When I first started writing, at about age 11, it seems that it was always about my Dad. I always made him my hero, and imagined all sorts of ways he would take care of us and protect us as we were growing up.
But the truth is, my Mom was the hero of our lives, and all I had to do was watch her. So this one was for her, and was published in the Nashville Eye Column in The Tennessean on June 12, 1993.
The best advice my mother ever gave me was this: Take what is given you in life and do your best with it. Don’t look to others with envy. Trust God and give 100% of yourself every day, and you will never have to question the path your life has taken.
I don’t ever remember being lectured about it. In fact, it was never even spoken. Instead, it was demonstrated to me daily through my mother’s actions. Thankfully, the message came through loud and clear.
My mom was valedictorian of her senior class in the western Kentucky town where she grew up. With dreams of becoming a teacher, she worked her way through college. During her second year at David Lipscomb, she met my Daddy, who was studying to become a preacher. They married on January 12, 1963.
Mom put her plans for her education on hold sand continued working so my dad could finish school. She was kept busy with my sister, Jeanna, who was born in July of 1964. Daddy finally obtained his degree in June of 1966, and a year later, I was born.
Before I was born, Daddy started preaching for a small congregation in Corinth, Mississippi. Mom was just settling in to her role as a wife and mother. Their lives together were just beginning, and the road ahead was full of promise.
But, one morning in November of 1967, Daddy was on the way to Harding Graduate School in Memphis, and was tragically killed in an auto accident. After almost five short years of marriage, my mother was widowed and left alone to raise my three year old sister and myself.
That was 25 years ago, (in 1993) and no matter how tough life has been, I never once heard her complain. She always made whatever sacrifices that were necessary in order to provide for us. This included her working two jobs for as long as I can remember.
When we were little, she spent every available moment with us. She laughed. She sang. She took us horseback riding and to Opryland. She transported us to lessons of every kind – swimming, dance, piano – in an effort to discover our hidden talents that to this day, still remain in hiding.
She listened as we invariably told her that she needed to fall in love because we needed a daddy. Every Christmas, I would ask Santa for a little brother, and every year, she would try to convince me that I needed to tell Santa about my second choice, because that “probably wasn’t going to happen.”
One of my favorite memories is waking up early on Saturday mornings and climbing into bed with her. Jeanna would slide in on the other side, and we would snuggle up to her and make what we called a “mommy sandwich” a daughter on each side and a mommy in the middle.
I would watch her as she slept, her soft skin gently masking the strength that could be found within. She was truly the center of our universe, and we rested in knowing that we were always her first priority.
I think those moments signified the things we needed most as we were growing up. An effortless trust. The embodiment of commitment. A guardian angel that we could touch.
Looking back, I see that now. But then, all I knew was that everything would work out as long as she was there with us.
She never let us down.
And now, as I view life through a mother’s eyes, I can only hope that my children get from me the same example I received from her – a flawless demonstration of unselfish love.