When I was growing up the one person who was always there for me was my mother. I was born in the old DeKalb General Hospital in Fort Payne, Alabama. Guess who was there. Well, dah. If she hadn’t been there I couldn’t be here! Her face may have been the first one I ever saw.
She was a stay-at-home mom for my first fifteen years. Both of my parents worked hard. Dad owned and operated a business and mom owned and operated our home! Dad was rarely home, especially the last two years of his life. Up until dad died, mom, on the other hand, was always home. She was the one who saw me off to school each morning and then welcomed me back home each afternoon. I remember coming home on laundry days. She washed our clothes early in the morning and then hung them on a clothesline outside to dry. By the time I came home from school, supper was on the stove and she was ironing while she watched her “stories.” I think it was “The Edge of Night” about that time each day. I usually went to help dad in his place of business each afternoon, but only after I finished my homework. I had my own tutor – mom. Neither she nor dad had completed high school, but she fully intended that I would do so and do so with good grades.
I was 15 when Dad unexpectedly died. Mom was 48. She went to work outside the home to help provide for us. We made quite a team. She had never learned to drive so I, at fifteen and with no license, drove her to work each morning before I went to school and picked her up each afternoon. Without the firm hand of a father I made some bad choices over the next couple of years. I have no doubt that there were times when mom wanted to kill me. Instead, thankfully, she talked to God about me and talked to me about God. At the time I had rather she had simply talked to God and left me alone but she refused to do so. These many years later, I am thankful.
She has been gone for almost 14 years now. Before she left, she was there for me one last time. Mom had contracted Guillain-Barre Syndrome but the doctors back home could not determine her exact problem. They transferred her to a hospital in Birmingham but they had waited too long. I lived near Memphis then. We had planned to make the trip to Birmingham the next day but as the morning wore on I simply could not wait. When I arrived at the hospital I discovered they had moved mom to the intensive care unit. A nurse told me I could see her but that she was not conscious and might not know I was there. She seemed to be waiting for me and my siblings to arrive before she left. As I stood by her bedside I took her hand. She opened her eyes, looked at me, slightly smiled and whispered, “I love you, son.” I returned the love and kissed her forehead. That night she was gone. I will always give thanks that I went and that she waited around to give me those last four words.
I usually try to give you a smile with my columns. There are tears in my eyes but also a smile on my face. Thank you, mom, for always being there. I’ll see you when I get there. Happy Mother’s Day!
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