by Rev. John H. Farmer
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After the war and my parents’ divorce, my paternal grandmother became profitably mother-of-choice (though not necessarily mine). Dad later married a wonderful lady who made room in her heart for a stepson (though she never treated me as such).
Church ladies mothered me, encouraged me to return, sought after me when I was absent. I married young. My first wife mothered me. God gave me a wonderful gift of a second wife. She mothers me in all the ways that a white-haired, bearded old man might need. Still I am struck by how most of the images of motherhood, the poems of the faithful, even the text of God’s Holy Word misses that which I can relate to motherhood. Harry H. Schlacht wrote the following poem (May 11, 1946) for the New York Journal American. He titled it “Mother’s Day – Honor Her.” It is a compendium of thought and experience of his wartime maturity and my boyhood. Read it with me.
“M”other – It is the sweetest word in our language.
It is the first word that springs from the heart.
It is the first word we learn to lisp as we begin life. It is the last word we gasp as we depart from life.
It is the golden cord, which binds the earth to heaven.
It is the love that changes the poorest cottage into a paradise.
It is the greatest of all loves. It is the eternal love.
“O” – wondrous word MOTHER.
We bow our heads at your shrine.
We kneel at the altar of sacred memories.
We venerate your sacred name.
We are transported upon the wings of imagination back to the scenes of our childhood.
We recall your tender caresses, your loving embrace and your sweet lullaby at twilight.
We hear again your soft voice which once made our infant hearts rejoice.
“T”he songs and poems inspired by the love we hear, the touching eulogies delivered, the flowers we wear in her honor, the trees we plant in her memory all three are tributes to her sublime influence.
The story is told of an angel that was sent from heaven to return with the three most beautiful things on earth.
As he pursued his mission, he beheld a beautiful rose, that, he thought he would bring back.
He then saw a baby’s smile; that, too, he must bring back.
He looked and looked until he finally saw the sacrifice a mother’s love was making for her son, and that, he concluded, was the third.
He proceeded back to heaven and when he returned, the rose had withered away, the baby’s smile had been gone, and nothing remained but a Mother’s love.
“H”er love is the nearest approach to divine love that God grants to humans.
She walks unafraid into the valley of the shadow and emerges forth with new life.
She showers her tenderest devotion on that bud of life.
She is the keystone to the home.
She is the guiding star of man.
She is the fountain of inspiration that thrills the hearts of men.
She is the true heroine of war.
“E”re the fragile threads, which sustain her part, while she can still hear words of honor and praise, and feel the warm embrace of your love, take her to your heart and give her your devotion.
Blessed are the children that can still have the benediction of her fading eyes and the caress of her trembling lips.
For many of us she is a hallowed memory.
Her hands touch us only in our dreams.
There has never been an act of heroism that could compare with the life’s work of the humblest mother.
To the soldier who falls on the battlefield, we give bronze and tablet.
But to the Mother it is a battle without glory!
She wears no medals of a nation.
Her badge is the furrowed lines upon her face.
No bugle sounds taps over her – only the purling of the placid streams, the birds in the air.
We will see that never again shall forces of evil sacrifice your handiwork upon the field of war.
We will see that mothers of every race and clime shall witness their children born in freedom, reared in peace, matured in homes that shall be free.
We shall see America, historic mother of the world’s oppressed, lead the way.
We shall see mother’s love find its full expression in the world of tomorrow.
We build monuments to generals, admirals and statesman.
Let us build a memorial to Motherhood in Washington, D.C., for the greatest soldier of them all.
Let us dedicate it to:
The uprooting of all causes of war.
The ending of prejudice of race and nation.
The strengthening of all peacemakers.
That is the way every mother seeks.
That is what every mother shall have.
For we know:
“Behind the dim unknown standeth God, within the shadows,
Keeping watch over His own.”
The poem is thought provoking. How far off the mark is it from today’s two career families, single working parents, house-dads, foster homes and adopted parents; children who don’t play anymore? Their frantic schedules keep them busily entertained or alone as latch-key lads and lasses. All, have or are making different images of motherhood from us older types.
I would encourage educational classes, Sunday School classes and group sessions can record just how is it that this coming Mother’s Day pulls waves of remembrance from newly impressed voices. I would love to have you share them with me. We can develop a collection of contemporary Motherhood remembrances.
Send them to us at Reflections, Rappahannock Record, P.O. Box 400, Kilmarnock, VA 22482-0400.
Rev. John Farmer has been the pastor at Irvington Baptist Church since 1986. This column is repeated, with revisions, from 2002.