One of the most difficult assignments is when I attempt to share a personal story about myself or my family. I have been reluctant to write about my family out of respect for their privacy. But occasions come when it is right to do so.
The greatest event in my life was when the Holy Spirit convicted me at age 10, prompting me to confess my sin and placed my trust in Jesus for eternal salvation. That Sunday morning at Grace Baptist Church in Springfield, Tenn., I walked down the aisle during the invitation and Pastor John Brandon scooped me up in his arms as I wept. I told him I wanted Jesus as my savior. He read me John 3:16. After I prayed the sinner’s prayer, Pastor John asked mom and dad to stand with me as he invited church members to come and offer words of encouragement. Years later, mom told me that as people came Pastor John whispered, “Mom, we may have us a little preacher boy here.”
There have been two other great blessings God has bestowed on me. One was giving me my late wife, Bernadette, who was the love of my life. The other has been my mom, who at age 20, brought me into this world at Nashville’s Baptist Hospital. She has loved and nurtured me for an often arduous 62 years.
Some of my happiest boyhood days were living on a farm. No other children lived nearby, so I learned to be content playing alone. That was made easy, knowing mom was always there.
Mom loved being a homemaker, wife and mother – and she’s always been a pro at all three. I cannot count the days I laid in the kitchen floor examining baseball box scores as mom prepared supper. I would watch her every move, occasionally asking to help. She will tell you to do this day that I am an excellent cook because of it.
It was always the little things mom did that gave me joy. During the summer we would ride our bikes to a nearby grocery most afternoons so we could each get a nickel-bag of Fritos (she was pregnant with my brother, Jeff). Sometimes we would go to my grandmother’s grocery on the south side of Springfield and hang out with the “Southtown Rinky-dink.” Mom would buy us a fresh cut bologna sandwich, RC Cola and Moon Pie. Such things may seem simple, but to me, with mom, they were special and are cherished memories.
She has always been there for me during the hard times, like when I got my face smashed with a baseball bat, or when I flew over the handlebars on my speedy bike on the downhill side of a gravel road. She was there when I broke my arm playing baseball and when my heart was broken by a girlfriend who found another. She has shed a few tears for me along the way, too, like the time my family took me to Nashville when I left for Air Force basic training. She said the whole family cried every inch of the 30-mile trip home.
We were there for each other when dad died in 1989, following a long, difficult fight with brain cancer. Little did we know that I would face the same devastating loss just three days short of that same fateful day 28 years later when Bernadette went to heaven after a brief battle with brain cancer. To say that mom has been my rock following such devastation is an understatement. She has called me, texted me every day, prayed for me.
Another fond memory as a child was when mom sang. She still has a beautiful soprano voice and I can remember our home being filled with it as she sang songs from the Baptist Hymnal by memory. I cannot count the times I heard “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” She may not have realized, but I was listening to every song’s every word. She was teaching me theology straight from those great hymns.
Mom was born Cecelia Ann Gibbs on Veterans Day 1934. She would tell you one of God’s greatest blessings to her occurred on her birthday in 1968. My sister, Leann, was born that day.
Mom is doing well back in Tennessee … probably in the kitchen, preparing pecan pies to give someone. That’s the way she is. Always thinking of others, including her “first born.”
I love you mom. Happy Birthday!