“You should clothe yourselves with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” — 1 Peter 3:4
My mother had a gentle and quiet spirit. She died when she was 53 and I was 36. My dad, my cousin, Wayne, and I were by her side when she died. She took her last breath as the sun rose over the James River outside her window.
My mom was beautiful. That isn’t just bias. I once took a picture of her to school and my classmates thought it was a picture I had cut out of a movie star. She always looked more like she should be my sister than my mom.
When I was small she didn’t hesitate to correct me and she was quick to use corporal punishment when I did something wrong.
Sometimes she was so quick I was stunned.
The worst thing I ever did was spit at her. I was probably four or five and I had seen an older girl next door do it so I thought it must be the thing to do. The next thing I knew I was on the ground looking up at her. I found out in a hurry it wasn’t something I wanted to do again.
As I grew into a teenager, my mom was my best friend. We spent time shopping for clothes together and often swapped outfits with each other. After shopping we usually picked up carry out for dinner and we were always there by the time my dad got home.
She got upset with me from time to time and she told my cousin, Wayne, when he wasn’t behaving properly. She was a person who rarely got angry. I only saw her angry with my father once. That was because he put a small green snake at the kitchen window when she was washing dishes. I have a picture he took of her when she was fussing at him. It is one of those Kodak moments.
When I grew up and married, we were even closer. I had always cleaned when I was home and ironed clothes so I didn’t have much trouble with those things.
I knew how to cook many things she made but not some of my favorites. I called her most afternoons to ask her how to cook whatever I wanted to fix for dinner. With her help I got so I could cook anything I chose.
We also spent many days preparing and canning food. It was hard work, but the companionship was great.
We didn’t just work, though. We fished together and swam together. We played badminton in her front yard and horseshoes in the backyard. We sledded (as adults) down the hill at the nearby school when it snowed. There were days we would go out to eat together and just talk.
When my first child came, it was as big a wonder to her as it was to me. She was by my side until my first child, Terry, was born. I tore the sleeve out of her best suit while in labor.
She loved my children but she died so young that Thadd and Scott only have sketchy memories of things they did with her. I wish they could have known her longer and better. I wish she could have seen her grandchildren grown and married with children of their own. I wish we could have enjoyed it together.
But in the end, if you have faith, you must believe that God knows best. She struggled at times with the faith she had been raised in but in the end she returned to it. I shall see her again!
To all mothers, a Happy Mother’s Day!
Sylvia Hughes is a longtime Sunday School and women’s Bible study teacher, and a retired newspaper editor.