Saturday, March 4, 2017

Remembering Mother, 20 years after God called her home
by Bill Jones
Trustee, T. B. Maston Foundation

Twenty years ago this afternoon, around 1:30, Daddy called and said simply, "Bill, she's gone."

My dear mother had passed away. We had been expecting it for a long time, but you're never ready for the finality of it all.

Vivian Louise Otting Jones was born on March 16, 1906, in Miami (pronounced Mi-am-uh), Indian Territory, a year before it became part of the new state of Oklahoma. She was just two days short of her 45th birthday when I was born, and just 12 days short of her 91st birthday when she went home to be with her Lord.

In a sense, it seems hard to believe it's been 20 years. Yet in another sense, it seems forever (and for her, of course, it's been an eternity - literally).

Mother was the second oldest of 12 children – eight girls and four boys. Each of the four oldest daughters was assigned one of the younger girls and given the responsibility to watch over her. Mother's 'child' was her sister Betsy, and they remained exceptionally close until Mother's death. In fact, in the last weeks of Mother's life, as she shut down . . . quit eating . . . . quit responding, obviously just waiting for God to call her home, Aunt Betsy came and stayed, helping Daddy to take care of her; she was there with them when Mother took her last breath.

Aunt Betsy passed away last fall; it was an honor to be at her memorial service and share with her children and grandchildren in celebrating the life of someone who had meant so much to our family, especially to Mother.

Mother and Daddy were married for over 59 years; yet Daddy, who lived for another 10 years after her passing, always said that those 59 years just weren't enough. Theirs was a special marriage, and Patsy and I were blessed to be part of such a loving home.

Mother was a strong woman. In an age when women typically were known as "housewives" or "homemakers," Mother worked full-time well into her 60s. In 1943, she found herself left at home to take care of their 1-1/2-year-old daughter as Daddy served over 2 years as an Army chaplain in the European Theatre under General Patton's command.

When Daddy returned home after the war ended, he pastored small churches while attending Southwestern Seminary, majoring in Christian Ethics under T. B. Maston; although Mother worked full-time, and Daddy sometimes worked part-time jobs that supplemented his pastor's salary, there was not exactly a surplus of food in the pantry.

Patsy recalls how Mother "always supported Daddy in his ministry - all those every-Sunday lunches that she hosted for his preacher boys when we lived in Montague" (where Daddy pastored First Baptist Church).

Patsy continues, "She worked full-time, of course, took care of us children, sewed many of my clothes, did more than her share of church work, and must have longed for a weekend where she could let down some. We had so little money, but she could feed those hungry guys (and a couple of wives) without too much expense by cooking a small roast and, then, adding lots of mayonnaise, boiled eggs, and pickle relish to make roast salad. And it was delicious to boot!!! She was a great cook. She told wonderful family stories and was so much fun! Stephanie always said that Mother was her party Grandma because she loved to plan tea parties and wienie roasts for us."

I remember when I called Mother and Daddy, my senior year at OBU in the spring of 1973, to tell them I was dating a Chinese girl from Hong Kong. But I need to back up a little; when we moved to Kansas City, MO, in 1962, Mother took a job at Bethany Baptist Church. She was church clerk and also was secretary to our music minister, Richard Lin, who was on a leave of absence from OBU while studying for his doctorate at the conservatory at University of Missouri-Kansas City. During the next year, until the Lins returned to Oklahoma, our families became close friends; their three sons and I would trade off almost every Sunday, with me spending the afternoon at their house or them at mine. Where did I learn to love Chinese cooking? At Julia Lin's dining table on Sunday afternoons.

Their little daughter, Anita, was still little, several years younger than her brothers. With Richard Lin leading the music and Julia singing in the choir, Mother volunteered to sit with Anita in the Sunday morning service every week. It had been a long time since Mother had a little daughter, as Patsy was already out of college and married by this time. So Mother simply doted on little Anita and really loved the time she got to spend with her.

So back to my story. I called Mother and Daddy to tell them about this girl, Joanna Wong, I was dating at OBU. Mother was on the bedroom phone, and Daddy on the kitchen phone, or vice-versa. As they told me the story in later years, as soon as they hung up the phone, they ran to meet each other in the hallway, and Mother blurted out, "We're going to have Chinese grandbabies!"

Well, they were putting the cart a little ahead of the horse, but they turned out to be right. Joanna and I celebrated 40 years of marriage this past September, and those "Chinese grandbabies" are now 35 and 31!

Mother & Daddy with their 'Chinese grandbabies,' Alison & Travis (1991)

Most of all, I remember a gentle, loving Mother who was always ready to sacrifice for her family. She wanted nothing more than for her family to be happy. She was a committed Christian, always serving in the church, teaching Sunday School, GAs, YWAs, and so forth. I remember when I was maybe 9 or 10, asking her why we were Baptist. Mother had grown up in a Presbyterian home but had eventually become a Baptist after meeting and marrying Daddy.

Anyway, when I asked her why we were Baptist, she had a very simple, yet profound, answer: "Because Baptists believe the Bible." And Mother believed the Bible, and she was a devoted follower of Jesus.

Twenty years today! In June, it will be 10 years since Daddy passed away. Patsy and I, and our families, have been blessed. They made a loving home for all of us, and their influence, their legacy, lives on, and will for generations to come.

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