Where does one begin to tell the story and weigh the loving impact of the mothers in their life? You’ve got a story. Not a perfect one – no one’s is. But one marked with enough love, support, and providence to know you would not be who and where you are today without them. I know I wouldn’t be. And I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you about them.
Mary Whitston was a farmer’s wife, widowed at 38, while expecting her only child. With little education and no capacity to work the land, she left it all to her departed husbands’s family and moved to the cotton mill city of Moultrie, Georgia. Her sister Eulala Boatwright made the journey with her. One worked the first shift, the other the second, living in a mill-village four-room house. They raised that child. Eulala never married and lived to be 97, owning her health and vitality to the fact that she never had to live with a man. That daughter, whose birth certificate shows her as named after her dad, often said she would never have known which of these two women was her mother had she not been told. It was a non-traditional family before it was cool. And what a job they did.
The girl that the world called Deiva turned out to be my mom. The owners of the mill picked one promising graduate each year and paid their way to college. Talented and smart, that Whitston girl was the obvious choice. She applied and was accepted in Athens, but took it as a sign she should not go that far north when they assigned this girl named Cleveland a room in the men’s dormitory. Instead she went to Valdosta State, earned her degree, married an airman from similar roots whose future looked promising. And just a few weeks before JFK was elected, I came along. Happy Mother’s Day indeed, I suppose. She added two more sons and loved and supported all four of the men in her life. In the most unassuming way, she was a middle school librarian who was among the first to design media centers for computers and such. In fact, when my boys needed help with computers, they called their grandma. How cool was that? This pastor’s wife and mother has loved, blessed, and supported me more than I can say, just like she has Mike and Keith.
Marlene Reuscher met and married Fred, joining her three kids with the three of his own. A real live Brady Bunch, she was Carol to Lisa’s Jan if you are keeping score at home. She managed a law office and managed a home – no small feat. Today she is a stalwart with Operation Christmas Child and keeps going despite some real health issues. In our early days of marriage and parenthood, she and Fred traveled the country to see and support us. All these years and accomplishments later, those acts of encouragement are not forgotten. And neither is the love of Lisa’s granny Maxine, who bore an uncanny resemblance to the shoe box greeting card character by the same name.
What can I say about Lisa? What a woman. What a wife. What a mom. Tough and tender, she has loved our sons in ways in which I still marvel. She is beautiful, athletic, fun, disciplined, and caring. And she used all of those as tools to pour her life into our two boys. She ran with Thad in races, often confused for his sister – imagine that. And you will have to ask her sometime about her final words of “encouragement” to our youngest as he hugged her goodbye for college. As marvelous a mother as she has been, she may be an even better grandmother. At least she may find it more fun. She once yelled at me for rushing her to pick out a tie for Jordan’s prom and his date Anna. “You gave me two boys” she yelled, yes right there in Dillard’s she yelled – “and this is as close to picking something pretty as I get.” I hushed and picked out the tie. By then she had already picked out the girl too. And with soon-to-be three granddaughters, she now has every opportunity to buy pretty things, a right she exercises freely.
Brittany made us grandparents twice over. This funny, hard-charging teacher gave us Morgan and Madison. And in a few days, Anna will deliver little Abby into the world, a child of hope and promise about to be realized. For a family marked by boys, that makes for five fantastic females in the generations that follow us. We love them and just want everybody to know that.
In honor of all these women, Lisa and I will be sponsoring a child in Haiti through our sister church and the Hope For Kidz program. From a distance, we look forward to being part of another child’s story. It’s the least we can do given all that these remarkable women have been and done to be part of ours. I encourage you to consider doing the same. It’s a Mother’s Day gift that will keep giving for a long, long time. So to all these woman who have gone before us, stand with us, and follow after us, know we love you and we celebrate you every day, but especially on this one.