A bride was cooking a special dinner as her new husband watched her. She took the ham out of the refrigerator, sliced both ends off and placed it in a baking pan. Interested in her every move her husband asked, “Why did you cut off the ends of the ham?”
She stopped and looked at him blankly. “I don’t know. That’s the way Mother always did it.”
After putting the ham in the oven, she picked up the phone and called her mother. “Mom, why did you always cut the ends off the ham before you baked it?”
Her mother seemed surprised by the question and had to admit that she had always done it that way because her own mother had done it that way. She promised to call the girl’s grandmother and find out the reason.
When she called back, the mother said somewhat sheepishly. “Honey, Grandma said she always had to cut the ends off the ham because her pan wasn’t big enough to hold it.”
Aside from pointing out that some habits have no logical reason, that story reminds us of the things a mother leaves behind. Some of those things are material: most are not.
Eventually most of us become heirs to our mother’s material belongings. Within an 18-month period a number of years ago, my husband and I buried both our mothers. We became responsible for going through many of the things they left behind. We found ourselves keeping some things we never thought we’d want and had no real use for. They still reside in labeled boxes in a closet. We had to eliminate most things to get to a manageable level.
After we emptied out my mother-in-law’s house and right before its sale was closed, we walked through the empty rooms for the last time. As I went into the tiny kitchen I was amazed that it still smelled the same—a fresh scent that seemed to be a combination of the good meals she cooked there and the same perfume she had worn for at least 40 years. Even though at that time it had been more than a year since she could cook or had any interest in perfume. The house had stayed true to her scent. It was one of the many things she left behind.
Mothers pass on to us not only habits, possessions, and memories. Many also leave behind godly wisdom (as my mother-in-law did). Solomon credited his mother as the source of the beautiful 31st chapter of Proverbs: “an oracle his mother taught him” (v. 1 NIV). He admitted that in some places he was only repeating what she (Bathsheba) had taught him.
Contemporary author H. Jackson Brown, like Solomon, also wrote down some things his mother taught him. He collected her wise postscripts from the letters she wrote him and his sister in a book called P.S. I Love You (Rutledge Hill Press 1990). The book showed the wit and wisdom of his mother who, at the time he wrote the book, was still in excellent health and writing letters.
She ended one letter with: “P. S. Here’s my favorite bumper sticker that we saw on our trip to St. Louis: “‘If you’re headed in the wrong direction, God allows U-turns.’ I Love You, Mom.”
His mother also reminded him that “only God is in a position to look down on anyone” and “your religion is what you do when the sermon is over.” The book was subtitled: “When Mom wrote she always saved the best for last.” Each postscript began with P. S. and ended with “I Love You, Mom.”
And in the end, that is the greatest thing any mother can leave behind—her love.
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