Remembering my mother.
by Sallyann Hood, Major
On Mother’s Day, we used to wear a rose corsage to church—red if our mothers were alive, white if they had been “promoted to Glory.” This custom, that meant so much to me, was not appreciated by my two sons, who didn’t think it was “manly” to wear roses!
Nowadays, I would have to wear a white corsage, but I cannot forget all that my mother and father did to help me fulfill God’s calling in my life.
My parents were Salvationists—local officers—for their entire adult lives. They worked to “enable” other people to do their work, especially the officers who came and went at their corps and the young people. I am not the only one whom they “enabled,” but I want to share something of what they did for me.
Until I was 15 years old, my mother was a “stay-at-home” mom—more common in those days than now. She took her job seriously, teaching me things that “a woman should know.” All our meals were home-cooked, including her famous bread formed as rolls or cinnamon rolls. She made my clothes. My father’s family was musical, but it was my mother who made sure that the talent was developed. She got me piano lessons and forced me to practice, every day. My mother was a strong lady!
Besides giving me a wonderful childhood—and introducing me to Christ—my parents “enabled” me to fulfill God’s calling for my life—to become a doctor and a missionary. My mother enjoyed favorite sayings. One was that I could do anything that God asked me to do—that was when I wasn’t sure I could really do (intellectually) what God was asking me to do (be a doctor). Once I felt that that might be true, I was concerned that I didn’t want to do what God seemed to be asking. My mother then said that God would change my mind!
My mother’s absolute favorite saying, which still hangs on a wall in our home, was:
The will of God will never lead you
Where the grace of God cannot keep you.
(Attributed to St. Therese)
The cost of a medical education, even at that time, was formidable—and my parents were not rich. My mother was raised in a Salvation Army home because her father was killed in a hunting accident when she was 12 years old—and her mother could not support their large “backwoods” family alone. Because Salvation Army homes in the U.S. at that time were also for unmarried girls who were pregnant, my mother learned practical nursing in the home to help with the deliveries. She had a lifelong dream to become a “real” nurse, finally studying to become a licensed vocational nurse just before I entered medical school in 1971. She was 58 years old. This was a demanding one-year course, which put a great deal of strain on our whole family. My mother then worked as a trained nurse for the entire four years that I was in medical school—a grueling schedule each day of direct patient care. All of her earnings went to my education (while my father kept the “home fires” burning)—allowing me to come out of medical school debt-free—unheard of!
Because it was my first time away from home for a long length of time, medical school was a challenge—not only because I was away from my family, not only because the course was difficult, but because the school was run by a church that had some distinctive beliefs that contradicted my own. Despite the costs involved, my parents were constantly in touch—listening and encouraging! My mother sent something every day in the mail, so that when I checked my mailbox each evening something would always be there from her. Sometimes it was no more than a scrap of paper that said, “I love you!”
When my husband, Jim, and I went to India with our 1-year-old son, Danny, to work in The Salvation Army’s Catherine Booth Hospital, these same faithful supporters sent us a small amount of money from their retirement salary every month to supplement our slim salary—and a small box of assorted food items. With our terms of service four years in length, this was a great sacrifice for parents and grandparents to give for the work of their Lord. We corresponded with cassette tapes every week! They never ceased to pray for us. Everyone knew who Art and Ethelene Carpenter’s daughter and son-in-law were—as apparently they never stopped talking about us! They absolutely believed in the World Services effort and what we were doing in India.
Mother became ill and died in 1989, but on our last visit from India, she sent us back. That was our Lord’s calling to us—and she could not break faith with him! Even when the medical costs for her care became so great that my father had difficulty in managing, mother would ask if he had put “our” money into our bank account—and he would say, “Yes.” It was true, he had put the amount they had decided on in our account—only to return it to their meager funds the next day; he didn’t want her to know that they simply could not manage that gift anymore.
Yes, the example that my parents gave was wonderful. They were a wonderful gift from God to me. Many of us have been “enabled” by others—this encouragement is a gift from God that we need to pass on—to our own children—and to others whom God brings to us, whether young or old. God’s plan includes not just “life” but life “more abundantly” for each one of his children! Be an “enabler”—blessings can flow out of you—yes—but you’ll be surprised at what blessings come back to you!
Western officer Major Sallyann Hood is currently serving as social services secretary in the Mexico Territory.