She Gave Me Roots and Wings

Quite frankly, it’s not that easy to live without my mother.

She’s on the left in this photo of her and Daddy herding sheep on the plains of Southwest Oklahoma. I think there were 600 sheep.

I wanna ask her stuff.

Some of the questions, I already know what she’d say.

Other questions, I need answers.

I’m still learning from her example.

But I guess I hadn’t lived enough life to learn everything while she was here.

She’s been gone almost 22 years and I thought I’d probably curl up and die when she did.

Only I didn’t.

When she was dying she asked me where Philip and Jonathan and Daniel were. When I told her, she said, “Go be with them. I’m ok and it’s your place to be with them.” And I said, “No, Mother. I wanna be with you. They’re ok. I can stay with you.”

And so she died, and I stayed with them…because she told me I needed to be with them.

So here I am. Just trying to do my best. Just trying to make the next best choice. And encouraging you to do your best, and make the next best choice too.

My mother worked the hardest of any lady I have ever known. I’m not saying that other ladies haven’t worked as hard.

She married my daddy on December 19, 1936 at the young age of 19. It was on the tail end of “The Great Depression”. The one that happened back in the 1930’s.

Times were hard and the tasks of the day must have taken grit and determination edged with optimism and hope AND strong faith in God, because we were taught those values over and over.

My mother was without question on my daddy’s team. Together they could do anything to which they set their heart and mind.

Little by little their goals and dreams became realities as the joy and heartache of each task etched deeply into the family they eventually became.

They raised us to work hard and be honest and kind to others whether they were young or old, rich or poor.

They instilled in us a deep reverence for God and taught us that through Him we could overcome or endure hardship.

My parents owned a wheat and cotton and dairy farm in Southwest Oklahoma. They owned and herded sheep and one winter lived in a tent on the range to care for the young ewes who were soon to birth lambs.

At some point Daddy felt he should minister to hurting people and they sold everything to follow that call. In the span of their life together they built two houses and two churches debt free. They lived the “Dave Ramsey Lifestyle” before it was the “in thing” to do. My mother taught us to reduce, reuse and recycle in a way that would make any current “Green Movement Guru” her most vocal fan. We were taught to do without and be contented or figure out a way to come up with what we needed.

She killed rattlesnakes and wiped tiny noses, gathered eggs and patched many pair of jeans. She gave the best soft and cheerful kisses on the top of tiny heads and sang a wonderful lullaby bop as she rocked babies in an old cane bottom straight back chair.

She cooked gallons and gallons of beans and oatmeal. She could pull a group of kids and grand kids together in a group effort to snap a bushel of green beans more quickly than you could realize you were involved in “work”.

Her brown eyes were gentle and knowing and kind. In my mind I can hear her say, “Just do your best and don’t worry about the rest”.

She didn’t realize what an amazing cook and decorator and seamstress and family administrator she was. She didn’t realize how godly and what a great counselor she was simply by listening. She was just Mother.

If she laughed too hard, I cried. Yes, I did, I cried. And oh my, she would get so tickled and laugh and laugh and I cried harder.

I dunno…maybe the harder I cried the more tickled she became but her initial onset of laughter would have nothing to do with my crying of course. I was told that my brother just older than I, also cried when she laughed hard, so maybe I learned this technique from him!

As the youngest of her ten children, it still amazes me the way she cared for each one of us. I’m sure there were times she felt like there wasn’t enough of her to go around her family needs and responsibilities.


She wanted all of us to play musical instruments. We did. How did she endure it?

She wanted us to sing. We did. How did she endure that?

She wanted all of us to go to college if we wanted. And so we did.

I heard her sighs and prayers and her songs.

Now as an adult with a family and responsibilities of my own, I realize those things were her way of keeping herself and others encouraged.

I didn’t like to be away from my mother, except to go to school, but even then I would run out to the mailbox to wait for the bus and if I didn’t hear it rumble up the hill I would run back to the house and jerk open the door just quickly enough to say, “Bye Mother bye!”

Then I would run back to the mailbox to wait. But if the bus wasn’t coming I had to repeat this process until the bus came.

I was born when she was 47. I grew up with a keen sense that I might not have her in my life as I grew older and I loved her. She was my comfort.

I will never forget the day that Mother sat on the front porch of the house I grew up in. Philip and I stood on the front steps. She told Philip, “You can take Rachel anywhere you want to take her, just be kind to her and love her.”

