A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds.*
Proverbs 31 must have been written about my mother. I’ve never met a more virtuous woman. She was classy. She was strong. She was devoted. If you are familiar with Margaret Anderson on the old TV show Father Knows Best, you’ve met my mother.
She possessed many characteristics of Caroline Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie, Mrs. March from Little Women, and Marilla from Anne of Green Gables. She could also rival Aunt Bee from Mayberry in the kitchen.
She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day.
I don’t know how she managed without a microwave or the modern conveniences of today’s kitchens, but my mother could prepare an elaborate homemade Sunday dinner (including meat, several vegetables, rolls, and dessert) and still make it to Sunday school and church with time to spare. She also worked outside the home and was a Hidden Figures kind of woman.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth.
Having been raised by farming parents, Mother knew how to can vegetables and create something beautiful out of nothing. She was athletic and good at basketball, badminton, and bowling. She planted flower gardens. She wrote poetry. She made ceramics, curtains, and baby quilts. If she’d had a Pinterest account, she would have had many followers.
Her clothes are well-made and elegant.
Mother was a domestic engineer. She made most of the clothes my sister and I wore until we graduated from high school. She tediously stitched together numerous outfits for our Barbie dolls.
For my first high school dance, I begged Mother for a store-bought dress. At the time, I did not appreciate her skill or her sacrifice. My mother gave in to my pleas, and we found a dress from J. C. Penney. I wore the dress, but I came to realize it did not hold a special place in my heart. The following year I requested one of her hand-made creations, a beautiful royal blue velvet gown with silk sleeves, a gown which I cherished because it was made with love.
She always faces tomorrow with a smile. When she speaks, she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.
Mother was a strict disciplinarian. She spoke softly and carried a peach tree limb, but she never failed to explain why she needed to use the rod and not spoil the child.
“This is going to hurt me more than it will you,” I believe she said on several occasions.
Mother led by example, and she made sacrifices for her family.
My mother read stories to me when I was young and instilled in me a love for language. I can still hear her voice imitating a poet or a character. We didn’t own a storehouse of books when I was a child, but Mother read to us from her old high school textbooks. She especially loved Eugene Field’s classic poem “Little Boy Blue.”
“Now, don’t you go till I come,” he said,
“And don’t you make any noise!”
So toddling off to his trundle-bed
He dreamt of the pretty toys.
I never understood the sadness of this poem until I became an adult, but Mother made it special because of her empathy for the characters.
My mother was also a great listener. When I struggled as a young teacher, she quietly allowed me to share my frustrations of the day and then gave me sage advice.
Like all the mothers in Laurel Porter-Gaylord’s beautiful board book I Love My Mommy Because, my mother gave me many reasons to love her and honor her and call her a virtuous woman.
My mother suffered the emotional pain of the unexpected and untimely death of my father, and she suffered the physical pain of treatments for breast cancer and a brain tumor. All the while, she never complained.
This May, if you’ve been distanced from those you hold close, remember that you are loved. Whether you are a mother of one or a mother of none, whether the world compares you to Mother Teresa, Mother Goose, or June Cleaver, know that someone appreciates you. While many of you are juggling traditional and not-so-traditional roles of mothers, teachers, caregivers, and other strong women, I salute you for your virtues.
This is my tribute to Gean McCullough, my own mother, and to all the other virtuous women. The world has been a better place because she and you have been a part of it.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent.—Lord Byron
“The clocks were striking midnight and the rooms were very still as a figure glided quietly from bed to bed, smoothing a coverlid here, settling a pillow there, and pausing to look long and tenderly at each unconscious face, to kiss each with lips that mutely blessed, and to pray the fervent prayers which only mothers utter.” –Louisa May Alcott
“But behind all your stories is your mother’s story, for hers is where yours begins.” –Mitch Albom
Philippians 2:2-4; Proverbs 19:14; Proverbs 31:10-31
*Proverbs 31 verses are taken from The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language.