By Bob Mize
We live with and care for my 93-year-old mother. She raised four sons and a daughter. She is a child of the Great Depression, often observing, along with her peers, that they didn’t know how poor they were. Loss has been her constant companion. She has lost two parents, two brothers, two husbands, and two sons.
She would modestly decline an interview about the secrets of her longevity, but I am confident she would give these three: stay close to the Lord, serve others and remain active, and focus on humor.
Stay Close to the Lord
Women have unique emotions about spiritual devotion. Males may easily ignore or misunderstand what mothers feel, but I am struck by some parallels between Mary, the mother of our Lord, and all mothers.
What went through Mary’s mind? Bible students have longed to know the meaning of the text after the visit from the wise men, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
Mothers do a lot of pondering about their children, through every stage of child development. And when they are grown, there are grandchildren to ponder. How many scrapbooks have mothers filled with the treasured memories of their children? How many more volumes are in the private scrapbooks of mothers’ hearts?
Scripture doesn’t let us in on Mary’s thoughts, but we are given a few specific clues:
• Mary was greatly troubled when the angel said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). Mothers may be troubled when trying to understand how God is at work.
• She apparently had some fear. The angel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God” (v. 30). How often are mothers quietly fearful, even while rationally knowing they are in the Lord’s favor?
• Her question was a mixture of doubt and wonder: “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (v. 34). Daily, godly mothers have apprehension and hope at the same time, wondering about their future, “How will this be?” My mother could certainly give examples.
• Mary acted in faith in spite of her amazement: “I am the Lord’s servant . . . May your word to me be fulfilled.” All mothers have done the same, accepting God’s promises while not fully comprehending them.
• Mary was moved to praise God (Luke 1:46-55). Through the ages mothers have voiced praise, written poetry and songs, and given credit to the Creator for placing them in the role of mother. Mothers have often praised with words similar to Mary’s: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior . . . for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.”
• Mary experienced anxiety when Jesus went missing for three days. After he was found, she chastised him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you” (Luke 2:41-50). Countless times mothers have lost track of children, expressing both relief and anger when they are found. The strongest hug often accompanies the scolding.
• Mary watched her son die a violent death. Many mothers have had stillbirths or have stood at the graves of children who have preceded them in death. My mother agonized when her 18-year-old son died from cancer and later when her 38-year-old son died in an accident. Mothers may grieve silently the rest of their lives.
• Mary surely shared in the joyful news of the resurrection, feeling the full wonder. All godly mothers share in the excitement of the resurrection, for their children, themselves, and all believers.
Serve Others and Remain Active
Jessica Lange wrote, “The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.” My mother gave up a lot for her children. Most mothers do, without fanfare or a martyr complex.
The word mother is often synonymous with “servant.” My mother has always sought out ways to minister. As long as she was physically able, she received a list of visitors from her local congregation. She sent notes of welcome and made phone calls. In other ways she continued to be involved with her fellowship. Volunteering for the hospital auxiliary gave her opportunities to meet others who were less fortunate, to serve them without drawing attention to herself.
Mother believed in exercise, walking and jogging in her younger years and joining a water aerobics class in her late 70s. Even after her Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, Mother has done all that her failing body will allow. The loss of physical abilities has been a daily challenge, especially the incremental blindness resulting from macular degeneration. Yet even now she makes phone calls to check on the less fortunate.
Focus on Humor
Some time ago I began keeping a list of Mother’s funny retorts, outlooks, and wisecracks. Here are a few:
• “I have to make new friends because my old friends either drop me or drop dead.”
• Sorting old pictures, Mother found a picture of me back when I had hair. She commented, “I like you better the way you are now than how you looked in that picture. Now you look old like me.”
• On the way to see a live performance of Singin’ in the Rain, I voiced doubt that anyone could tap dance like Gene Kelly. She agreed, adding, “I hope at least somebody can sing.”
• Mother went to her closet to put on bedroom slippers but came out wearing a mismatched pair. I congratulated her on starting a new fashion trend. She laughed and said, “I have another pair just like them!”
• She found a great bargain on a new dress but didn’t realize until she arrived home that the security sensor was still on it. It had not set off an alarm at the store. When she took it back, the alarms went off and three personnel came quickly. Back home, mother later told me, “I got a steal of a dress, but I had to take it back to get the sensor off!”
• Mother was directed to drink two bottles of chalky liquid before a CT scan, one at night and one the next morning. I knew she would have a hard time getting that much liquid down. I walked into the kitchen when she had about two more inches of the first one left. She said, “I think I’ll just tell the doctor I gave the rest of it to the dog.” Then she pointed out that she did not see the directions, “Shake well before drinking” until it was too late, so she told me she had jumped up and down for five minutes. After she downed the second drink the next morning, she announced, “It certainly doesn’t taste like coffee mocha!”
• Once we were talking about hair, specifically about hairdos and baldness. I made a comment that we should just be grateful to the Lord for our hair. Mother said to me, “Well, yours would be a short prayer.”
I thank the Lord for godly mothers—especially mine!
Bob Mize is a freelance writer in Lubbock, Texas.