On the Anniversary of My Mother’s Death

As I was sorting through storage boxes last weekend, I was surprised to find the pages of the remarks I made at my mother’s memorial service. She died 22 years ago today (November 5), and the service was held a week later. Mom had requested that each of her children prepare something to read at the service. Though we had been far from her heart and life for decades, our mother still expected her children to honor her at her death. Some of us did. Of her six children, my brother Norman, sister Sandra, and I attended her memorial service and shared our words.

Here are mine. November 12, 1999.

There are two things I remember most about my mother.

The first is that, despite the odds that seemed to be against her, poverty, an unhappy marriage, and four children that she had to raise practically by herself, she did not think me a burden when she became pregnant with me. She did not decide it was too much for her to bear. She did not have some doctor “take care of it,” as so many do these days, and I’m sure did in her day. Because of my mom’s decision, I am here today able to live life to the fullest. And I honor her today for that simple fact.

And that leads me to the second thing I remember most about my mother. Her faith in God. As a child between the age of newborn and 10 years old — those years that were basically the only years I had to get to know my mother — in those years I distinctly remember my mother telling us about God and Jesus and the Christmas story and the Easter story and heaven and angels. We were not a church-going family, but my mother did instill in us the foundations of the Christian faith, which I wholeheartedly embrace today. Thirty years later, my mother and I came in contact again, and this time not as a child, but as an adult about to lose her mother. And the best conversations we had were about her faith in God.

During her battle with cancer, she would always talk about how God was in control, not the doctors. She told me of how she talked to the doctors about her faith in God. She was always counting on God to uphold her through this, and always knew that when he was ready, He would take her home and she would live with Him forever in heaven.

I asked her one day, a few months before she died, “Mom, when did you first accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord?” I never really knew details about much of my mother’s early life, and I wanted to know. She told me this story: She was 11 years old and visiting a church with her family. The minister there, it seemed to her, was cross-eyed. He had just finished a sermon on sin and heaven and hell, and how it is only through Jesus Christ that a person can receive forgiveness of sin and be able to stand right with God. Then, she said, it felt like he was looking straight at her, cross-eyed and all. He lifted his arm and pointed straight at her, it seemed, as he said, “Come forward, those who believe.” She did not know if he was truly looking at her or not, but she knew she wanted to give her life to Jesus Christ. She went forward to the minister and he prayed with her to do so. And she did.

Despite all of the trials and tribulations my mother went through in her life, I believe she is in heaven with God right now because a sinner, as we all are, decided 57 years ago to give her heart to God.

She taught us a bedtime prayer that I’d like to say for her now:

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep

If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

God bless you, Mom.

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