Faith from My Mother
by John C. Westervelt
People were buying elegant clothes and new automobiles when my mother and father were married in the mid-1920s. Three children were born in three years. During the roaring twenties, most Americans thought prosperity would last forever.
A year later, the Great Depression began and, like a bulldog, tenaciously hung on year after year. When her children were all in school, Mother went to work as a schoolteacher. Wallace, Harriette, and I were in high school when Daddy died in 1943.
In 1949 Mother began payments on a small, three-bedroom brick home in Oklahoma City. She planted peace roses beside the garage, two pecan trees centered in the backyard, and flowers beside the front porch.
She often made double monthly house payments, hoping to pay off the mortgage by retirement. By faith, she paid the debt and in later years saved enough to add an extension to a bedroom with a second bath, so her two sisters could spend their retirement years with her.
Nelda and I were married in February of 1954. The tattered bible located on my bookshelf among newer ones was a gift from my mother. Inside the front cover, she wrote, “To John and Nelda. Christmas 1954. From Mother. Build your home on this foundation, and it will be strong.”
A tradition during the 1960s was for my family and the families of my brother and sister to gather at Mother’s house on Christmas Eve. Late at night, with the children sleeping, the adults gathered around the Christmas tree to assemble the toys. I remember well the joy I felt. In later years I wondered, “What was so special about those Christmases?” After reflection, I concluded that Mother’s joy was contagious.
Mother’s perennial joy raised more questions. After I became a father, I asked her, “How were you able to carry on with such strength when Daddy died in 1943, and Wallace went off to war in the spring of 1945?”
Mother said, “I think it is all about faith. As a girl, my father (a Presbyterian preacher) started me on my journey of faith. With three babies and with the stock market crash of 1929 leaving your daddy unemployed, I prayed for more faith.”
“Did you receive more?”
“Yes, as I look back over the years, I realize that God used the hard times to increase my faith, so I could know more joy in the good times.”
In late October 1972, my mother’s physician called to say, “Your mother’s heart has deteriorated to the point that you boys need to come to Oklahoma City and select a nursing home for her.” I dreaded this part of a child’s responsibility, but Wallace and I agreed to come on Saturday.
On Tuesday, Harriette called to say, “Mother, Aunt Werdna, Aunt Laura, and I were visiting in the living room early this afternoon. Mother was sitting in her favorite chair, the wooden rocker. She closed her eyes; a countenance of joy spread over her face; and she died.”
Now in my late-seventies, I need more faith than ever before. As I ask God to increase my faith, I think of my mother, and then I know He will.
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