News and Tribune

May 8, 2014

MAY: A woman of character, who can count?

By TOM MAY
Local columnist

— My wife teaches first graders how to count — first on their fingers, then in their heads. They practice counting the same things in the same way, day after day, month after month until finally the 100th day of school arrives. Then they begin to count for fun.

Each child brings in a hundred edible things and a hundred inedible things and the counting commences. Pennies, nickels, baseball cards, Legos and paperclips. Cheerios, Fruit Loops, pretzels, M&Ms, orange slices and marshmallows.

“Mrs. May! There are only 99 marshmallows,” she said with grinning, powdered-sugar lips.

We are also counters. We are counting 50 days after Easter or the Passover. During this time of counting, we are looking for the important things along our way. Last week, we focused on the vital role that some people play in our lives — the ones who influence us and the ones who walk beside us.

Keeping with the theme of counting important people, we should probably pause a moment for some extra counting on May 11. Did you know that this year is the 100th anniversary of the celebration of Mother’s Day?

Our celebration of the day finds its roots at the feet of Anna Jarvis, who with the help of Philadelphia businessman John Wanamaker, established the day following the death of her mother May 9, 1905.

Jarvis’ mother would pray daily for her own mother, grandmother and for all the children who were growing up without mothers. The prayers were so impactful on Anna that she made a vow on her mother’s grave that someday the entire country would honor those special women — some who gave birth, and others who served as mothers to children.

The first official service was held in 1907 at Jarvis’ home church in West Virginia. The next year more churches followed suit, along with a larger ceremony at Wanamaker’s Auditorium in his Philadelphia store. The next year celebrations were held from New York to North Carolina. On May 8, 1914, Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day, which President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the next day.

Mother’s Day services in churches often use Proverbs 31 as the basis for the message. The latter part of the chapter is an incredible description of the value of a godly woman. It is interesting that the passage wasn’t meant to be a checklist for women — “the woman I want to be.” Rather, it was a stern warning for the man — “this is the woman you need to find.”

Solomon knew probably better than any of us how easy it is to look for the wrong things in a partner. He penned masterfully the portrait of a woman of character.

Today, my model of that woman spends most of her time sitting in a small room at an extended care center. My mother most likely is frustrated — exasperated by the things she cannot remember, enslaved by the things she cannot do for herself. She is thrilled to see people, even if she cannot recollect who they are. The illness of her age has left her vividly remembering an aunt who died 40 years ago but unable to recall what she ate 40 minutes earlier.

Mom, today you may not remember that I called. But I remember you. The lessons you taught, the life you modeled, the patience you showed. I remember the hours you spent at band and choir concerts, baseball games and Scout meetings. I remember that you made sure we were in church anytime the doors were opened. I remember that you sacrificed your wants and sometimes your needs for your children.

I remember you each time I look at my wife as she has faithfully raised our children, tenaciously modeled integrity, carefully served as a teacher of first graders. I remember you each time I gaze at my daughters — one who patiently teaches younger children to express themselves with music, another who selflessly gives of her time with two little boys so that another mother can breathe a sigh and two little boys can smile.

I remember you each time I think of the third daughter, now a mother of her own. I see the glow on her whole face as she looks devotedly into the eyes of her two girls. I remember you when I think of her sacrificing her career so she could stay at home with them. I remember you when I see how gleeful she is to mold and shape and love them.

I remember you when I think of the legacy you have left in this generation, in the next and in the one that follows. A woman of character that I always count on.

This week, tell yours while you still can. Share her story with the next generation if you can’t.

— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast. Reach him at tgmay001@gmail.com