My mother lived 91 years. Mom was the product of a challenging life. Her father left for work one day in the depths of the Depression and never returned. Her mother had to make ends meet as a divorced woman in the South. She opened a boarding house in Alexandria, Louisiana. My mom had one pair of shoes she wore to school and to church on Sundays. The rest of the time she went barefoot. It was a tough life and one where needs were never fully met. The possibility of having her desires fulfilled lived only in my mother’s imagination.
My mother was a dancer and stage actress at her high school. One day, my grandmother and mom picked up their lives and moved to Los Angeles where they hoped my mom could break into motion pictures. The Hollywood adventure did not work out like it had not for thousands of other starlet hopefuls. From Los Angeles, they moved north to San Francisco where my mother performed in stage productions at the Mark Hopkins Hotel. I still have a pair of her dancing shoes and copies of the stage flyers that announced the actors and performers of the various productions where she performed.
When my mother met and married my father in 1940 they waited 10 years to have their first child. I was that first child. From my earliest recollection, mom always made sure our family got to church on Sunday. She was the spiritual pillar of our family. It was at Calvary Baptist Church in Los Gatos, California where I first expressed my faith in Jesus on Easter Sunday in 1958. In the years that followed, mom was always my encourager helping me to continue stepping forward in faith no matter what challenges I faced. Many times, I wanted to quit and run away from my calling as a young man, but a note written in my Bible or a word of encouragement during a long distance phone call helped me press through.
When my mother passed away our family gathered in Kalispell, Montana for her memorial. Only a handful of people beyond her immediate family were present. Like mom used to say, “I have gotten so old all my friends are gone.”
I remember the afternoon of her memorial when I walked into the funeral home. There she was lying in her casket. She had picked out her favorite dress for the occasion. As it is with most people I have seen in a casket, they don’t always look like a perfect representation of real life, but it was close. I knew that in just a few short hours mom’s physical remains would be lowered into a grave alongside my father. This would be the last time this side of eternity that I would see her.
I walked up to mom’s casket and bent over and gave her one last kiss. I kissed her cold lips and wept at the goodness of life I had experienced because she was my mother. From the casket, I walked over to a side room to let go of the rest of my emotions.
I was able to give my mother one last kiss because I had spent my life kissing that faithful and loving face. It was just part of life in the Elkins’ home. I shared this part of my life to encourage you to do something. Don’t make the last contact with your loved ones the only time love is expressed. Today, approach someone in your life who has loved you well. Embrace them. Give them a kiss of gratitude. Your approach may be a shock to them especially if this has not been part of your lives, but don’t let that uncomfortableness hinder your expression of love. It will do something deep inside your heart. It will put love in your soul where regret wants to take up residence. When the day of your loved one’s final departure comes there will be no regrets, only thankfulness that you were loved and were free to love in return.