Sunday, May 10, 2009

To My Mom - Happy Mother's Day!

She has never served on a board of directors, flown in a space shuttle, or even worked in a hospital. But she has impacted the lives of more people than even the greatest of the great. This great lady is our mother, Betsy Olive Jernigan.

Growing up on a tobacco farm in Garner, North Carolina (now a suburb of Raleigh), mom picked tobacco, sorted through the leaves to remove the tobacco worms, bundled leaves together, and even hung them in the tobacco barn to dry. While it wasn't the most fun job, she endured it and today she is thankful for what farm life taught her. In turn, she has taught my sister, Susan, and me to work hard and to stick out tough times.

While growing up, Susan and I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that our mother loved us. She raised us to believe that loyalty was essential in relationships, that we needed to do our best in all things, and to love people beyond ourselves. She also taught us that Christianity was real and that trusting God, regardless of what the circumstances appeared to be, was worth it in the long run.

After high school, mom earned her business degree from Mars Hill College in the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina. After graduation, she was recruited to First Baptist Church in Suffolk, Virginia (near Virginia Beach) where she met and married our dad. Not long after, I came along, then Susan followed a few years later.

Mom could have worked all of her married life, but she chose to stay home with us. Whenever we got home, we knew she would be there, waiting for us. We had a steady supply of cookies and Kool-Aid for friends who came over, and she always welcomed others into our home.

Eventually she did go to work - as a preschool teacher, a church secretary, and a high school guidance registrar. And when she finally retired, we were all moved to tears as the testimonies of friends and family revealed her true character.

Other people have noticed the imperfection in her upper lip, but what they don't know is that she was born with a cleft lip and palate. She endured 14 surgeries at Duke University Hospital prior to age 21 in the days when reconstructive surgery was not what it is today. Susan and I never noticed the imperfection until we were much older. What we did notice was her unconditional love for us and her desire to teach us how to live.

Our mother taught us to be strong and courageous, to be loyal no matter how much it cost us, to love people beyond ourselves, to take time for others, and to put God first in all things. For me, her life lessons have paid off.

As a grandmother to our children, Annie and Hunter, and to Susan's and John's daughter, Caroline, Mimi (as she is affectionately known) is the epitome of grandmotherhood. She loves spending time with her grandchildren, always listening to them and talking with them. At 72, she still plays with Caroline and "hangs out" with Annie and Hunter. All three of them get excited when they get to go to Mimi's house, looking forward to being with her.

While our mom has taught us great lessons in life, I believe the greatest lesson is that she loved our dad through thick and thin. And it was the greatest gift she could have ever given us. Thanks, Mom! Happy Mother's Day! We love you.


Ken said...

What a touching tribute to your mom. She sounds like a wonderful lady, and it is clear you recognize how blessed you are to have a mother like her.


Thanks for the comment, Ken. You're right. I am very blessed.