(Today would have been my Mother’s 87th birthday. I wrote this tribute ten days after her death in 2008.)
My Mother was not given to self-disclosure. Health updates, news about her activities, and reminiscences on her long life came only by my persistent personal inquiry. She was a quiet, godly woman, and conversations with her quickly turned away from herself and to her desire to know how Lynne, her grandsons, and I were doing.
I never heard my Mother brag. She came to womanhood during the Great Depression and World War II, and was never at home with the moral climate and self-absorption of much of my Baby Boomer generation. When she prayed aloud, it was with the language and cadences of the King James Bible. She was the child of another era. As far as I know, she never sat in front of a computer screen. If she could see what I was writing now, she would be uneasy. After all, family matters, good or bad, don’t belong in public.
So, I’m in a bit of a bind. Like all sons of devout Christian women, I have many things I could share about how my Mother provided for me materially and spiritually. But I wouldn’t honor her memory if I turned this post into a litany of the blessings she brought to me; a public recollection of her virtues would have embarrassed her, something she would not want.
Since her death on December 19th, I’ve asked myself what is the one thing my Mother did that had the most far-reaching consequences in my life. As I’ve mulled over that question, one decision has stood out. It was made before I was born. That was her and my Dad’s choice more than five decades ago to adopt, and then later to take me home from an orphanage in Conway, Arkansas in 1958.
Nothing is more important to me than my Christian faith, and the knowledge that I belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Of all the things my Mother and Dad communicated to me, the truths of the gospel are by far the most precious. They chose to take me into their family, and give me the priceless treasure of the gospel.
Once, when I was a teenager, my Mother told me that I should tell my Dad how proud of him I was. I’ve long forgotten why. But the Mother who never bragged knew that bragging a bit about my Dad would encourage him.
Perhaps, then, my Mother would be pleased with this post if I conclude with a word about her and my Heavenly Father. Roberta Wingard was my Mother. She was also my sister in Christ; we were both adopted into God’s eternal family. From before the foundation of the world, God determined to take us into his family and bestow upon us “a right to all the privileges, of the sons of God” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, answer 34). He graciously granted us the gifts of faith and repentance, and we both rested in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. His righteousness is our righteousness, his blood an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Forever, we are God’s adopted children.
I think my Mother would be pleased if I boasted in the great love of God and in his Son, who loved my Mother and me, and gave himself for us. Thank you, Momma, for adopting me into your family. Your faith has become my faith. In God’s good providence, your choice to take me into your family became the pathway to my coming to know the adopting love of God.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).
I have very few pictures of my Mother from the 1950s. This picture was taken on the occasion of my Aunt Martha’s receiving her Master’s Degree in Education at Ole Miss in the early 1950s. (R-L: Dad, Mother, Aunt Lena, Grandmother Wingard, and Aunt Martha)