I can hardly believe it. My mother, Wilma Norris Knight, is 102 years young this week, on May 4. She was born in 1921. What's even more remarkable is that she is so full of life that she might make it another 100 years!
With my mom's birthday at one end of this week, and Mother's Day coming up the following week, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God for three women's influence in my life. I wouldn't be the man I am without them. They are my Granny Scarberry (my mom's mom), my wife, Gena, and of course my praying mom. (Speak of prayer, Our Daily Bread, the Bible reflections published for millions around the world each and every day, recently highlighted the power of my mother's prayers for me and my brothers. You can read it here.)
A few different times over the years, I've written at length about my amazing wife, Gena, who brought me back to the faith I grew up with. This year, I want to introduce you to my Granny Scarberry by citing a little more from my mom's inspirational autobiography, "Acts of Kindness: My Story." You'll love what she wrote about Granny, who she simply called, "Mama."
In the chapter titled, "Growing Old Ain't for Sissies," mom wrote:
Comedian George Burns, who lived to be 100 years old, put it well: "You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old." I believe that. And so did my deceased husband George.
We stay young in body by eating well and staying fit, but young in mind by not settling for status quo and always pressing onward and upward.
Despite our numerical age, the young in heart are those who are always challenging themselves, starting over, facing fears, taking risks and never giving up. ….
Abraham Lincoln once said, "In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."
If anyone believed that, Mama did.
She was a constant risk taker in life, from crossing the prairies with her family as a young girl to living life with gusto as a widow for the last 50 years of her 90-year life.
In 1968, Mama's sister, Fannie Thompson, passed away, and in 1970 her brother, John Hargrove, passed away. A few years later, in 1973, she sold her home in Wilson, Okla., and moved to Globe, Ariz., to be closer to us daughters – sisters Ruby, Gladys and Shug all lived there. Mama lived there in a double-wide mobile home they fixed up for her.
Several years later, Mama moved to Sun City, Calif., with George and me. However, Mama was only in California for 11 months. She always had rural Wilson in her heart and just needed to go home.
On May 18, 1982, she returned to Wilson and lived out the remainder of her days at the Wilson Nursing Center. Mama got progressively sick over those last couple of years, but was a trouper all the way, without a complaint.
When my Mama had a heart attack, all of us seven daughters (Iva too) went back to Wilson and stayed with Mama for two weeks. But as the supreme caregiver that she was, Mama had difficulty receiving all that attention, so she told us girls one day to "Go out and have a good time!"
Crazy sister Ruby led the way, singing the very popular song at the time by Kenny Rogers, "Ruby, don't take your love to town."
I remember that we'd almost be asleep at 1 a.m., and she'd keep us up all night with various antics and frolic.
That was one of my favorite memories with all my sisters.
On March 20, 1984, all of us Scarberry sisters honored Mama by throwing her a 90th birthday bash at Wilson Nursing Center.
Two weeks later, on April 4, 1984, a few of my sisters and I were at her bedside at Healdton Hospital when Mama went home to be with Jesus, Papa, my brother Hershel, my son Wieland and other loved ones who had departed before her. Mama knows she's not forgotten; I think about her every day.
It is interesting to note that two years before Mama died, her right-arm muscle atrophied and stiffened against her chest so that it was largely unusable. When she was dying, I hurried to be by her side. As I rounded the bend into her room, one of my sisters said, "Hurry! Hurry! She's dying." As I came to her bedside, her arms were fully extended to heaven, as if the Lord Himself was pulling her up to her heavenly home.
Like in life, so my parents were even in death, passing gracefully to their heavenly home. After a lifetime of hardship and deprivation, I was overjoyed to think about them being together enjoying a blissful life that the Bible describes as "home" and "no more pain, grief, sorrow or tears." After the reign, no longer would the troubles of this life trouble them any longer.
And so we had inscribed on each of their headstones half of a saying, which, when read together, reminds anyone who still visits their graves of the peace they now experience.
Carlos [Chuck's birth name] shared with me in his successful years that he always felt bad for his Granny and that if he had the money back then, he would have built her a new and bigger home. And then he would have had someone come in and take care of her.
But God took care of that. He built Mama a mansion on streets of gold and promised Himself to tend to her needs there.
Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if that were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
The book of Revelation explains a few architectural details of that golden city, "The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass."
The great C.S. Lewis was right: "There are better things ahead than any we leave behind."
Mom, I don't know what's more difficult to believe: that you are 102 years old or that you have a son who is 83 years old! Regardless, I'm so grateful you are my mom. I always have been. We've been through thick and thin in this life, and we are still going strong. (Here's my mom's five-minute interview on the Mike Huckabee show, when he used to be on Fox, for those that want to hear more from that amazing saint!).
I love you, mom! Happy 102nd birthday! Save me a piece of cake!
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