Friday, May 6, 2016

Nancy Pauline Criswell of Shrewsbury, Kentucky September 1923-March 2007 - My Mom

Born into the rural poverty of the hollers in the thick forests of the backwoods of Kentucky, she never knew want. Never knowing her biological mother, she never went without unconditional love. Pauline's loving step mother taught her the skills of rural living that produced abundant gardens whose harvest was canned and preserved and kept in well-stocked block houses for the time when the earth slept under a blanket of snow under the dark, winter sky.

Although Pauline did not have much formal education, leaving school after grade six, she taught her own children the value of education. She beamed with pride dressed in her best house dress and Sunday shoes at my high school and college graduations. I was the first of the entire generations of my family to complete college. Pauline couldn't help her children with homework, but her strict discipline and creation of a warm, safe environment full of love and joy instilled in me a respect for and love of learning. Academic accolades came easily to me.

The greatest gift aside from my life that my mother gave me was a strong moral path that instilled compassion, respect for elders and respect for my body which my mom called my "temple." Her words of guidance still follow me today to keep me centered and grounded through all of the many twists and turns my life has taken. No matter what has happened I have been able to weather all of the storms of life and have enjoyed a life full of riches that far exceed any monetary value.

The following phrases are some of my mother's "homespun wisdom" that have sustained me during my life. Most are from the Bible because my mother was the most spiritual person I have ever known. These words were ingrained in her soul and she used them for that purpose only. I have given the meanings I ascribed to them as I molded my own spiritual life from them. The first is just one of my mother's colorful, southern expressions that I heard a lot growing up.

"Brenda Sue, come here and lick your calf over." Redo a sloppy job.

"You are in the world, but not of it." The material world is not a definition of who you are. It is meaningless in the development of the important things in life such as love, kindness, compassion, honesty and patience.

"Dust thou art and dust thou shalt return." We are physical manifestations of
something bigger that lives eternally.

"Judge not that ye be not judged." When we cast the finger of blame there are three fingers pointing back at us.

"Sweep on your own side of the street before sweeping a neighbor's." Clean up your act before trying to straighten someone else out.

"Say to the storm, 'Peace, be still.'" Find comfort from within.

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." I live in God's love and abundance and that is all that is real.

"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord." Sing, sing, sing! As adult I have added dance - the one thing my mother would not allow me to do as a child.

"Love thy neighbor as thyself." This is unconditional love. Treat everyone as though they were members of your family for we are all part of God's family.

"Father forgive them for they know not what they do." Forgiveness is the key to a happy life.

My mother has been dead for many years now and I miss her contagious laugh, compassionate love and deep spiritual understanding, but because she lived these truths, I have been able to follow her example and live them myself. Another of her favorite sayings was "Lead a child in the path that they should follow, and when they grow old they will not depart from it." Thank you Mom.

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