On August 11th my mother, Eunice Irene Harris, went home to be with the Lord after a long battle with multiple myeloma, a form of bone cancer. She would have been 84 last Monday. At her funeral I read the following eulogy…
On most major holidays, our extended family – those who still live in the vicinity - still gets together. On such occasions I often look around and marvel at the rare phenomenon I am witnessing. The families represented are largely intact stable homes. All the children (the cousins) are with both their real parents who are still happily married – no step-brothers, half-sisters, no blends. All the kids have only 2 sets of grandparents – one set of which all the cousins share. Furthermore, we all like each other and genuinely enjoy one another’s company and look forward to those occasions!
In the fragmented world we live in such a rare phenomenon is not a chance occurrence or mere lucky coincidence. It is a remarkable achievement. Specifically, it is the legacy of my mother, who like Eunice in the Bible (the mother of Timothy), passed on her sincere faith to the second, third and even fourth generations (II Tim 1:5). It is a faith that she herself inherited from her own godly mother and it is that common faith more than anything else that binds our extended family together through the generations.
It was my mother, who again like her namesake in the Bible, made sure that from infancy we knew the holy Scriptures which are able to make one wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (II Tim 3:15). It was my mother who made us memorize reams of Scripture – sometimes more than a dozen verses per week through the Bible Memory Association program. At the time I often resented the chore. Now I recognize it as the greatest inheritance she could have left me. It was my mother, along with my father who saw to it that we were in church every Sunday (and Wednesday and Friday and any other time its doors were open). And if you were to walk in on one of our family get-togethers today, you would likely find her grandchildren talking with one another about the latest mission trip or ministry experience.
In an increasingly fragmented, self-centered and rootless culture, we were given the inestimable treasure of a cohesive faith, a stable and loving home, a model for us of a quiet but consistent faith lived out over many years and various conditions. Like the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 whose lifestyle she reflected, today we her children rise up and call her blessed (Prov 31:28).
My mother would no doubt have been embarrassed by such a tribute and would have diminished the part she played in the achievements mentioned. And in some ways that would be a correct assessment. She merely passed along something that she had inherited from her own godly parents. Whatever of eternal significance we achieve in life is surely attributable to the life-giving power of God’s Word and not our own techniques or skills. And yet, she was faithful to pass that rich heritage along and that is enough. The value of that spiritual heritage is rarely recognized by parents today. As a young child, I never went to Disney World, never played an on an organized sports team, never went to preschool, in fact, never even went to the movies. But I did learn the Word of God and the importance of faith in Christ and would not trade that heritage for any of the things our culture deems so essential to a happy childhood.
In going through my mother’s things, I came across a book of poems written by my grandmother (my mother’s mother). It isn’t the kind of stuff that would win a Pulitzer prize but it does give a glimpse into the heart of the one who raised my own mother. I’ll close with one of them…
And too, the years are like a thread
on which we string our deeds.
A brilliant one, a dull dark brown, a gray or red
and oft some disappointing beads.
The Savior is a Master hand
at shaping deeds and lives.
So let us yield our all to Him
till He at last arrives.
The string of deeds will be instead
A crown of worth to Him.
No motley row, no broken thread,
No shades discordant dim.