When I was a young boy I didn’t understand funerals. I couldn’t see why anyone would want to attend one.
Over time I’ve come to understand. A funeral is a time when a community of relatives and friends comes together to note that life is a precious thing, that each person’s life is valuable, that the loved one lived a life that meant something. Those at the ceremony are able to support one another in their mutual bereavement.
My mother’s funeral will be held four days from now. It seems very unlikely that I will be able to attend. This saddens me, as I know my mother touched many people in her 81 years. I expect the church will be full of people; I would love to be with them during this time of sadness. I would hear words of respect for my mother and take comfort in the belief that she has stepped into God’s presence.
This apparently won’t happen for me, so I have been speaking with my loved ones here about my mother and remembering things I know about her life.
I know she dealt with a lot of health problems. When I was a baby she was stricken with polio and was taken away from me for a long time. I was blessed with a wonderful aunt, Mom’s sister Etta, who took me in, cared for me and loved me selflessly till my mother could take me back. I didn’t know till recently that, in the days after she first realized what had befallen her, she had one overriding fear: she remembered giving me, her baby son, a sip from her cup before she knew she was sick. She feared she had doomed me to polio.
In my growing years Mom was afflicted by many other health problems, many of them probably “aftershocks” of polio. During these hard years and through any times, good or bad, my mother held fast to her faith. To say she took comfort from her relationship with Jesus would be an understatement. She found her very life in that relationship. I can’t say that I agreed with her on everything; but I always knew her heart was with God, and most people around her knew it also.
She found great joy in reflecting on people whose lives she had helped point towards Jesus.
I am one of those she affected profoundly, who was influenced towards a belief in God by her example. From the Bible stories she read me daily, from the community of believers at the Grace Brethren Church in Covington, Virginia, and from things my mother showed me I came early to belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and my Savior and friend.
Besides in these directly religious ways my mother showed me about a life of faith in smaller acts which I took to heart:
When I was a very young boy our neighborhood had mailboxes out on the street. The mail carrier drove up and, leaning out the window, delivered the mail. Then Parrish Court, our neighborhood, became part of the city of Covington and suddenly the mail service changed to a walking route. Our mailman wasn’t used to the exercise. He was obviously very tired trying to adapt to the new way of doing things. I remember thinking that he sweated so much it was almost scary. My mom noticed this and tried each day to have a pitcher of ice water waiting when he came by.
Another thing that impressed me about her nature was the time one of our neighbors brought a petition to the door. Across the street was a small mobile home park with four or five homes. As a boy I loved it because there were almost always kids living there whom I could play with. Some of the grownup neighbors, however, were not pleased with the park’s existence, even though I believe it had been there quite a while. They walked door-to-door in the neighborhood with a petition to have the park closed. Mom refused to sign. She told the petitioners that those people also “need to live somewhere,” and she wouldn’t be a party to running them away from their homes.
My mother taught me that God is important. She taught me that people are also important. I thank her for that.
I miss my mother. In that I know I am not alone.