Jean was an identical twin, born and raised on a farm in Ohio. She was one of six children. To say that she had a stellar work ethic would be an understatement. When I grew up and read Proverbs 31 for the first time, I thought it was truly a biographical sketch of her life.
Jean was unapologetically devoted to her role as wife and mom, working tirelessly to make our house a home. She and my dad had 9 children. They surmised that the best gift they could give to their children was siblings. I am their 7th child, so I was born into a household of many gifts that preceded me.
We were not monetarily wealthy, although we always had what we needed. My parents invested heavily in education, foregoing many luxuries to put us through the local parochial schools. When I was 16 and we moved from Connecticut to Ohio, I went to the local public school to finish off my last 1-1/2 years of high school. It was then that I realized what a disparity existed between parochial and public education.
When we weren’t dressed in school uniforms, we wore hand-me-downs that were carefully mended by my mom. She always had a tall stack by her sewing machine that she called her mending pile. My mom was quite a seamstress and made many of our nicer clothes herself and taught all 6 of us girls to sew too. (Proverbs 31:13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.) Jean was so enthusiastic about our learning to sew that she would always spring for new fabric and buttons for any outfits we wanted to make. She taught us that we should only sew with quality materials, since our time shouldn’t be wasted making clothes with inferior fabric. I sewed a lot while growing up, as that was the best way for me to acquire clothes that weren’t hand-me-downs.
It was very clear that Dad was crazy about Mom and knew what a treasure he had found in her. He treated her with gentleness and respect. He would often come up behind her while she was working in the kitchen, wrap his arms around her, plant a kiss on her cheek, and greet her with his affectionate name for her, “Toots”. (Proverbs 31:28-29 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”)
In her later years in CT, she would often talk about her service through her church. She baked pies for the homeless (her pies were absolutely the best!), sewed bibs for the babies being baptized, and supported a family in India, even sending money to build them a home. She had a picture of them over her desk and referred to them as her family in India. (Proverbs 31:20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.)
In January 1979, Alan’s parents took him and his brother to Entebbe airport, to get the two of them out of the country during a terrible war when Idi Amin was in power. They lived in the capital city, Kampala, Uganda, where the fighting was fiercest. Alan’s parents feared they might all perish, so they sent the 2 brothers to the US, so that at least some of the family would survive.
The last time Alan saw his mom, he was boarding that plane. They had traversed through many dangerous roadblocks enroute to Entebbe and took their seats on the last plane to leave the country before the airport was shut down. Now, he watched as his mom fell to her knees on the tarmac, crying, “I’ll never see my babies again!”
She died 3 years later.
Alan holds his mom in the highest regard. He loved her dearly and respected her deeply. She left an indelible mark on his life. I have wished many times that I could tell her “Thank you” for raising my wonderful husband. Someday, in Heaven, I will.
On this Mother’s Day, I remember fondly these 2 dedicated moms, and humbly seek to carry on their legacy in such a way as to honor their devotion.
Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned and let her works bring her praise at the city gate