Today is Mother’s day 2014. It is a reminder to me of my mother’s passing in August 1998. I was her one and only son, her pride and joy. One of my more memorable pictures of her (and me) was taken at my installation in Battle Creek in late 1973. She was so happy for me to return to Michigan after living out-of-state for twenty-eight years.
I left home to attend Anderson College in the summer of 1945. I did a short hitch in the Air Force, spent 3.5 years in Portland, and followed that with more than twenty years of pioneer pastoring. During those years she saw very little of her son, except mini-visits during the annual pilgrimage to Anderson, when my wife insisted that I visit my home.
My parents met when mother moved into town to board with Uncle Dick and Aunt Addie. She and her mother [divorced] had moved from the northern coast of the lower peninsula and returned to G’ma Knapp’s home area between Lacota and Grand Junction. This 15-year-old Baptist girl moved into South Haven to attend high school. There, she met dad’s sister Treva and visited the fledgling congregation where dad was a Sunday School Teacher and assistant to Sebastian Michels, and the rest is history.
They married in 1926 at Mother’s Superior Street home and she helped Dad support that little church for the next 68 years. Some of my sparse memories of those early years suggest they were hard years of adjustment for two young kids, neither of whom came into the marriage very well prepared, both being products of broken marriages (accidental death in dad’s case). Their relationship was a lifetime commitment yet it was often one-sided and filled with stress, making it difficult for me and the two little girls that followed me.
We were nurtured within the church family, but my unlettered father ruled by the razor strap. He meant well but when he said jump, you dared ask no more than “How high?” without regretting it. By the time I graduated from high school, I left for college at Anderson without ever looking back. As I look back now, I see much that I would not wish upon anyone else; yet they were good years. Depression years! War years!
In spite of whatever difficulties we had as a family, we were family. We were a God-respecting family that was blessed to be in church every time the doors opened and blessed to be part of the Saints gathering at Grand Junction. From the moment of my conception, those were very formative years in helping me determine my call to ministry. The church was the center of my life from my very conception. It was not always so, but with the accumulation of years I look back and see that dad and mother were products of their time and I rejoice that they did as well as they did with what they could accumulate, and with what they had to bring into their marriage.
In time I came to understand how much of a handful I was to raise. The only model dad ever had was the sick and elderly old preacher that mentored him in his declining years--whose life I now cherish as a “long shadow” cast upon my life back in mid-twenties. I rejoice for the influence Saint Sebastian wielded in the life of my father while still an unmarried teen.
Yet, it was my mother who imprinted me; first with her family resemblance, then with her quiet, shy and reserved personality that could hide in a quiet corner and read a book while the world wanders past. If it could be done, she would avoid conflict, but she was fearless of work. She was faithful and persevering. She was sufficiently proud of my becoming a Pastor that she took special interest in mothering young pastoral couples. Bill and Effie Gibb came to America from Scotland via Gulf-Coast Bible College and they never forgot “Ruthie” and how she mothered them and looked after their special needs. She loved them like she loved me.
Many were the years when I took home quarts of canned peaches, especially prepared for me by my mother. When she took up baking bread, I again became the beneficiary. Many such blessings became happy memories when she completed her eternal commencement in August 1998; yet she found otherways to enhance my research when I was preparing to write my first small book in 2000, Saint Sebastian – The Long Shadow.
I am especially indebted to her former pastor, Harold Davis for two walnut plaques he presented her during his years in South Haven. In 1993 she received recognition as the first honoree of their VISIONARY HALL OF FAME, First Church of God, South Haven, MI. In 1995 she received MOTHER OF THE YEAR honors. Many lessons she quietly observed from my ministry elsewhere, she translated into support of her pastoral family at the home church.
She made a difference in her little world. Based on numerous conversations with my friend Bob Bodfish of that congregation, I know Bob and his wife would concur with a hearty “Amen!” I can only hope that I have made as much difference in my world with what I have, as she did in her world with what she had.
From Warner’s World, I am walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com