What I Learned From My Mom
3 Wonderful Life Priorities
Next January it will be 25 years since one of the worst days of my life. I received a phone
call that my mother had a major heart attack and they were hoping she would recover.
But the next day, the news was unfathomable—mom had died.
Mom, Barbara Williams, died way too young for me. She was just 69 years old
(6/11/1925-1/31/1995). I grieved deeply for weeks and months. It was devastating.
Elsewhere I have written about how to handle grief—after her grandson (my nephew)
In this article I’d like to focus on some significant lessons I learned from her.
My mother focused on three really important things in life:
The most important thing to my mother was the Lord Jesus Christ.
As a young person, she wanted to be a career overseas missionary, telling people in a
faraway land about Jesus. That was the plan when she married my father Claude. But dad
went to a year of seminary to prepare and then changed career direction—he went into
the insurance business.
But if she had gotten what she would have preferred, mom and dad would have been
missionaries somewhere. Her brother Ken was a missionary in Ghana, Africa.
So, she did her best to be a missionary from her home in Ohio. She served faithfully in
the church in many capacities. She was a volunteer host on a local Christian radio
program. She was President of the Ohio Women’s Fellowship (or whatever it was called).
She witnessed to neighbors, to strangers, to family. Somewhere we have a recording of
mom teaching a rhyme to her grandchildren:
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would give him a lamb,
If I were a wise man, I would do my part,
What can I give him? I’ll give Him my heart.
At the end she said, “I hope every one of you will do that if you haven’t yet—give Him
So many are preoccupied with making a living, starting a business, hobbies, sports,
climbing the ladder of success, parenting, earning enough for retirement, and so on. And
they forget about the fact that this life is so short, especially in comparison to eternity.
Matthew 16:26 (TLB) “What profit is there if you gain the whole world—and lose eternal
life? What can be compared with the value of eternal life?”
In John 14:1-6 Jesus said he was going to prepare a place for us. And he said the way to
get to that place was through Him. It isn’t through good things we do; it isn’t through
living the 10 commandments, it isn’t through Mohammed or Confucius or Buddha, or
meditation, or any other way.
Some people believe that this life is all there is, or they live like it. I am so glad that God
assures us that there is life after this life. How hopeless I would feel if I didn’t think I’d
ever see my mom again.
If eternal life seems strange to you, imagine what life was like before you were born, in
your mother’s womb, where you…
…lived in water
…were in constant darkness
…had greatly restricted movement
…couldn’t see any other people
…couldn’t eat, laugh, cry, play sports, learn to read, enjoy a sunset, drink a Coke, try new foods, etc.
Every one of us lived like that before birth. It’s so strange to think about, yet true.
Now imagine that there was some way to communicate with you before birth and to tell
you that life would be very different soon. That you would…
…live in the atmosphere of earth instead of water
…breathe air instead of amniotic fluid
…see a big beautiful world with all the colors of the spectrum—the blue sky, the green grass, the flowers, the blue green waters of lakes, streams and oceans...
…that you would be able to move and travel the world
…that you would be able to talk and laugh with your family and others
…that you’d be able to experience all sorts of foods, emotions, thoughts, ideas
I wonder: would you believe the one telling you of such things?
Likewise, some people doubt that there is anything after this life. They imagine that when
we die our bodies go to the grave and that is it.
But God says there is more, lots more, an eternity more. He says that He is preparing for
us a place in His eternal kingdom that will be very different from what we have now:
We will have new imperishable bodies that will not grow old and feeble!
There will be no more pain!
There will be no more crying!
There will be no more sorrow!
There will be no more death!
We will have eternal joy!
Revelation 21:4 says “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
The question is if we will believe that just as the transition into life as we know it now
was so strange, the transition to the next life is to something much different than what we
And will we believe that we need to be ready for death and eternity by accepting Jesus
Christ as our Savior from sin and the Lord of our life. As Jesus said in the passage cited
earlier: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through
me.” (John 14:6)
Question: Are you truly ready to meet your maker and to hear Him say “Well done, good
and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21)?
My mother was not only ready to meet her maker, she was ready to hear His
commendation of “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) She lived her
faith in Christ 24 hours a day—it was the number one priority in her life.
It was mom who taught me the lines I’ve remembered so often:
“Only one life, twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
What else do we do on earth that really matters in the end, except to serve God?
Mom’s second priority was her family.
She devoted her child bearing and child rearing years to those tasks and gave herself to us
5 kids selflessly. And that isn’t easy with a brood of 3 boys and 2 girls. We could drive
her crazy. I remember on more than one occasion her saying to us naughty boys
“Ooooooooh, I could just beat you.”
But don’t worry, she never did, although she gave a spanking now and then as needed.
Proverbs 17:6 (NIV) “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.”
A friend said in a letter, “Perhaps the greatest impression Barbara made on me concerned
her family. She always had pictures to share and explained who each one was, including
all the grandchildren. It seemed she was always traveling one way or another to visit.”
