They Raised Me Up

May 8, 2005

Arlene Bougher, Lay Speaker

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

  1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

    4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

 

 

Good morning! Happy Mother’s Day! I’d like to tell you three stories of mothers who have blessed my life with love.

 

The October Glory maple in our front yard is one of the few trees in our neighborhood that keeps its beautiful red leaves until almost Thanksgiving. When my 2½ year old grandson came to visit last fall I thought of a way to capture his imagination. The maple tree was about to loose its beautiful dark red leaves. I leaned down and said, “Nicholas, would you like to play under the Magic tree?” He answered, “shua” in his toddler accent. I positioned him just so, under a thick branch of color. I shook the limb. Leaves softly rained down on his angelic upturned smiling face. We worked our way all around the tree, shaking branch by branch, until all the leaves that anointed his beautiful blond head were on the ground. His laughter in that moment will always be a wonderful, treasured memory. Still laughing he ran through the pile of leaves, scattering them across the lawn. As we finished cleaning them up together, each with our own rake, my quiet, sometimes shy, little boy said, “This is fun, Grandma!”

 

I love to spend time with my grandchildren, Nicholas and his baby sister Emily, and I also love to observe the interactions between my daughter-in law and her children. She exemplifies patience and kindness, and respect in conversations with them, empowering my grandchildren with the knowledge that they are well loved. It is said the most powerful tool a mother can have in raising her children is love.

 

From the beginning, when her babies were old enough for solid foods, she steamed her own vegetables; she knitted tiny sweaters with teddy bear buttons and calms them down at nap time and bedtime, with a quiet reading of their favorite books. Every day there is a music session, a painting time and choices of other things to do. Wherever they live, my son, Doug and daughter-in-law, Joleann find a home church to explore their faith. She is an elementary school teacher turned full time mother. Every time I see her in action, she raises me up and I feel blessed.

 

At one time I was a daughter-in-law to be. My fiancé’s mother and I had a lot in common. We both loved to paint and to sew. Still I was shy at first, until my future mother-in-law and I became partners in crime. Well before the wedding, on each visit to her home and out of sight of my fiancé and his father, we would sneak into her bedroom. There I would show her the pieces of my wedding dress I had sewn: the veil, the bodice with alencon lace, cut and stitched on to silky peau de soie, and finally the long train to match the bodice, and hundreds of seed pearls sewn on to the roses in the lace. It was fun to be her cohort, and wonderful to see the pride in her smile.

 

At our wedding reception, someone was overheard saying to her, “Why did she have to make her own wedding dress?” My mother-in-law responded, “With each stitch she put in so much love.”

 

Yes, we sometimes had disagreements and differences of opinion, but there was always a generosity of love and respect. She worked hard and never took short cuts in life. She was the one in whom her family entrusted their secrets and came to discuss their problems.

 

 I see her in my husband’s kindness and giving spirit and I remember her. With every look of pride for her family, and every thoughtful remark she made, she raised me up and I feel blessed.

 

There is, of course, another woman who raised me up. She exemplifies strength of spirit, survivorship, and a unique ability to provide simple treasures in my bank of memories.

 

As the middle child of five siblings, it’s amazing to remember spending time alone with Mamma, cuddled in her bed together, napping or playing I’m a little teapot on top of her bed covers.

 

There are so many wonderful memories of special moments my mother created, but one that always makes me smile took place when I was about eight years old. We were a large family with average means. It was Christmas Eve, and I had written down what I thought was an incredibly long Christmas list and expected to receive maybe one or two items on the list, along with the usual -new socks, underwear, pencils and crayons (This was not my grandchild’s Christmas). Our family always celebrated at our grandparent’s just down the road. All the gifts were placed under their tree well before our arrival, except for a few my mother had stashed away. That night, we were all piling into the big toasty warm farm kitchen. Mamma, with a wide grin on her face, asked me to wait- -----just a minute. When I finally entered the front room, I was wide-eyed. There, under the tree, unwrapped, for special effect, was everything on my wish list!

 

Today, I realize the gifts were not expensive, a set of knitting needles, a small cloth-covered jewelry box- I can’t remember the rest- but my mother provided a treasured memory worth much more than the sum of all the gifts under the tree that night.

 

She is a woman of faith and prayer. Without being preachy or intrusive she demonstrated her faith in God and Jesus Christ through the many losses and blessings in her life.

 

My mother, the survivor! Just this past Monday, I was standing by the kitchen window taking pleasure in the colors of spring, the white dogwood, pink apple blossoms and the emerald green carpet of grass. The phone rang. It was Tina, a lovely nurse on my mother’s floor at her Methodist Nursing Home in Ocean Grove. I waited for bad news, but she called to tell me that my mother, who has dementia, had become more lucid and active with a change of medication. I go to visit her, but I hadn’t been able to talk to her on the phone in years.

 

Tina said, “So how would you like to talk to Eunice?” I said “wonderful”, but I didn’t expect much. Like that eight year old, I was wrong again. She has a hearing problem, so I screamed my name into the phone. She said, “Is this really Arlene or someone else?” I had to supply my birthday, including the year! After much shouting on both our parts, I told her we are all coming for Mother’s Day.

 

She said, “Well I guess you’ll see me if I’m still in the hospital.”

 

I said, “Mom, you’re in a nursing home.

 

Without a beat she said, “Same thing!”

 

I ended our conversation by telling her I loved her and she replied, “I love you, too!”

 

Tina took the phone and said “Happy Mother’s Day, Arlene. All the nurses standing around your mom have tears in their eyes.”

 

“Me, too,” I whispered. That’s the story of our lives together. Just when you think you’re down, Mom sets you up--- for another treasured memory.

 

She raised me up, and I feel so blessed.

 

May God bless you and have a very happy Mother’s Day!