Tribute to My Mother
I was awakened early last Saturday morning by a phone call. One of the attendants where my Mom has lived for over a year was on the line. He called to let me know my Mom was unresponsive that morning.
Many thoughts rushed through my head as I rushed to her bedside. After I arrived, the paramedics met me there to let me know that she had died early that morning in her sleep. She had passed peacefully from this life to the next. I sat next to her for a few moments in the quiet. Just me and her. It was a special time for me to just gather my thoughts and thank God for my Mother.
Mother was born in Griffin, Georgia to a mill-working family. The Dundee Cotton Mill dominated the landscape of that community in the early 1920’s. Mother was the last of 9 children in her family. The 5 boys all died before they were a month old, but the 4 girls all lived into adulthood. They never solved that mystery.
She was reared in somewhat of a scrappy family – eking out a living during the Depression. Like most of the men and women in that community, my Mom’s family all worked at the cotton mill. My grandfather ran a slashing machine that turned the cotton into birds-eye so that it might be used to make towels and diapers.
Mother would later work in that same mill alongside her husband – our Dad, after she married. However, her early years were marked by learning to hand-wash clothes on a rub-board, churn buttermilk, sew clothes, cook on a coal stove, wax hard-wood floors, clean the outhouse ---- all the routine skills that children learn today!
Instilled within my Mom was a strong work ethic. Woven into the fabric of her life was a deep love for God, for family, and for country. Her parents were gentle people who lived simple lives and enjoyed all God gave them. There was a sweetness about them that flowed through the life of Naomi.
When I think of my Mother --- I think of the values that made her into the strong woman our family knew and loved. She was a hard-worker. Our house was “grand-central-station” for all family gatherings and celebrations. My Mom cooked for the masses and served everyone. She went to work when I was a kid to help out with the bills. She used her money to buy us clothes at Parisian’s in Birmingham. She usually put it all on “lay away” and paid on it week by week. She loved the Lord. She taught us about Jesus. She modeled prayer and Bible reading every day that I can remember. And, she loved her family. Family was always welcome in our house.
My Mother dropped out of High School after her junior year and married my Dad. They lived in Griffin until the WW II started. Daddy was blind in one eye, so the military would not take him. He was drafted and tried to join every branch but was rejected. About that time, a plea went out from US Steel in Birmingham for men to work in the steel mills there. My parents moved to Alabama to join other family and help out with the war effort by producing steel for tanks, planes, ships, and various other needs.
They would rear their family in Birmingham. I was the last child in the brood and the beneficiary of a loving family that remains close to this very day. My life has been shaped by the gentle hand of a Mother who loved me all of my life. She always believed in me. She always blessed me. She always cared about me.
She went to countless ball games as she reared us. She washed countless baseball, basketball, and football uniforms through the years. She listened to us share our dreams and blessed us in pursuing them. She was always “present” with us. Her heart never ventured far from home and family. We were the joy of her life.
In these later years, she lived with our family for the past 20 years. I can’t measure the impact she has had on my own children. She was a part of the everyday ebb and flow of life. She is just a stable fixture in the Wiles family picture.
In the last week or so of her life, we lifted her from her wheelchair into a chair at the table in our kitchen. I sat down next to her for a moment. I thought briefly about all of the time she had spent “lifting and carrying” us. I thought about what a privilege it had been to care for her during these later years in her life. She was always appreciative and always said, “Thank You, Son.”
So, I will say – “Thank You, Mother.” I hope those values you held so dear will always be alive in me. I’m proud to be your son.
And so, heaven became richer when a sweet, kind, gentle woman named Naomi Wiles checked in to claim her reservation. I’m not sure how it all works there—but if they have family gatherings and reunions---then look for Naomi in the kitchen. She will be happily serving the people she loves.