SHE GAVE ME ROOTS AND SHE GAVE ME WINGS

I suppose in a way she passed that mantle of comfort along to him. He has not let her down. She would be proud of him.

As a mother now, I’m learning the gravity and depth of those words.

As her family grew, so grew her love and knowledge and wisdom.

Love grew to encompass each new family member. I can only wish to be half the wife and mother and grandmother and sister and friend that she was.

She has been an almost constant thought to me.

Today is her birthday.

I still love her so.

22 thoughts on “She Gave Me Roots and Wings”

  1. Thank you for saying all the things I have been feeling! I’m celebrating her today, in part, by serving oatmeal for breakfast and beans and cornbread for dinner! She was such a treasure! I love and miss her.

    1. Oh Esther, that’s the best! What a great idea to serve those foods. I’ve been celebrating her by telling the whole world that it is her birthday!!! haha

    2. Dear Rachael what a beautiful life and legacy!
      What a wonderful Mother! I know you “mirror” her light, strength and faith beautifully.
      I had forgot we share this day, differing a few years. 1952 here. This is one of my best Birthdays just because I am so thankful for the life God has blessed me with and it began with like you, the perfect Mother. Maybe I can share sometime. I woke up early this morning with tears and not sure why. I was a little scared as this happens sometimes when the Spirit lets me know someone has been promoted to Glory but not heard anything yet.
      But my thoughts immediately went to my Mom as the tears gently fell. Maybe she was near I still don’t know the reason. Just love and miss her so much. She passed in 1993. 😢
      Thank you for this beautiful story on our special day. I still don’t understand why God gave us this distant friendship and kindred spirit but I am truly grateful!
      God bless you day. ❤️🙏

      1. Dear Judy, I remembered that today is your birthday also. My mother would have loved you. I am thankful that our paths crossed and that our friendship has continued. I hope your birthday is wonderful. Thank you for your kind words.

    3. Wonderful tribute for your Mother. She did a wonderful job with your family as you are an example of her care love and nourishing. I met your mother when Melanie and I stopped at your garage sale. You both seemed to have kind hearts. It’s odd that you can meet a person at a yard sale and become friends through the years. Your Moms kindness shines through you. You were blessed and you bless others.

      1. Yes, Tommie, I agree that friendship comes in the most unexpected places. I am thankful that our paths crossed in such an enduring way. I cherish my friendship with you and Melanie.

  2. I wish she was here today to mop my not-so-tiny nose while I might have just sobbed a time or two through this wonderful memory-filled lovey!! Oh, how I needed this right here!! My January isn’t going so great so far!! Kidney stones, death of a dear friend, hospital visits, lonesomeness, and a few other pieces of heartache…but THIS, this right here reminded me that life is worth it, God is worth serving, teenaged boys are worth all the prayers and one day I’ll get to see this incredible example of motherhood again! I’ll never forget the moment she pulled aside a (no doubt fussing with her sisters and cousins) 11-year-old and whispered in her ear “you know, I really love how much of a PEACE-keeper you are…”. Was I? I highly doubt it! Did I work my hiney off to BECOME what Grandmother SAID she saw in me? Oh, you bet your bright shiney cowboy boots I did!!! I often wonder if she was AWARE of how smart she was? How terribly I miss her too… thank you for this Dear Heart!

    1. Naomi, bless your heart. I wish I could wrap my arms around you and tell you to just do your best… like she used to tell me. What an awesome example we had in her. She was a first class “psychologist”wasn’t she? She saw all your amazing potential and she’d be so proud of you. I’m sorry life is hard. Just make the next best choice.

  3. What a mother! We had the best and you told it so well! And we will never quit missing her. I’m sorry you had her for such a short time.

  4. Oh Wow, Rachel ! Such a beautiful tribute this is to our extra, extra ordinary Mother. Very few days ago by that I don’t think of her. She is missed and loved.

  5. Oh, Rachel. I could have written this story. Well, not as well, of course. But 10 children and my mom was 46 when my sis was born in 66. Do the math? My mom is 98. Yes, still with us. I’m sorry your mom is gone, but she has left a great legacy. Bless you.

    1. Dorothy, thank you SO much for sharing those details about your family with me. That is an interesting parallel. And I love it. Give your mom a big huge HUG! She is a living legacy.

  6. Rachel,
    You have written many tributes and they are all so different, yet they tell wonderful attributes of those that have touched your life. This one about your mother has been especially interesting to me. There is a special way that you loved your mother, and it is demonstrated in these words. Thanks for sharing about a little bit of who you are, because of who your mother has been.

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