For several months, no, really for years, I have been forming in my mind words of honor and tribute to you for being such an incredible mother and investing your very best in me. As adults, we see things kids never see, and that perspective has only heightened my respect of and gratitude for the woman God chose to be my mother.
You are far too loyal a person to ever say so, but I know you overcame many challenges as a child that I never faced. Instead of the support I received through all my school years, you had to quit high school to help support your parents. I remember you saying, “Sherwoods know how to work.” You sure did, and do, and you taught me to love and value hard work. You overcame other obstacles, too. Your parents were not as emotive or expressive with their love as they should have been. God knows why, but you did not use that as an excuse. You always say you knew that they loved you, but I have known and heard and felt your love. Your parents needed to labor six days a week to make ends meet, and they moved every year. I had the advantage of available parents, long-term friendships, and eighteen years in the same house and church. You were the first to choose Jesus in your family, and then led your parents to salvation. I had parents who told me about Jesus before I could walk. Mom, you are an overcomer in a world of excuse makers. May I be like you?
Remember the countless Bible clubs on Tuesdays after school? Our basement jammed with kids to hear about Jesus through flannel board stories—you are such a great teacher and storyteller! Remember the neighbor ladies over for coffee, and the ones you led to Christ? Doing friendship evangelism years before anyone was talking about it. Remember leading me to Christ—kneeling by my bed, your red Bible, your arms around me, praying with me. Did you cry?
It wasn't all spiritual, though, was it, Mom? I know I often made you cry. Remember how hard I tried to kill myself—or so it must have seemed. Ten trips to the emergency room before I was twelve, seventy-five stitches in increments of seven, a broken wrist, a broken collarbone, a broken nose—it's a wonder you didn't break my neck!
Remember when you threw the knife at me at dinner? … Remember when you threw the tea on me at dinner? … Remember the times you sent me to my room without dinner? … It all makes sense now.
Corn chowder and scallop potatoes, donuts and peanut butter cookies, popcorn balls and apple crisp. Paper routes and baseball teams and basketball—constantly. Youth retreats, and school events, and birthday parties. Four boys and you did it all. I used to wonder why you slept on Sunday afternoons. … Now I know.
Remember how I’d make you laugh, cry, occasionally swear, and always pray. You were never perfect but always authentic, hating hypocrisy the most. I hope I am like you in that.
You raised me good, you taught me well, you walked your talk, you let me go. From a distance, you’re still loving, still cheering, still supporting, still praying.
I honor you, Mom! You are a triple double, grand slam, record-setting mother—a success by faith. I hear you saying, “For His glory, James,” and I say AMEN.
Ephesians 6:2 commands us to “honor your father and mother.” Since the day I wrote that tribute to Mom, I have been forming in my mind similar words of tribute to you, waiting for the right time to share them with you. Today is that day.
Much of what a man is and becomes arrives through his dad, and as I scan the landscape of my heritage, I see beyond you and before you. I see a grandfather and a great-grandfather who are at this moment in the presence of the Lord, and I praise God that I can stand in a line of men who have loved and served God faithfully and found Him to be a shelter in their generation.
Dad, my mind is racing as I think of all you have given me. Thanks for working so hard to provide: for carrying Coke cases, and buying and selling cars, and teaching summer school, and getting your master’s degree, and letting Mom be at home with us.
Thanks for giving me a love for history. Reading historical plaques while we yawned and fidgeted. Rummaging through old homesteads in search of antique bottles, loading me down with books about the pioneer days, taking me to Arthur Ford School during the Christmas holidays so I could do my project on James Watt.
Thanks for letting me get C’s in school when you wanted so much more and protecting my will to learn until I was ready to use it. Remember driving me to summer school and going to my teachers to fight for me when you thought I deserved a break? Remember the day we argued about study hall—“a lawyer in the making,” you thought? Remember the night I threw my math books at the wall and cried, how you kept your cool and listened?
Thanks for teaching me to love my wife: by loving Mom in front of us; by arguing and yelling and kissing and making up right before our little eyes; by making sure we knew that your love for Mom came first; by insisting that we treated her with the same respect you did. I’ll never forget the time I screamed at Mom and ran from the house, and how when I came home you sat me down and scolded me and cried and read the Bible to me and prayed for God to change my heart.
Thanks for stale donuts on Saturday night, and for teaching us that if you know who you are you can dress any way you want and not really care. Thanks for camping and convertibles, for catch in the backyard and construction projects, for cow auctions and the cottage, for corporal punishment and caring conversation, for calling a spade a spade and calling us home for dinner.
Thanks for leading our family spiritually. Thanks for taking us back to church on Sunday nights and Wednesdays, for leading singing at Thamesford Baptist Church, for being the Sunday School superintendent, for going to church clean-up days, and for standing in front of the whole church while Mom trembled to sing “Through It All” and “The King Is Coming.” Thanks for loving the church.
Dad, I could write all day about the things you have given me, but I have to get home and stuff the turkey. One final word of thanks says it all: Thanks for getting past religion and ritual to a real thing with God. Thanks for loving Jesus Christ in a growing, personal, authentic, faithful, contagious way. Thanks for transmitting that love for Christ to your sons and now to your grandchildren. I honor you, Dad, for you are worthy of double honor. I do not know, nor have ever met, a man I would be more proud to call my father, and I pray, for the glory of Christ alone, that I can be half the man to my kids that you have been and are to me.