I Remember Mama

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John and Shirley Harris

I have never claimed to be very smart. In fact, I don’t even know how I got this job as editor of The Christian Index. However, like the guy on the Farmers Insurance commercial, “I know a thing or two, because I have seen a thing or two.”

Maybe I am at the age where I can remember things that happened way back yonder better than I can remember what I had for breakfast this morning.

But this is my Mother’s Day editorial and when I started thinking about what to write I recalled my own dear mother and the television program “I Remember Mama” came to mind. The TV program was inspired by a movie by the same name and released in March 1948. It was a black and white movie starring Irene Dunn as Mama. It was nominated for five Oscars back in the day when Oscars meant something.

The movie was about a Norwegian immigrant family in 1910 San Francisco centered on Mama and how she handled the finances, the emotions, and aspirations of her family.

I didn’t see the movie, because I only went to an occasional Saturday ten-cent matinee of Hopalong Cassidy, Whip Wilson, or Johnny Mack Brown. But we got a television in 1952 and “I Remember Mama” was one of the approved programs I was permitted to watch.

However, I remember my mother with much love and gratitude. She was strict. She had rules and knew how to enforce them, but she was fair and very loving.

I can remember when there were just the two of us. My dad was in the Navy during WWII and my brother and sister came along after the war, so I went to church with my mother Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. I even went to her “circle” meetings on several occasions.

The “circle” meetings were for women. As a four-year old boy I had to sit next to my mother and be quiet. The women prayed for missionaries and talked about supporting the work of those who served the Lord in Africa and Brazil. I guess it was the Women’s Missionary Union, but at our church my mother called the gatherings “circle” meetings. I guess because they all sat in a circle, but they always had the best desserts. I could sit there for an hour knowing that I was going to get banana pudding, chocolate cake, or apple pie and ice cream.

When my dad got out of the Navy and came home we went to church as a family. My grandfather, my dad’s father, was also my pastor. We were at church a lot and my parents were the best people I knew. They loved Jesus and taught me to love Him.

We always had a garden and grew vegetables; and my mother canned beans, tomatoes, peas, and corn every summer. We also had lots of chickens; and my mother made my shirts and pajamas out of the cotton sacks that the chicken feed came in. She worked so hard, cooking, sewing, cleaning, washing, and ironing.

I remember Mama when she took a terrific fall. We were beside a country road picking wild blueberries and my mother got up on a high cliff picking those berries and fell down to the level of the road. As a small boy it looked like she fell 30 feet. I guess it was not that far, but she didn’t get up. My dad ran to her and picked her up and put her in the car. I was so scared. I prayed like everything that my Mom would be all right. She was bruised and in pain that night, but recovered within a week.

My brother, Truman, came into the world about 54 months after I did. He became a strong, athletic kind of guy who played and coached football and basketball.

My sister, Hope, was born almost ten years after I came into this world. She had Down Syndrome, but what an incredible blessing she was to all of us. She was single-minded in her devotion to Christ.

My mother taught 3rd and 4th graders in Sunday School and told me before she died that she had led 34 of those children to faith in Christ through the years. My mother and father were always a part of the visitation/soul winning team and despaired when a pastor came to our church and discontinued the outreach program.

After my brother and I got married and left home, our mother prayed for us and spent the rest of her life caring for my dad and sister. In his later years my dad had an encroaching kind of dementia and my mother became his point of reference. As long as she was there he could function, but through the years he had been so devoted to Christ and the church that he would get up every morning and put on a suit and tie and say to my mother, “Shirley, it’s time for church. Let’s go.”

My mother would have to tell him that it was not Sunday and he would have to wait a few more days before they could go to church. He would go change clothes, disappointed that he couldn’t go to the house of God.

I remember when Mama got sick herself. She had congestive heart failure and was tethered to an oxygen tank, but through sheer determination she would still get on her knees and scrub the floor, clean the house, and cook meals for my dad and sister.

My mother probably never weighed over 115 pounds, but she was strong – strong because she was tested by life’s unpredictability.

She literally willed herself to live until my sister died. One day my sister was in distress and called for my mother. She had fallen onto the floor. My mother rushed to her side and Hope died in her arms at 49 years of age. My mother died not many months afterward and with the help of the Holy Spirit I preached her funeral. She was a good and faithful servant of God.

My wife is like my mother in many ways. She is unselfish. She loves the Lord and her family and would do anything for any of us or for anyone else. I have seen her express her love through service and giving at the highest level.

I just happen to agree with Rudyard Kipling who said, “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.” If your mother is still living find a way to bless her this Sunday.

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