Although she went to heaven more than ten years ago, I bear my mother’s imprint and think about her every day of my life. And although she never held any formal office or position in life (other than being my Cub Scout Den Mother, or Sunday School Teacher, or PTA President), and only graduated from the eighth grade, she was a leader in her own right because she influenced others–especially me. She even nurtured my love for photography, posing for this photo I took when I was in the eighth grade or so, around 1969. Here are a few lessons I learned from her. The first few of course are written tongue in cheek, but nevertheless I can literally remember her voice speaking these things:
- My mother taught me about the circle of life: “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of this world.”
- My mother taught me about the road to insanity: “You’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’ and driving me crazy making all that noise.”
- My mother taught me patience: “You are going to sit there until you eat everything on that plate.”
- My mother taught me about world concern: “There are millions of starving children in the world who would love to eat a meal like this.”
- My mother taught me about delayed expectations: “You just wait until your father gets home, you’re gonna get it!”
- My mother taught me to increase my animal vocabulary and mark my words: “You just hold your horses, if you don’t stop running around like a chicken with your head cut off, mark my words, I’m gonna be mad as a wet hen and tan your hide!”
- My mother taught me to appreciate big numbers: “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times!”
- My mother taught me to appreciate bony fingers: “I work my fingers to the bone around here, and you don’t appreciate it.”
- My mother taught me about bungee jumping: “I suppose if everybody else jumped off a bridge, you would, too!”
- Finally, my mother taught me that we are all mortal: “You better think again about what you’re planning to do because you’ll do that over my dead body!”
As a boy, I never took a lot of my mother’s hyperbole in speech very seriously. And I didn’t expect that sometime in the distant future I really would look be doing something “over her dead body” and sadly, one day more than 10 years ago her life on earth did end, and I conducted her funeral on August 30, 2002. As I reflected on that day and today, here are three of the most important lessons she taught me:
First, my mother taught me about faith. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:3 that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” My mother taught me about faith in Jesus and prayer from the time I was born. As a child I never doubted the existence of God, or the goodness of God, or the love of God because I saw God as a reality in my family. My mother was intentional about this, and she taught both by example and by being sure I was involved in activities that would nurture my faith.
Second, my mother taught me about hope. The Bible teaches us that without a vision, people perish (Proverbs 29:18). Vision is all about hope – it is about the future. My mother taught me to be optimistic – to be sure, there were times she could be moody and discouraged, but overall, she usually had a smile on her face and enthusiasm for life. She had the advantage of perspective, and an unwavering conviction that we had a destiny and purpose in life.
From the time I was a little boy, I remember my mother telling me that God had a plan for my life – that the Lord had spoken to her that I had a call upon my life. Even though there were times as a teenager when I resisted or even resented that idea, I could never lose sight of the vision my mother instilled within me. She majored on my strengths, not my weaknesses. Although I had plenty of weaknesses, my mother and dad both instilled in me the idea that I could do anything – that I was destined to be a leader. Others conspired with her in this initiative. I still have my 3rd grade report card from Mrs. Winnogene Baker, my teacher at Dundee Elementary School in Dundee, Oregon. On that 3rd grade report card, Mrs. Baker wrote: “Donald is a leader. Let’s hope he continues to lead in the right direction.”
Of all the lessons my mother taught me, most of all she taught me about love. My mother was an equal opportunity lover of all people. She never had a cruel thing to say about anybody and showed her love through her gift of hospitality. She never saw a problem that couldn’t be worked out over a good meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy with all the trimmings, and topped off with coconut cream pie and a good cup of coffee. She gave my wife and children the same gift of her love and acceptance that she freely offered me. She imprinted all of our lives and we are all better because of her. Thanks, Mom!