The end of last month and September to date have been filled with anniversaries and remembrances of parents who are no longer with us. Janet and her sisters lost both their mother and father four years ago – and it has been nineteen years since my mother passed away on this date in 1998. The last time my brother, Doug, and I were together we talked about our parents and how our perspectives were remarkably different – even though we grew up in the same household. I presume that Ken, our youngest brother, also has a different take on things and I will find out for sure when I head back to the Chicago area in the next several weeks.
The three of us boys grew up spending a tremendous amount of time with our maternal grandparents. Grandpa lost his own mother when he was only 10 or 11 years old and I don’t know that he ever recovered from that loss. I do know that my great-grandfather remarried a woman with many children of her own and it became apparent to my grandfather, the oldest of the kids, that his father didn’t earn enough as an engineer on the Pennsylvania RR to support this large blended family. Therefore, at the age of 13, Grandpa left home and struck out on his own, thinking it would be a little easier on his father – with one less mouth to feed.
Grandpa put himself through Northwestern University and the Law School; married my grandmother and began the practice of law. They bought their home in 1928, when Mom was only four and lived there the rest of their lives. Of course, Mom and Dad were eventually married, both having also attended Northwestern University.
Mom’s classmates in the theatre school were some of the stars of her generation – Charlton Heston, Paul Lynde, McLean Stevenson, Patricia Neal, Cloris Leachman and many other famous actresses and actors. It must have been quite an experience to attend Northwestern back then! Life must have calmed down quite a bit when the three of us children came along, although I am sure that Mom could dispute that. But to Grandpa, his little girl was still his only daughter and one of the most important things in the world to him.
We grew up hearing Grandpa tell the story of his own mother, how he never forgot her and how he remembered her love for him. You could tell that he was still impacted by her passing. That was instilled in us and we were taught that we were to protect Mom at all costs – after all, as he said, “You only get one mother to a lifetime…”
We never forgot that. After Dad’s death, way back in 1978, Doug took over most of the care of Mom and she lived near him for the remainder of her life. As she aged, her MS became more pronounced and eventually she died from complications resulting from geriatric MS. Frankly, in my opinion, Doug and I fell short of the family standard in the way we handled Mom’s affairs at the end of her life. We finally admitted that to one another on our last visit together in August. We should have done better with the funeral, arrangements and final issues with her estate.
In all honesty, if we had a sister I am sure that things would have gone better. We did the best we could, for which I am grateful, but we were remiss in not engaging several of Mom’s closest friends to help us with the finals preparations for her visitation and funeral. That’s something that Doug and I, maybe even Ken as well, regret and wish we could do over again. Thank God Grandpa wasn’t around to witness our behavior. We would have gotten a lecture, I am sure… after all, we are talking about his little girl…
As our own children have aged, they all have heard the stories of my grandfather’s message about mothers; and I have encouraged them to heed the same warnings that my brother and I received if we didn’t take care of Mom. Should anything happen to me, I hope that Kristin, Jill and Andrew would do an even better job than my brothers and I did with our mother. Because as Grandpa said, you only get one Mom to a lifetime – taking care of her is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Jesus was very concerned for His mother, as is evidenced by the words He spoke from the cross to her and to the apostle John. Our verse tonight captures the moment when Jesus, right before His death, entrusted the care of His mother to the disciple He loved. We are told, in the John 19:25-27, “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”
When Janet and I were in Ephesus, we actually saw the church that John pastored and the home that he had built for Mary, the mother of Jesus – where she spent the rest of her life. My encouragement this evening is that Jesus cares about us and wants us to care about our families – our entire family. My prayer is that we will all honor our parents and also teach our children to do the same. After all, mothers and fathers were our earliest caretakers and deserve our utmost respect and admiration. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…