This is my mom, Shirley, the very same day.
The very fact that both of my parents were still with me this side of Glory was far better than any gift I happened to receive this past Christmas. Let me rephrase that...was the greatest gift I received this past Christmas.
I realize my time on Earth with my mom and dad quickly draws to a close. Granted, that final end may not come for another couple of dozen years, but I know they are both starting to wear physically after seventy plus years of living. There's a sadness in that comment that is somewhat buffered by the shear fact that bodily death comes to us all eventually, and my parents have lived fruitful, meaningful lives.
From my mother, I've inherited a sense of compassion and a jovial demeanor. She has always been the spiritual compass for our family, although I've been off her directed course more than a time or two in my life. Mom was born into a large family (13 brothers and sisters) that epitomized the adage that we don't need things outside of God, love and each other. Her father was a Baptist preacher that died when she was just 9 years old. Hard to imagine my grandmother raising such a large family on her own, but every memory I have of her is covered with warmth and joy. My mom grew up fast, but she grew up knowing she was valuable far beyond what material things could give stature.
My father is, well, a hard man. He's the last of a dying breed of men that were taught to keep their emotions in check and to always be prepared for the worst life might throw at you. Still, I know beyond doubt my father loves both me and my sister because he has proven that time and time again in my life. He has lived life by the guiding principle that hard work can overcome any adversity. I get my work ethic directly from him.
Of the many stories that reflect the personalities of my parents, one of my favorite involves the day I graduated from high school. At the time, my dad was chairman of the local school board. His task on that day was to hand the diploma earned by each graduate to the principle who in turn handed the document to the person. He would then shake the hand of the passing student. There were 277 in my graduating class that day. When my time came, he shook my hand and said 'good luck' just like he did the other 276 times. My mother was livid.
She couldn't understand why on such a monumental occasion, dad wouldn't take the time to hug me as a show of support and pride. I never expect it though. That just wasn't my dad. He knew I had a lot of hard work ahead of me. Graduation was an accomplishment...but it wasn't the expectation. It was just a starting point to better things.
Expression is just not a strong point with my dad. However, the day I graduated college and pinned the gold bars of a Second Lieutenant on my collar as a United States Marine, my dad hugged my neck and told me he loved me and was proud of me. To that point, the only other time I recalled hearing those words was 9 years earlier when he told me his sister was dying from cancer. That in no way takes away from the fact that he did love me very much. Actions will always be greater than words in his world, and I greatly respect him for that.
My mom and dad have both been a tremendous influence on my life. That influence will continue in the way I raise their granddaughters. All three will know everything I can possibly share with them about their heritage. Thanks to the example set by my mother, they will grow up attending a house of worship where hopefully they will learn to be disciples for Jesus.
My teenager already knows that my expectations for her are set high. She also knows that I love God and her more than life itself because I tell her every single day. That's the best of both of her grandparents she and her two younger sisters get to see in me.