Vol 11, Num 9 :: 2012.04.27 — 2012.05.10
When May was just two years old and her sister Agnes was only four, their mother died. Their father, desperate for someone to care for his children and anxious about earning a living, remarried quickly. His new wife brought a child to the marriage. The following years produced a blended family of “yours, mine, and ours.” The new stepmother was quick tempered and harsh — some even said evil. She favored her own daughter and her new babies. May and Agnes were the Cinderella’s in the household, charged with doing laundry, cleaning and child care. May was a strong-willed tomboy. She wore a port-wine birthmark covering the right side of her face from her hairline to below her chin. It caused people to stare and children to call her vicious names. It was a painful, wounding childhood — certainly not a vision of the good life
In order to survive, May built a life outside her home. A new spirit was rekindled in her when she discovered a community of faith and a Sunday school overflowing with loving teachers and new caring friends. These people would remain an integral part of the rest of her life. She achieved honors during her days at Public School 73. As a teen she found employment as a comptometer at the prestigious company Chase, Brass and Copper. Ah, but at the end of every payday, she struggled, not knowing how to avoid the harsh reality of her life as she reluctantly returned home. Waiting there at the front door stood her greedy stepmother. No words were uttered between them, just an outstretched hand in readiness to receive May’s pay envelope — certainly not a vision of the good life.
At age thirty-six, May married Win, the youth leader from their church. They had three children. Baby Winfield suffered brain damage at birth. His life was lived out in the hospital until his death at the age of two. As a homemaker, May’s focus in life was her husband, their two remaining children and her church, all undergirded by her time-tested faith. It wasn’t unusual for your ear to catch her singing quietly, “Count your many blessings; name them one by one…and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”
At age 92, May began to experience failing health. Her husband was unable to continue to care for her. He and their daughter reluctantly made arrangements for placement in a nursing home. The morning her daughter arrived to drive her to the nursing home, May proclaimed, “I don’t want to go.” The daughter’s whispered response was simply, “I know.” During their drive, May shared her concerns, “What will I do there? How will I fill my days? When will I see the family?” She had always been happily busy with church activities, reading, doing needle work and visiting with friends.
Weeks later, a smiling May greeted her daughter with, “I know what I’m going to be doing while I’m here. I’m here to pray for others. I can’t do much else for them. But this might be enough.” From that time on, she was always in prayer for someone, somewhere. May and her daughter often spent time together in prayer. May was a woman who endured, survived and discovered how to thrive even in life’s struggles. She knew all too well that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us…because God’s love has been poured into our hearts” (from Rom. 5:3-5). God’s love had been poured into May’s heart. Her abiding trust in Jesus was the very firm foundation of her good life, sharing God’s joy, hope and love with anyone she encountered.
My mother, May, was, and is to this day, my role model, my mentor for living the good life. When I count my blessings, naming each one, number one on my list is always my mother’s life of faith, her abiding trust, evidenced before me every day. What a legacy she gifted to me.