When we speak of someone making an impression, we often notice things that a person displays not for the sake of appearing impressive, or for the purpose of drawing attention to themselves, but the simple actions that come naturally to them. For many people, one of the biggest influences in shaping who they are is their mother. Throughout childhood and into adulthood my mother oversaw my formation, provided health and safety, and prepared me to go into the world as a (hopefully) functional adult. It was only when I was on my own and self-sufficient that I could step back and realize what an inspiration my mother has been.
When explaining what makes my mother an inspiration, I should explain that I came along somewhat late in my mother’s life. She was in her 40’s and already a grandmother, so the fact that she decided to take on child raising one last time itself is inspirational because it was how I came to be. Before I was born, my mother survived living as a single mother of five, working, and making sure that my siblings were clothed, fed and sent to school. Most importantly, she knew that their spiritual development took highest importance and walked with them over a mile to church every Sunday. While she was there she also took responsibilities by teaching other children in Sunday school. When I ask her how she survived going through such adversity, she simply replies, “Paul says in Philippians that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Eventually she remarried and added me to the growing number of mouths to feed, but still saw the importance of teaching others continually even after I was born.
My mother worked as a bus driver and taught Sunday school for many years until tragedy struck. Within a span of a year, both my father and sister lost their lives to cancer. She says that dealing with losing both a husband and daughter helped her understand the “shadow of the valley of death” mentioned in Psalm 23. After some soul searching, she decided to start a new class in church for adults that were attending church services but not attending a Sunday school class at the time. This is an example of one of her most admirable traits, recognizing a need and then filling it. Though it started as a small group of 5 adults, attendance eventually increased threefold. What made her class different was there was no set curriculum, simply her desire to share what she had learned by finally reading through the Bible from beginning to end. Tackling such a subject for even the most experienced theologian, the fact that she wanted to start learning with no prior training at the age of 65 is that much more impressive. She also was not afraid to ask for help, often asking my brother, a pastor, about the context of a certain passage or calling me late at night for help in pronouncing the name of an Old Testament king.
It was only when I was on my own and self-sufficient that I could step back and realize what an inspiration my mother has been.
Recently, it appeared that she was slowing down a bit. Her health had caused some difficulties, her leg had been amputated because of cancer, and she was not able to attend church as frequently because she had to give up her drivers’ license. But soon, as her health improved, she started to find ways that she could serve, whether it was stuffing envelopes for the church’s mail or visiting those members that were no longer healthy enough to attend church on their own, a situation in which she could definitely empathize. In fact, it came as no surprise that, with her outgoing personality, she developed a relationship with another member of the church who had recently lost his wife. Their wedding was filled to capacity with many people celebrating her life so far and their life yet to come.
When her new husband unexpectedly grew ill and passed away this past year after just two years of marriage, our family did not know quite what to expect. Would she need more assistance than we could provide or lose her will to live after losing yet another person that she held so dear? She did go through the expected mourning, but her drive and initiative could not be stopped for long, as she took comfort in the fact that even at this stage of her life God has a plan for her, as she often mentions from Jeremiah 29:11. She quickly established a network of friends and family that not only provide her transportation but also the opportunity to continue her volunteer work as well. But even that does not seem to be enough. She is scheduled to take her driver’s test to regain her license. I asked her if her condition with her leg ever gets her discouraged, and she replied, “I know I am going to heaven; it’s just nice to know that a part of me will be waiting there for me.” She is also starting a new bible studies class, this time geared towards those that are not attending church currently. Again, she is recognizing a need that deserves attention, and I can think of no better person to address it. I can’t wait until I get another late night call asking how to pronounce Nebuchadnezzar.