It was May 7, 1994. Bernadette Calloway, completely out of character…and most likely desire, took the platform to speak at the Mother/Daughter Banquet at our home church in New Jersey. Her mother was there and she began by talking about her smile. It was big and kind and invited others to pour out their hearts to her. She then remarked how most people didn’t know how they might look when they got older but she had a pretty good idea. But, of course, what only God knew then was that she would not get many more gray hairs before He would take her home…
She continued by explaining her faith journey…how she came to know God personally. From that podium she laid out the four spiritual laws in this unique opportunity to preach with words what she more naturally preached in action and life.
Her stories transition into women who had walked with her, teaching her, being examples to her, some of them laying the very foundation of who she had become as a mother, wife, friend…but most of all follower of Jesus Christ.
She talked about the woman who taught her about motherhood and what it meant to set the tone in your home…what it meant to be content and how she learned how to take on that role.
One of her friends and her, from the words of a Sunday sermon, took it up to remind each other, that the moment they decided to follow Christ they gave up all rights to themselves. She used the example of mother’s day to illustrate that in her life and believed that God gave her a special perspective on it…when she had first become a mother, she explained that she would resort to pouting and demanding recognition on this day from my kind, patient but unsentimental father who would remind her that she was not his mother. She laughed remembering and so decided that she didn’t do anything to deserve the privilege to be a mother and it was a gift she was given so she would celebrate us and her role on that day.
She talked about learning from the negative actions of others…having a heart condition and being young in the hospital with many older, grumpy patients and how she decided that even when she hurt, she would not complain but remember the good days.
She talked about the elderly woman who taught her to pray and how there were only a handful of people at her service when she died but that she often wondered about the reception she received on the other side in heaven…how she looked forward to the day when she would be reunited with her and worship with her again. …and the woman that taught the Bible to her for many years.
It was simple and straightforward. Her voice is shaky, unsure and characteristic of someone who would wipe up crumbs from the table with joy rather than be up in front. She had spoke on the encouragement of a friend who told her she needed to step out of her comfort zone. I remember being there. I had driven home from college to come. We didn’t know then that college would be the last stage of life that I would experience my mother’s presence here on earth.
When my mother died, I was still young…I have never had the opportunity to talk with her as an adult. I hadn’t learned or experienced enough yet, to have asked the good questions, to see her heart woman to woman…to know more of her experience. But there are things I do remember…
I don’t remember anything but her sacrificial love as a mother. While I was privy to her weaknesses, she never stopped…giving, teaching, loving…so that I knew in spite of flaws what it meant to be a wife and mother as God might intend it.
I remember getting breakfast in bed every Mother’s Day and her telling me it was because she was privileged to be my mother.
I remember her cleaning the house, working, going through her days without one cross or complaining word…and didn’t we get an earful if we even thought about grumbling…not being thankful.
And when I knew that sleep was what she needed, I remember her faithfulness in getting up in the early morning hours and reading the Word and praying in her notebook(s)…consistently. We have those journals…she was on her knees for us, her family.
Because of a woman that hung onto a cassette tape of this recorded evening, I listen to it every Mother’s day. Her willingness of stepping out of her comfort zone to be faithful to God and speaking, gave me an unspeakable gift…her voice telling me some of her story and lessons so that her wisdom can continue to guide and speak into my life. But even more, I remember…