The Profound Influence of 6 Mothers.
Today six women are in my heart and mind. Please excuse my pitiful attempt to picture them in one photograph. No mere camera depiction of them could ever approximate the images they have etched in every synapse of my operating system. They are the mothers who have touched my life with such profound influence. They are not pictured in any sort of ranking except one of age. They are, from top left----
Vera Waters Holmes (paternal grandmother)
Listed first in the line because I carry the name our grandfather Otto Q. Holmes gave her generations ago. She taught me the value of hard work, the importance of faith in life, the joy of a song, and awakened in me the truth that simple, even uneducated people could profoundly influence this world. She taught Sunday School for 45 years at Southside Baptist Church in Walhalla, SC (now Scenic Heights BC). She raised and trained my Uncle Wallace, Aunt Ruth, and my dad, The Chester, to be responsible citizens, marriage partners, and parents. Today I hear her singing as she stands over the sink cleaning chickens for Sunday dinner. She lavished love and affection on all of the cousins but as her first and oldest grandchild she gave me extra doses of attention. Mama Holmes was a savvy business woman, hard worker, and eager learner. She's the one who taught me that humans have two ears and one mouth, and therefore should listen twice as much as we speak. Hmmm---sounds like James 1:19. Wise!
Mollie Knecht Owens (maternal grandmother)
Grandmother Owens was a quiet servant of Christ, dedicated mother to nine children, and husband to our grandfather Ocie F. Owens, once a mill worker, then for many years a preacher of the Gospel. She taught me the sustaining power of deep faith and how to live this life without complaining or whining. Of all of my memories of Mama Owens one stands out. She and Papa were keeping Michael and I when my parents attended a convention. There was a pile of dirt in front of our house, the result of road repairs being done by the city. She told me if I got in that dirt she would spank me. I still remember the tears that flowed down her face when spanking time came. She said, "I'm so sorry Sonny, but I have to do this because I said I would and cannot tell a lie". Among many lessons she taught me the value of honesty. One other lesson has proved significant. She had buried two children when I finally entered ministry, Aunt Mary and Uncle Lewis. When I was ordained she advised me to give special care to people who lose children. Those words were a great comfort when our son Brian was murdered. How I wish she could have been there to guide our grief.
Harriet Elizabeth Coppedge Thomas (mother-in-law)
Elizabeth Thomas gave birth to Harriet Lowman Thomas on December 3, 1946, at Rex Hospital, Raleigh, North Carolina. It was a dangerous, premature birth. Harriet weighed two pounds and five ounces at birth. When I asked Elizabeth Thomas for Harriet's hand in marriage 23 years later, she asked me only two questions: would I love Harriet as a cherished gift from God; and did I expect our marriage to last a lifetime. She hugged me that day and said, "God preserved that premature baby for you. But, remember, I had her first". Elizabeth Thomas was a single mom who taught elementary school for forty years. Her untimely death in 1974 broke both of our hearts. How we would have loved for her to have held her namesake, Elizabeth Hope, and Brian. She inspires me today through the life of her daughter, my wife Harriet, and the rich heritage of the many lives she influenced in the classroom at Wake Forest (N.C.) Elementary School.
Esther Owens Holmes (mother)
Esther Mae Owens Holmes brought me into the world on October 27, 1949. She was in labor many hours and stayed in the hospital more than a week after delivery because her veins collapsed. When she finally held me in her arms she said "My Sonny boy", and that name stuck. Like the rest of the Owens family mother taught me the value of believing no matter the circumstances, and the place of prayer in the greater scheme of life. She passed many wonderful attributes to Michael, Christie and I and provided a vivid living example of them all. During the educational years I always knew she was praying for me, especially during the knob year at The Citadel. What is more profound, mother always knew I would be a pastor one day. The first time she met Harriet she put her hand on Harriet's knee and said, "Harriet, you'll be a wonderful pastor's wife". The thing is, that was before Harriet and I had even mentioned marriage, and we'd never talked about a call to ministry. Esther Mae knew something. Her communion with Christ gave her a deep faith and understanding. I am so thankful for her sacrifices, Christian commitment, and dedication to The Chester and us. Even today, ten years after her death, she influences me.
Harriet Thomas Holmes (wife and mother to our children)
When I first met Harriet Lowman Thomas I was impressed by her quiet, reserved, perhaps timid manner. She was deliberate and responsible and discreetly confident, anchored by a core faith system that guided her through our courtship and into our lives together. For forty-five + years she has been my closest confidante, the BFF that we so often talk about, a source of personal resolve and strength, and a spiritual adviser that has counseled me through many dark nights. She always said "yes" when we detected God's call to the ministry and in every move. She was the emotional and spiritual constant to my flamboyant ways when God blessed us with Liz and Brian.
Harriet always knew they were gifts from God and she loved them and influenced them as such. When they were in college I was usually the front man giving them direction and encouragement. Harriet was backstage, on her knees, placing them before the Father and hearing God's promises over their lives. She nursed me gently and gladly did many incredible tasks after my cancer surgery and during months of chemotherapy. In Brian's death her character and strength taught me about genuine grief and the hope that should guide it. Watching her with John Lewis and Laura, our grands, blesses me enormously. Harriet is my beloved partner in this life, and has been the profound influence that we all need, the Assistant Holy Spirit who can give me a nudge from God
when I'm obstinate and resistant. Holding her hands in prayer every night brings the right conclusion to everyday, and reminds me of the prayer warrior who shares this life.
Elizabeth Hope Holmes Carpenter (daughter and mother to our grandchildren)
The first time I saw Elizabeth Hope Holmes was through a window in the nursery at Wayne County Memorial Hospital, Goldsboro, NC. It was in the old days before men were allowed in the Labor and Delivery Room. They had just taken her footprints and her feet were black. I thought she had a circulation problem and I banged on the window until a nurse came, examined her, and cleaned off the ink. It was love at first site. From the beginning she was alert, bright, and a fast learner. In all of her years she's demonstrated the rare ability to deeply care for others. And, talk about resolve, when she went to Clemson the Dean there thanked all the parents for entrusting their children to the university for the next five years. Liz said, "no way". She graduated in three and half years. She's always been very strong-willed and opinionated. But, her empathy applies those personal strengths in caring ways. Today she is a loving and caring wife and mother, and a daughter that is respected, admired, and deeply loved. Giving her to Scott was among my hardest challenges. But, he's been so good to her and for her. My emotions for Liz run deep. Respect and admiration are at the top.
Reading Proverbs 31 is a tradition for many believers on Mother's Day. It opens with memorable words that say much in just a short phrase---
The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him..."
Proverbs 31:1, ESV
His mother taught him. The six mother's listed above have taught me much. My gratitude for them is deep every day, more so this weekend.