She and dad were a lovingly devoted, inseparable team. Their example of devoted love
for 45 years makes them as Paul Harvey used to say, “Champion Lovers.”
As both mom’s and dad’s parents became advanced in age, they had a place for them in
their home. When my dad’s mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and became very
difficult to care for, mom continued to care for her in her home. This selflessness for her
mother-in-law caused my dad to call her an “angel.”
Question: If any of my family members died today, would I have any regrets?
One of the things dad was able to say which is so wonderful is that he didn’t have any
regrets. How great to be able to say that there isn’t any big thing that you wish you
wouldn’t have said or done. And nothing big that you wish you did say or do.
I too don’t have any regrets. Oh, it would have been nice if I could have seen mom more.
But we were able to get together at least two or three times a year. The year before she
died Carolyn and I got to take a trip to England with mom and dad. Then in November
they came out for Thanksgiving.
We talked often on the phone and every time we said good-bye, I told her I loved her. I
am so glad I did that. That wasn’t something we did so much in earlier years. But we
learned to express our affection, and that helped to make it so that I don’t have any
How about you and your family.
Do you express your love?
Are you doing things that are building happy memories?
Are you spending precious time with your loved ones?
Are you letting the petty things drop instead of making a mountain out of a mole hill?
Are you speaking lovingly and kindly all the time, or will there be words you regret?
Are you committed to working through the hard times?
An evangelist told of the famous author Thomas Carlisle. He had married his secretary
and dearly loved her. But he was wrapped up in his own interests and desires and treated
his wife as if she were still his employee. Eventually she was stricken with cancer and
confined to bed a long time before she died.
After her funeral, Carlisle went back to his empty house. Disconsolate and grieving he
wandered about downstairs thinking about the woman he loved. After a while he went
upstairs to her room. There he sat on the chair beside the bed on which she had been
lying for months. He realized with painful regret that he had not sat there much during
her long illness. He noticed her diary. While she was alive, he would never have read it
but now that she was gone, he felt free to pick it up and thumb through its pages.
One entry caught his eye “Yesterday he spent an hour with me, and it was like being in
heaven, I love him so much.” He turned a few more pages and read “I listened all day to
hear his footsteps in the hallway, and now it’s late. I guess he won’t come to see me.”
Carlisle read a few more entries and then through the book on the floor and rushed out
through the rain to the cemetery. He fell on his wife’s grave in the mud sobbing “If only I
had known, if only I had known.” The sad thing is that he did know. He just didn’t do it.
And all of us also know what to do, the question is, will we do it?
Thankfully the past is over, and the future is ahead of us. Will we do it right from now
Mom and dad were extremely friendly to strangers. They could enter a completely new
place and within a few minutes have a new group of friends.
But that doesn’t mean they were shallow. Many at mom’s memorial service had been
friends for 30 and 40 and a few for even about 50 years. Mom was good at making
traditions such as “BLT night” where every year she had a group of friends over on
Sunday evening after church for BLT sandwiches. She also had a group of “birthday
buddies” who were ladies who went out to celebrate each other’s birthdays.
My dad shared a letter that friends from my parents’ college days sent to him. They
summed up my mother’s ability in this way: “Barb made everyone she knew feel as if
he/she was one of her best friends, and in fact, they probably were—everyone was special
to her.” Yes, mom was like the Lord in that she just loved people.
Proverbs 17:17 (BBE) “A friend is loving at all times, and becomes a brother in times of trouble.”
Mom was loving at all times, even times of trouble. The child of a family we had been
friends with for years contracted AIDS from homosexual activity. Mom and dad knew
that homosexual practice is wrong according to the Bible, but that didn’t keep them from
sticking with that family, visiting their friend in the hospital and eventually attending the
At the memorial service for mom we gave a few people the opportunity to speak about
how mom impacted their lives. One of the Courts girls spoke up, from a family of four
children who lived with their grandmother down the road from us.
I don’t know how our families had gotten acquainted, but I knew how we got to know the
Courts kids well and that was because we picked them up for church each Sunday. Our
family had 5 kids, so that meant picking up 4 more for a total of 9 kids. It meant mom
and dad had to drive two cars to church instead of riding together as a family in one car. I
know it was a hassle for my parents, but they gladly picked them up and took them home
each week for months and years. And the daughter shared what an impact that had on her
and how she is a Christian today because of that caring and witness.
Question: If people were given an opportunity to speak at a memorial service for me,
would anyone share about what a great friend I was or how I impacted their life?
Another way to ask this question is “When you get to heaven, who will come up to you
and say, “I am here because of you?” I hope there are many who say that!
A FINAL NOTE:
If you are not sure that you have received God’s gift of salvation through Jesus, learn
about how to be positive HERE.
To help you in the new life in Christ, we have created a series of lessons called
“Discipleship Journeys with Jesus.” They’re available online without cost at
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