This is a letter that I wrote to my mother a year after my father’s death in 1999. I wrote it during a flight from Vancouver, Canada to Melbourne, Australia following a short visit. I was impressed by how well my mother was coping since Father’s death and wanted to let her know how proud I was of her.
My mother passed away at the end of January this year, just a little over two months before her ninetieth birthday. When sorting out her stuff, I found this letter which I had written a decade earlier, tucked in her Bible. I read it at her memorial service as a eulogy to her.
I hope it encourages you to consider letting your mother (and father) know how much you love them before it is too late.
I have been thinking a lot about you lately, particularly since Dad’s death. I have become more aware of how blessed I am to have you as my mother. My short visits home are wonderful, marred only by their brevity. I want you to know how very proud I am of you and how much you inspire me to emulate your strength and bravery.
Although I have never questioned how you felt towards me, I suppose I took it for granted. I have concluded that one does not question that about which one is confident. I am always sure of your approval and love.
I see now that Dad drew much of his strength from you. I used to imagine that it was the other way around, but I now believe that Dad’s greatest inspiration was you. It was from you that he learned what ‘family’ meant. It was from you that he learned what patience, gentleness, consistency, compassion, generosity, acceptance, unconditional love and faith meant. And, of course, as you influenced Dad in these godly attributes, so you taught and influenced each of your children, and, trust God, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
As I reflect back over my lifetime, I think of at least three major occasions where your inner strength has come to the fore.
When I was just a young child, there was only you and I – Dad was serving in the Canadian Navy in the North Atlantic during the Second World War. I really can’t imagine what it was like for you. You must have drawn your inner strength from the Lord (Psalm 18:1-2). You were a young and beautiful wife separated for years at a time by distance and danger from your beloved Norm. You had a baby boy that could not be shared with his father during his early formative years. You must have suffered the stress of wondering whether you would ever see Dad again. All of these circumstances, no doubt, drove you to the feet of our Lord. For where else would you have found the strength and peace of mind? And I still think of you as a praying Mom, for I know you do so every evening for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Less than ten years later, with the war over, and with Dad having completed his teacher’s qualifications, your young family moved to a small family-farm in Richmond. By this time, there were five of us with the additions of a brother and sister. Dad was enjoying a new adventure – one that would see him augment the meager income of a teacher’s salary by producing food from the rich soil of the Fraser delta. I can still see you pitching in to become the ‘farmer’s wife’. I remember those long days when you willingly worked alongside Dad with farm chores, do the housework, and tend to the needs of your three children. And, to add to the family income, you even laboured in the fish cannery in Steveston. I recall that summer when Dad was ill in bed with hepatitis. One evening I was in the barn loft from where I secretly looked down to see your frustation as you milked the family cow, perspiration and fatigue written across your face – but still, you soldiered on for Dad and for all of us. Never a complaint, no bitterness or words of regret ever crossed your lips.
But my most significant memory is your faithful and loving care for Dad when he was ill, yes –but for God’s intervention, dying with cancer. Your kindness, compassion and resolve during that time towards Dad are exemplary of your gracious inner qualities that I have grown to admire and respect. I saw you emerge from behind your non-assertive persona into a strong and determined woman, and whilst I had seen this in you before, I had forgotten about this aspect of you nature. It surprised me once again.
You were truly Dad’s angel sent from God. Your constant tender care allowed us to enjoy Dad for six more years beyond God’s first beckoning home of His choice servant. It’s almost as though God said, “Alright Marg, you can have Dad for a few more years, but I do need him home soon.”
Of course, we do not ever know what lies ahead of us. None of us is getting any younger or any healthier. So looking to future events as if they are certainties is something we can only leave to the young. Our future is in God’s hands, and I believe He wants us to put our trust in Him only. God will order our days. I would like to think that God has planned many more years for all of us, but the Apostle Paul had it right when proclaimed “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Mom, I love you very much, I owe much to you for who I am. If there is evan a gentle, compassionate and giving side to me, I am indebted to you for teaching these traits by example.
Thanks for being my Mom.