Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Lady Had Strength

"Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all yea that hope in the Lord."
Psalm 31: 24

She was all lady with a classiness that set her apart to be admired but with a heart of love and compassion and empathy that drew people to her.
She was a sickly baby who had to have goat's milk.  Where and how her parents got it in Stuebenville, Ohio  (a mill town) in the1920's is a mystery to me.
She was a sickly child.
She ended up a strong woman with fibromyalgia, severe osteo arthritis, stenosis of the spine, and a major heart problem.
Did all these stop her from striving to be all that she could be?
She drew her strength from her Lord and Savior
and she passed that strength onto her daughter and granddaughter.

You've read about my father and many of you have written about how remarkable he was. But you've not heard about the remarkable woman who stood in the shadows a lot.  Dad ALWAYS gave her credit along with God for him being who he was.  "She's the strong woman bracing this man." 

 My brothers didn't see that, but I did.  I was the one who picked up the pieces of Dad after she died. I was the only one he allowed (after awhile) to hear or see him cry.  He resigned  his position as a retired pastor of a small church about 3 months after her death. He told me, "She's not at home waiting for me. (Mom was an invalid at this point).  I no longer have the strength to get up behind that pulpit.  And I especially can't handle the hassle and bickering at the meetings without her to talk to about it all.  She listened so well."

Mother was a great listener.  It was one of her strengths.  My long stories that bother my son, were never too long for mom. Even dad would get bored, but not mom.  And it wasn't feigned.  She "ate up" every word when one of us talked to her.

Mom was the one who dedicated her life to Christ first.  Then when dad did and was called into the ministry, she was the one who hounded the dean at Asbury College to give dad a chance (I do mean hound).  Dad's high school grades were less than satisfactory, but mom managed to get him in on probation..  Persistence? Yes, but strength also.  It takes strength to battle the system.

Mom had 2 rough deliveries--she almost died during one.  She was told she could not have any more children.  But they wanted a little girl badly.  So she persisted until 6 years after her second child she found a doctor willing to care for her.  During that pregnancy, she got rheumatic fever and was put to bed for 4 of the 9 months.  The rheumatic fever permanently damaged her heart. But she got her little girl: me.

She played piano at the little country church Dad pastored during his last few years in Kentucky.  When he was offered a two-point charge (two churches) in his home district in Ohio, they took it.  He transferred from Asbury Seminary to Pittsinia (sp?) Seminary in Pittsburgh.  He roomed with another fellow Asburian who was also back 'home.' They stayed in Pittsburgh through the week and came home on weekends.  Who ran the churches during the week?  The two wives. 

Dad told me in that last year we had together that it angered him how noone checked on her or offered any help.  "There she was, still recovering from the illness and your birth, raising 3 kids on her own during the week, and they expected so much of her as my wife; but they did nothing for her."  
I never knew that.  The only story mom ever told me about those days was when I got sick.  She never mentioned how she was treated or what was expected of her. 
She didn't blame people.

When I was two, I got a high fever and went into convulsions.  I was taken to the hospital where I went into a coma.  At one point, the doctors told mom and dad that I had a 50/50 chance of surviving.  They said they had done all they could; now it was up to God.  I guess my dad fell apart. Mom headed for the chapel where she promptly got down on her knees and prayed. 

She taught me many times throughout my life that strength is knowing when to admit our weakness and give it all to God.

"In the day when I called, You answered me; and You strengthened me with strength in my inner self."
                                              Psalm 138:3 (Amplified version)

Mom was diagnosed with fibromyalgia before it was called fibromyalgia.  She took a lot of 'heat' from doctors until someone admitted these symptoms, many women were having, were real.

But she didn't let on the toll it took on her.  After she died, I read something she had written. She was scolding herself for agreeing to drive me back to Asbury College (I got home some other way). She knew she would pay for it physically, because she had a full week ahead of her with her job and her duties as minister's wife. 

She told herself, "You know better."  I had no inkling and neither did anyone else because she got up and went about her life. (Mother called this figuring out what you could and couldn't do in the same week: pacing yourself.  I call it: compartmentalizing.)

My son recently asked me about how it all worked as far as his dad and me going on trips and grandma and grandpa taking care of them.  He was facing those issues.

I told him that Grandma would come and stay with him and his sister during the week and Grandpa would come get them for the weekend to be at church with him.  Once they were retired and lived 2 houses from us, Grandma would stay in our house with them at night. (Dad was simply too tall for our bed) and Grandpa would help out during the day.

