not heal quickly or easily.

          It helps me on this weekend to slow down, smell the roses, and remember both the mothers who had a profound influence on my life. My mom was married to my dad for 67 years when he died at age 93. Mom left to join him a few years later when she was 95.

          In all those years, they never spoke of being happily married; though it never occurred to me they were not. In so many ways, the two of them were one. They worked together, raised a family of five children, and never wished to be anywhere but on their beloved farm. When they “went out,” it was usually to the garden to gather vegetables. These they canned, side by side, neither complaining, but proudly announcing the number of quarts of green beans and tomatoes they had added to the pantry.

          Mom was a survivor. This quality distinguished her entire life. She married a man who had nothing to offer her but himself and his love. Her union with him was a marriage to hard work during the Great Depression. Together they survived the hardships of the era and emerged stronger people. They had each other, faith in God, and a common desire to “make it.”

          Over the years, Mom had at least 30 surgeries. She overcame them all, even an 11-hour cancer operation which left her with a permanent colostomy. Without complaining, she endured that difficulty for 35 years. We, her children, marveled at her remarkable fortitude. She taught us all a valuable lesson, one none of us will ever forget.

          I owe my mother so much. She introduced me to books and saw to it that I read them. She gave me my first Bible, and now I possess and cherish her last Bible. Mom insisted that I learn how to memorize poetry, how to express myself, how to speak, and how to sing. There was no stopping her. Only one time did she permit me to beg off her plan for me. I convinced her to let me stop taking piano lessons; that mistake I have regretted for most of my adult life. I wish she had not allowed me to win.

          Mom and Dad did not “talk” their faith very much. They simply lived it, and their love of God and Christian values rubbed off on us. Growing up, we never doubted that ours was a family whose foundation was solid faith in God, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Scriptures. Mom never used the phrase, “family values,” but we were blessed by them simply by being her children.

          The other Mom to whom I am greatly indebted is Sarah Brown, my wife’s mother. She was also a survivor, and one of the most unselfish women I have ever known. She lived not for herself, but for others, her family. Wounded by grief in the death of her husband when she barely 40, she struggled with sorrow for half a century before dying at age 99. Yet, despite the weight of her sadness and loneliness, she endured for one purpose only – to do whatever she could to make life easier for her family. I lived only 18 years in the home of my birth mother. Sarah, however, lived in my home many more years than that, and while she her melancholy spirit was difficult at times, she always cared more for others than for herself.

          I am a better man for having known Sarah Brown, and on Mother’s Day I wish I had told her that during her last years. I pray she has forgiven me for this embarrassing neglect.

          There are thoughts now I also wish I had spoken to my own mother. I am ashamed to think that my mother lived 95 years and I still failed to tell her of my gratitude for the courageous example she was to me and my siblings. There simply must be a heaven where we can finally say to our loved ones what we wished we had said before they died.

          (If your mother is still living, get on the phone, or get in the car and find a way to express your gratitude for all she did for you. She had her flaws, of course; we all do. Yet she loved you in spite of yours. After all, is it not our mothers who first teach us the meaning of sacrifice?)

          Today I remember my two mothers.  I was blessed beyond my deserving by them both. I hope, somehow, they know my gratitude and the deep feelings of my heart on this merry day in May. + + + +