My mom was orphaned at the age of twelve. Her mother died of terburculosis. Having married only for his wife’s inheritance, her father disappeared when he received the divorce papers, thereby securing the small family fortune for the welfare of the two children, my uncle and my mom.
The money was distributed between their two aunts, who in turn, raised them into adulthood.
A shattered home. Two parents now gone. Broken, but hopeful.
Although she was an orphan, my mom never let bitterness take root in her heart. It was not until I was well into my adult years that she told me her story.
Several years later, while in her early twenties, she stood waiting at the train station. It was foggy in the early morning hours. As the most parted, there he was. Eye contact. Recognition. The mist clouded her vision momentarily before parting again.
He was gone.
It was as if he had never been there at all. But it was him. His remains now rest in the military cemetery in San Francisco.
At the age of 29 she married my dad. They had four children. I am the youngest. 53 years of joy, mingled with pain, heartache, disappointment, delight, and complete faithfulness.
My mom is with Jesus in heaven now. She died on August 30, 2010. Dad preceded her in death in 2007.
Her story demands to be told. She had neither the inclination or the means to communicate it to a larger audience. She was not a writer. But she had something important to say.
She needed someone like you to share her story, broadcasting it to a larger audience so that many may benefit. She needed your eye for detail and your passion for preserving the narrative integrity of her story. She needed your curiosity to till the soil of her early years, shedding light on the remarkable woman of faith she became as an adult. She needed you to listen and to learn the cadence of her voice, the rhythms of her faith journey.
She was not a visible mover and shaker in the world of faith and culture. Most people would move on to more marketable projects with higher profiles. Perhaps this is justifiable in the business sense. Yet, the hundreds of children she influenced in daycares and Sunday schools and on the streets of Watts in her early years would likely say she made a difference for them. You can be sure her children and grandchildren would agree.
She was an orphan with a heart full of love for people. That’s why she would have greeted you with a hug and offer you something to eat and drink. Your comfort would have been her priority. No handlers preventing your access to her. No entourage. Just an unshakeable belief that God loves you and that you matter.
She would have asked about your story and inquired concerning your health and happiness. You would have arrived, hoping to capture enough material to justify an article or maybe even a short biographical sketch. You would have left with a heart full of longing, understanding that this is a person of deep faith.
The small, humble slices of life she touched were never the same again. She was no mere consumer of culture. She was a contributor by virtue of demonstrating her faith in Christ with joy for the benefit of those to whom she related.
With enough time and observation, you would have picked up on all that. Because you are writers, storytellers, with a keen sense of what is really most important in the conversation on faith and culture.
Thank you for reading this heartfelt keynote.