But, from the very first trip, Grandma would have to take a day and just rest up.  By the time of the last few trips, watching them cost her 4 - 5 days.  I told him it was understood that I didn't let Sara and him go up there after a trip, because she didn't want them to see her in her house robe and perhaps realize how much
pain she was in. 

I told him that I had figured I would do the same some day.  But the divorce changed all that. (I now have to work and come August I'll be the one with the health insurance.)

Another story Dad told was about the pontoon boat.  Mom insisted they buy one and she regularly insisted he go out on it by himself or with his brother-in-law to fish.  He told me she would do that so she could have the house to herself and scream and cry with the pain. "Scared Muffy (the cat) quite a bit!"   I can't recall ever seeing her cry because of the pain.  She would cry out to God instead.

My one brother is really hard on her still to this day.  He has issues that he has not resolved.  He thinks she was selfish and self-absorbed.  I strongly disagree.

When the time came that riding in a car was pure hell for her, she still insisted on Dad taking road trips.  He continued to go to his WWII unit's reunions all over the United States.  He would take side trips to see places he had always wanted to see.  Meanwhile, she would be at home alone and she never made him feel guilty.  

She told me that when a person is suffering from a chronic illness, it's very important that the spouse get out and away from the house.  The worse thing you can do is make your spouse an invalid too.  I've never forgotten that.

Another very important gem she told me was that she felt pain whether she sat, stood, walked, or lay down.  Nothing eased it.  So she had decided that if she was going to experience pain anyway, then she was going to do what she wanted to do---live her life to the fullest.  She told me: "You have two choices: You can go to bed, pull the covers up over your head, and feel sorry for yourself. or You can get up, get dressed, do your make-up and hair, put your chin up, your shoulders back, and a smile on your face, and go live your life.  Either way the physical pain is there.  But with the second choice you also experience joy. " 

She believed that even though God may not take away the pain,  He will give you the strength to endure it, if you ask and believe.

On the days, when I hurt the most, I keenly remember those words---and ---I get up and get out of bed, dress, put make up on, do my hair, put my chin up, my shoulders back, and a smile on my face, and I go live my life.  Yea, it hurts. But oh the joy!

For more on strength, visit the Blog-Carnival.

One another note: I taught grammar this year and part of that was verb tense.  My kids struggled like a lot of people do(including me) with lie(to recline) and lay(to put something down).  It especially bugged them that the past tense of lie is lay.  That made no sense to them at all.  Since I used lay as the past tense of lie in my story, as an English teacher I just had to explain.


  1. thank you very much for sharing this about your mother.
    it is a wonderful story.

  2. It was a wonderful post. There is no other woman I admire more than her.

  3. Remarkable story. It takes strength to tell a story like this one -- your mother left quite a legacy.

  4. This is a great post, a special tribute. I gleaned from the gems you posted at the end. And the p.s. about lay and lie...very helpful! :)

  5. An inspirational woman. Thanks for sharing her story with us. I especially liked this:

    "She taught me many times throughout my life that strength is knowing when to admit our weakness and give it all to God."

  6. Your mom sounds like an exceptional woman. I'm so glad you shared this story. She's a great example of courage and strength.

    Your story today made me think of another "Mom story" that I read this week, over at Amber's blog, The Run a Muck. I thought you might enjoy reading it:

    She also includes a link in her blog post to a website that is running a contest on mom-type essays. Maybe you would want to enter???

    Thank you again for sharing.

  7. What a wonderful tribute to an amazing woman. Wow!

    Love her wisdom -- "The worse thing you can do is make your spouse an invalid too."

  8. You had two very remarkable parents ... and you share them with us well.

  9. What a wonderful tribute.

    Delighted to stop by today. I hope you don't mind if I splash around a bit to get to know you. THis looks like a nice place to slip off my shoes and soak in serious goodness.


  10. Be my guest,Sara. Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Your Mom sounds like quite a wise lady. [The FM issue is one I've seen in friends for years -- and am glad the docs finally indicated it wasn't a "made up" attention-getter. I'm sorry you have the same struggle, Friend.] And it sure seems that she was a good wife/mom. Thanks for sharing her with us.

  12. Such a lovely tribute to a wonderful woman (and mother). Thanks so much for sharing her story with us.


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