In January of this year, our church said goodbye to one of its original members, Helen Miller. At the age of 88, she experienced a lot in life and in the church. I enjoyed the visits we had together and was always astounded by her faith in difficult and changing times.
One day, she gave me a handwritten book filled with her life’s story. It was not just a journal; it was more like the beginnings of a memoir. As I read it, I got a deeper sense of the many things she faced as a friend, wife, mother, and member of Sterling.
One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that parents never stop being parents. As much as children move on to form their own families and futures, a parent’s love, support, care, and concern never runs out. I see this in the parents at Sterling all the time, even if their children have already become grandparents.
This makes motherhood not only a full-time commitment, but also a life-long task. Helen understood this, and as I read her stories, I could tell that she never gave up being a mother.
As I reflect on mother’s day coming up, I think of my own mother and the many struggles she went through to raise five boys. Whenever I tell people that I have four brothers, they always say “Oh, your poor mom.” In many cases, I would have to agree with them. Our mother tried her best to give us what we wanted and to teach us what we needed.
She put up with a lot and she often deserved much better from us. But she journeyed with us through the mountains and the valleys, doing her part to teach us about life. When I think about who I am today, so much of it has to do with my mother.
When I flipped to the back of Helen’s book, I stumbled upon a Parable of Motherhood written in Helen’s own hand. I read it after she passed away, and it brought me to tears. It was short, simple, yet profound. I wasn’t sure if it was something Helen had actually authored or if she just copied it into her notebook because it was a significant story for her. Either way, I will never forget it.
As I reread this parable, I see my mother in it, as well as Helen and the many other mothers whom I know. So, as we take some time this weekend to celebrate the mothers that we have, I pass on this story as a gift as it was passed to me. May it be an encouragement to continue the indescribable journey of motherhood.
A Parable of Motherhood
A young mother set her foot on the path of life. "Is the way long?" she asked, and her guide said: "Yes, and the way is hard, and you will be old before you reach the end of it. But the end will be better than the beginning."
But the mother was happy, and she would not believe that anything could be better than those years. So she played with her children and gathered flowers for them along the road, and bathed with her children in the clear stream, and the sun shone on them, and life was good, and the young mother cried; "Nothing will ever be better than this".
Then night came, and storm, and the path was dark, and the children shook with fear and cold, and the mother drew them close and covered them with her mantle and the children said, "Oh, Mother, we are not afraid for you are near, and no harm can come." And the mother said: "This is better than the brightness of days, for I have taught my children courage."
And the morning came, and there was a hill ahead, and the children climbed and grew weary, but at all times she said to the children, "A little patience and we are there." So the children climbed, and when they reached the top, they said, "We could never have done this without you, Mother." And the mother, when she laid down that night, looked up to the stars and said, "This is a better day than the last, for my children have learned fortitude in the face of hardness. Yesterday I gave them courage, today I have given them strength."
And the next day came strange clouds which darkened the earth, clouds of war and hate and evil - and the children groped and stumbled, and the mother said: "Look up! Lift your head to the light." And the children looked and saw above the clouds an everlasting Glory, and it guided them and brought them beyond the darkness. And that night the mother said, "This is the best day of all, for I have shown my children God."
And the days went on, and the weeks and the months and the years, and the mother grew old and suffered and was little and bent. But her children were tall and strong and walked with courage. And when the way was rough, they lifted her, for she was light as a feather; and at last they came to a hill, and beyond the hill they could see a shining road and the golden gates swung wide. And the mother said, "I have reached the end of my journey. And now I know that the end is better than the beginning, for my children can walk alone, and their children after them."
And the children said: "You will always walk with us, Mother, even when you have gone through the gates."
And they looked and watched her as she went alone, and the gates closed after her. And they said: "We cannot see her, but she is with us. A mother like ours is more than a memory. She is a living presence.”
I did a little bit of research, and although some websites say the author of this work is unknown, most attribute it (or versions like it) to American author Temple Bailey (1885-1953).