Peter stood before the coffin with it’s little bouquet of roses, and spoke to the old
woman lying there. “I’m sorry, Mama. I wish I could have gotten you a beautiful resting
place instead of this old wooden box. You’re deserve so much better.” He looked at
her white hair and gnarled hands and knew she wasn’t bothered by the casket her body
laid in. He knew she was delighting in glorious joys and riches.
Peter, born forty years earlier to Mildred and Frank, barely remembered his father who
had died when Peter was four years old. His mom raised him alone and supported
them by doing laundry and cleaning houses for other people.
People knew they were poor. He wore second-hand clothes, sometimes even third or
fourth-hand. He went to bed hungry many nights as his body would spurt in growth.
Peter didn’t have a bicycle, a baseball mitt, a bat, nor a basket ball. But he kept off the
streets and helped his mother eke out a living by doing odd jobs after school.
Every morning in their small run down apartment, Mama had to clean roach droppings
off the table and cabinet tops. The torn upholstery on the old sofa permitted stuffing to
snake its way out, but Mama would propel it back in again, struggling not to shred her
fingers on the broken springs. Plumbing rarely worked well and usually not at all when
company came to visit. Tattered curtains didn’t hide much of the shenanigans that
resonated outside their living quarters. But Mama kept the tiny place scrubbed and the
door was always open to everyone.
“Compared to the world’s standards, Mama, we lived in poverty. They didn’t see how
rich we were, did they? How you daily read to me from that big, old Bible with all its
family history. How you knelt beside me every night and taught me to pray.
“When I complained, got hurt, or felt slighted you taught me to turn to God, give it to
Him and not hold a grudge or seek revenge. You showed me the joy of worshipping
Him and even praising Him in those times of trials. You taught me compassion as I
watched you make and take food to sick folks who were better off than us. I watched
you take in strays and never judge them but offer them loving kindness. Feeding them
and clothing them out of our need. Mama, people might have thought you were poor,
but they never saw how rich you were in spirit.
“I remember all the people who came to you for advice. The young girls who sought
marriage with unsavory fellows. Your counsel might’ve hurt them for a short while, but
they were better off when they waited then found saved young men to marry. And it
was funny how people with more money than you would come to you for
recommendations on how best to spend it. Money may have been scarce, Mama, but
your wisdom was well known.
“You were a comfort to widows too. You stayed up all hours sometimes to iron extra
baskets of clothes so you could slip a bit of money into their empty pockets. Somehow
you always found enough ingredients to make goods for the neighborhood and church
bake sales. I remember you taking in the little kids and helping them with their school
work, teaching them to read. Your pockets might have been empty, Mama, but your
heart burst at its seams with love for God’s children.
"A lot of people came to the Lord because of your home Bible studies, Mama. Even me.
How could I not have, as I watched you be a doer of the Word, and not just a hearer.
“So why didn’t I grow up and get a big money-making job, and take care of you like you
deserved?...Because you taught me to be prosperous in spirit, wisdom, love, all the
fruits of the spirit. You taught me what was important. And so I’ve followed in your
humble footsteps, Mama, Except they gave me a title and a salary when I became
pastor in the old neighborhood. Poor according to the world, but well-to-do in humility,
service, and heart.
"I am the wealthiest man on earth, Mama. You know why? It’s like Abraham Lincoln
said, ‘No one is poor who had a godly mother.’
“Goodbye, Mama, and thank you for being a godly mother. You made me rich.”
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