“Jim, I know you still have time on your hands. How have you been handling it?”
“Thanks for asking Roxie. Mary and I walk and kayak. We read. There are Zoom meetings. Then the biggie. As you know I hang on to paper. I keep everything. It began before computer files. My motto has been, ‘a clean uncluttered desk is a sign of a sick mind’. A church where I worked was broken into. Every office, but mine was gone through. The word was that the thieves thought someone had been there before them.”
“Has Mary got something to do with your cleaning house?”
“You know me pretty well don’t you? Yep, Mary said it was time to get rid of a lot of stuff. However, I must say, in cleaning up I found some documents that were important to rediscover.”
“Give me an example.”
“OK. One of the occupational hazards of being a minister is being asked by relatives to officiate at funerals. Generally, I’ve been able to excuse myself. One of the requests that I could not step away from was my Dad asking me to officiate at Mom’s funeral. The funeral was thirty years ago. One of he documents I found contained my remarks.”
“Wow. Can you share them?”
“Sure, just remember these are words from three decades ago.”
“When you get to middle age, you can look at your children and see yourself. Since Anna is 17 and Jay is 8, I can also see myself at different times during my childhood. Their hopes and fears; their victories and defeats remind me of when I was on the emotional roller coaster moving toward adulthood.
As I look at my children, I am reminded of my parents and particularly of Mom and her patient care for me and my sister as we grew up. Mom always seemed to know us better than we knew ourselves but she diid not rescue us from life’s challenges. She let us work things out for ourselves. She knew that was the only way we could grow up. She had a sharp mind and quick wit and expected us to apply our mind and wit to the challenges we faced.
As I think back to my childhood, I see my Mom’s fierce determination that her children would have a place and a person they could go to and know they were welcome. Mom knew from her often difficult childhood (her Mom died when she was 13), children need to know that their parents want them, are there for them and will love them no matter what. Over the last several days, lots of people have said nice things about Mom, but the greatest compliment came from her granddaughter who said that her grandmother was the only person in the world who always showed her unconditional love.
Yes, when you get to be middle age, you can look at your children and see yourself. You can also look at your parents and see some of what you will be. Mom’s last ten years were rough. One physical ailment after another plagued her her until the cumulative effect wore her down. But, in those ten years, she did not give up. Her fierce determination kept her going when it would have been easy for her to give up.
Mom also carried into her later years a consistent concern for the well being of her family. There were times when I wish that Mom would have thought of herself first. One of the last things she said was she was glad we had gotten her to the hospital so that we wouldn’t worry about her.
I hope I can become as determined and caring as I grow older.
Our culture often puts a premium on rugged individualism. The myth is each of us is self made. That world view may be fine for cowboy movies, but it is not consistent with the Biblical record and our own experience.
Each of us is connected to everyone else and we are particularly connected to our parents. This afternoon we celebrate my Mom’s life and we also gather to worship our heavenly parent — a heavenly parent whose unconditional love for us is like the love a granddaughter experienced from her grandmother.”
“Jim, I know its past Mother’s Day, but it’s always time to toast all the mothers and grandmothers out there.”
The Rev. Dr. Jim Watkins lives in Pawleys Island. His column is published twice monthly.