This is a true story, a love story…
She was a child of the Great Depression; she knew deprivation, and want, and need.
Her father never really recovered emotionally from that cataclysmic economic event. It shaped every moment of her home life as a girl.
She was always very bright; she loved words, knew more than anyone I’ve ever met, and the irony of that is she always stuttered, and felt the pain and shame all stutterers suffer.
She became a registered nurse to do her part in World War 2.
She was born with the gift of music; she had such a beautiful voice, and perhaps, if born in a different time, would have had that talent encouraged and developed.
At 20, she married a WW2 veteran from her home town, and shortly after, they moved from Kentucky to Texas, so he could attend Baylor University on the GI Bill.
She worked as a nurse so that he could devote himself to his studies.
The young couple was desperately poor.
Shortly after she learned she was pregnant, her husband was diagnosed with tuberculosis, contracted during the time he spent in a German POW camp during the War.
He had to be isolated, at a Veterans Administration hospital, so she worked and worried through her first pregnancy, alone.
Eventually, after her husband’s treatment, a second child, a son, followed, and then a third, another daughter.
Money was scarce.
She never knew luxury or abundance or ease.
At one point, when her husband was in the seminary, the young family lived in government-subsidized housing, the “projects.”
When he told her one evening that he felt God was calling him to become a missionary, she accepted his calling as her own.
She had three small children — 10, 8 and 4 — no money, no personal knowledge of the country far away to which they would be assigned, no way to come home if things were worse than anticipated.
She left her mother, father, sisters and friends behind, knowing she would not see them again for at least 4 years, packed their few belongings and boarded an ocean liner for the Far East.
She was 32 years old.
She would serve two 4-year terms on that mission field, devoting her life to helping others.
There was no high school in the city where they lived, so she sent her oldest children off to live in a mission hostel in Singapore, a full day’s travel away. They saw each other about once a quarter, for 2-3 weeks per visit.
Eventually, she would send both back to America, to college, where she couldn’t even hear their voices — international phone calls were far too expensive — knowing it would be years before she could hold them again.
The very day she finally returned to America, to her hometown in Kentucky, she was rushed to the hospital, where her mother was dying of cancer.
She sat with her that whole night, and though her mother never regained consciousness, sang her softly into heaven, grateful to be holding her hand as she died.
Her father, in his grief, blamed her for her mother’s death, claiming her absence had broken her mother’s heart and her will to live.
When he, too, died less than 2 weeks later, she still felt the sting of his anger and disappointment, though she loved him and forgave him.
She had such a wonderful, forgiving heart.
I asked her once how she found the courage to live the life she had lived, to venture forth with nothing but faith.
She simply said, “Where He leads me I will go.”
She would survive more moves, more hardships, more change than almost any other person I know.
Eventually, her marriage ended, something she found impossible to understand, given their faith, their life together, but it wasn’t her choice to make and so she started over yet again, moving back to the city of her birth, living with her oldest sister, starting a new job, making new friends, finding her way as she always had.
She never stopped loving the husband who had left her. She never tried to find another love like that.
And as the years passed, she would lose almost all those she loved most, both sisters and her dearest friends.
Loss has been her constant companion. Yet her hope of a better tomorrow, her faith in a loving God, never wavered.
In her 80s, it became harder to live alone, so she moved one final time, all the way out to California, determined to make new friends, grateful to be closer to her daughter, grand- and great-grandchildren.
She never lost her smile.
She thanked God every day for all the blessings of her life, until she could no longer speak, understanding that loss and pain and grief are part of His plan.
She worried about each of her children, hoped for their success, prayed for their well-being.
While she has never had very much, less than most, she always offered help when she thought they needed it.
She was grateful for every phone call, every card, every visit.
She always loved them with every fiber of her being.
After all, she is a mother.
She is my mom.
Mom died at 1pm yesterday, about an hour before my flight from Denver to San Francisco landed, while I was hurrying to be with her.
My older sister was there, holding her hand and singing her gently into heaven, as mom had done with her own mother so many years before.
As we stroked her hair yesterday, we shared memories, warm and funny and sweet.
I’m so grateful my sister was there with her. Mom wasn’t alone. We didn’t want her to be alone.
I expect I will miss her every remaining day of my life.
I loved her more than I could ever find words to express…
And I know she is finally home, her true home, the one she never lost sight of…
I love you, Mom, and I will see you again one day.
Thank you for being such a wonderful mother.
There is a great, broad road to nowhere
And so many travel there
But I have a gentle shepherd
I would follow anywhere
Though the journey take me far away
From the place I call my home
To be ever in His presence
Where He leads me I will go.