Mother’s Day 2013 will be my first without my mother, who died on March 3. Here is what I said at her funeral service. She is one of the greatest in the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds me.
A Mother’s Memory
Reflections on Isaiah 49:13-16 and Luke 13: 10-17
In Loving Memory of My Mother
Sara Perkins Harris
Friday, March 8, 2013
My brother Charles and I are going to remember a lot of things about our mom. The fact that she enjoyed art and enjoyed giving her paintings away to people she cared about jumps immediately to mind, along with her love of music. The three of us made a lot of music at home and in the car, while Daddy was an appreciative audience.
Mom sang alto in the church choir. But years ago before there ever was a Kirk O’Cliff choir, Mom was the church organist. In my growing up years, the Kirk had a Victorian-era pump organ that had an electric air pump installed under the church floor. Mom had to turn the motor on and off for every hymn or response. It made a noise when it started up and when it slowed to a stop. Mom was the music for Kirk O’Cliff for a long time. She was also our Sunday School teacher when the beginners met behind a screen in that corner and the primaries met up here in the pulpit.
You might not know that Mom loved gadgets and mechanical things, and that she could also be a silly ham. Once those two things came together when Mom and a friend did a “powder puff auto mechanics” demonstration for the Belmont homemakers’ club. They started their presentation with a skit. Somewhere in the skit Mom sat down on a jar filled with nuts and bolts. She jumped up, held it up, looked at it and said, “Oh oh! I forgot to put this back in so-and-so’s car!”
While Daddy was busy with the cows, Charles and I went lots of places with our mother. We often rode over to Grandma Perkins’s house on Sunday afternoons. And Mom read to us a lot. We wore out volume one of the Childcraft books. We learned about the ten plagues on Egypt from this children’s Bible, which we also wore out.
Mom always encouraged us to pursue our interests, and all the way to the end, she went to as many of Charles’ band concerts as she could, and she wanted copies of everything that I had made or had published.
It is especially important to remember the heroic effort Mom made to care for the special problems that Charles and I had. Mom called us her twins born a year apart. Charles was born 368 days after me. Both of us were born with cleft lip and cleft palate, and that added complications to our lives.
The first thing it meant was that Mom really had to work hard to get us fed. No way could this mother forget her children’s constant need to eat! She packed extra weight on us in preparation for our first surgeries. We—and especially I—ballooned!
Then it meant countless drives to Richmond to see various specialists. We went so often that Mom could just about drive to Richmond with her eyes shut. It meant lots of waiting in waiting rooms reading Highlights magazine. It meant spending the night with us in the hospital.
One of the hardest things about it was that Charles and I both suffered from terrible ear infections. More often than not, the pain would hit us at night. I remember creeping downstairs to my parents’ room, making my way around to Mom’s side and gently shaking the bed. Instantly Mom was awake, and she didn’t even have to ask what was wrong. I remember her going back to bed with me and placing her warm hand over my aching ear.
Many years later Mom told me that even then, when something jostled the bed, she would wake up, and her first thought was, “One of the children has the earache.” This response was permanently etched in her memory, in her body, even. Mom’s memory was permanently set—ready to come to our aid, ready to support us, and always loving us.
Five centuries before Jesus arrived, God’s people, God’s children were far away from home in exile in Babylon, and they were in great pain. They were ready to conclude that God had forgotten them. This is God’s response: Can a mother forget her hungry child? Can a woman not have compassion for the child she birthed? Well, perhaps a human mother can, but not this mother. Not God our divine mother. See—God says—you are permanently etched onto the palms of my hands. You are permanently etched in my memory. I will never, ever forget you. Even now I am coming to help you.
Those who know Mom well know that she persevered through a lifelong struggle with debilitating depression. It is really heartbreaking what this illness did to her, how much it robbed her of, and what a terrible soul ache it was at times. In the worst of it, people with this kind of depression feel like even God has forgotten them, or, as the Psalm writer often puts it, it feels like they’re down in a pit.
We’re grateful that God did not forget his daughter, our mother. Over the years God lifted her up just as Jesus lifted the woman who was bent over so painfully. Jesus called that woman a daughter of Abraham. He said that she ought to be set free, and he set her free.
We’re thankful that God has remembered this daughter, our mother, and lifted her up once again, and for always, in the resurrection.
Can a mother forget her nursing child, or fail to have compassion on her baby? Well, maybe a human mother can. But I will never forget you, God says. You are etched on the very palms of my hands. Our divine mother will never forget us. We can count on God to cover our aching hearts with a warm, loving hand.
We can count on God now, when we are so sad, and in all the time to come.
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