Tribute to Gertrude Sanborn
Author of With Tears
in My Heart: Poetic Meditations
of a Christian Woman
"Reflections of a Daughter"
by Yvonne S.
After my mother died, I went through
her personal possessions. You who have buried a mother or father
know this difficult and eye-opening experience. I saw her life
stored away in boxes and drawers and closets. I saw a part of her
I knew nothing about--her shoes and dresses, her combs and
curlers, her medicines and manuscripts. I never saw some of those
things before because I lived far from her and only visited once
or twice a year.
drawers were filled with unused treasures--silk scarves and little
fans, artificial flowers and lace-trimmed handkerchiefs. Why do we
women save the beautiful for special occasions? "No occasion is
special enough!" we think; so we never use such things. We
store them in drawers where no one can see. I remember peeking
inside my husband's grand- mother's dresser drawers. They were
filled with beautiful gifts given to her from loved ones, many of
them from my mother-in-law. Yet, Grandma never wore them. She just
showed them to visiting people like me while the men were talking
in the parlor.
I cried as I touched the precious
things peculiar to my Mother. "I didn't really know you,
Mother," I said to myself. I saw her shoes standing neatly on
a shelf; her dresses arranged in order; her nightgowns
ready--especially for Daddy. There I was, intruding into her
private life! I felt as if I were standing on holy ground. Tears
came to my eyes. Often I had to leave the room to return another
day. As I handled those treasures, her death became a reality to
me. Yes, I thought I knew my mother; but those years of
separation, those decades of my being married with a home of my
own, and our living in New Jersey--far from her home in
Florida--separated us from the mundane, little things of her life.
afternoon, I opened a drawer heavy with notebooks--all mother’s
studies from God’s Word were collected in one place. How could I
touch them? I saw before my eyes her years of pouring over the
Scripture collated in a bureau drawer! All this study--first
hidden away in her heart--often told to others, and now it lay
dormant in a drawer. What an unspoken visual aid of my mother's
dedication to God! No wonder she knew the Bible! No wonder
visitors came away from my parent's home blessed! No wonder their
friends rejoiced in the Lord after such visits! No wonder her
grandchildren rise up to this very day and call her blessed!
funeral was a time of stark realization. Death is final. Death is
cruel. It is a reality. Yet, death can be kind. For the physically
dead Christian, death has no sting. How do we know this? God's
tells us so. Yes, we who survive the death of a loved one
experience sorrow and cry tears. We may be redeemed by the
precious Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We may have the hope of
eternal life, but we are human beings, too. We "sorrow not,
even as others which have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) The
Christian woman who has died is free from grief. She has been
liberated from the woes of life and is with Jesus. As Fanny Crosby
wrote: She is "safe in the arms of Jesus." But, oh, the one
who has died and has rejected the Lord Jesus--that one who had
trusted in her good works--that dead one will experience an
eternity of grief. For me, my mother's funeral was a time when we
gathered the fragrance from GER TRUDE SANBORN'S life to perfume
our future days with beautiful memories.
Let me tell you something
interesting that I observed during the days of sympathy cards and
consolation. My women friends comforted me in a manner I don't
think they even realized. Each one would talk to me about her
mother's death. Each one would tell me of her mother's last days
and the emotion experienced during that unforgettable trauma. I
listened. They cried. I cried too--for them and for me. They told
me about the deaths of their mothers as if it happened yesterday
when in reality it happened ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago. At
the time, I recalled my mother-in-law's tears over the loss of her
mother who had died over forty years previously. I remembered my
own mother speaking of the death of her mother as one of her
greatest griefs. My maternal grandmother lived to be ninety-one.
Did they expect her to live forever? I didn't understand then. I
do now. One fact I have learned never changes. We are always the
children of our parents; and no matter how we deny it; we are
always the children of our mother. Another hymn writer, Frances
Havergal, lost her mother at age eleven. She wrote to a friend,
"The death of a mother is childhood's greatest grief." Do you
think Miss Havergal would have felt less grief if her mother had
died in her adulthood?
mother was not only a poet, she was a born teacher. I don't mean
that she was a licensed school ma'rm or a college professor. No,
but what she learned she taught, and she taught me so many things.
You've heard that we are what we eat or that we are what we read.
I say unto you, "We are what we are taught." Mother was a
gifted Bible teacher--the best Bible teacher ever! In fact, she
was my husband's first Bible teacher--and mine. What she taught,
her pupils learned. This was true, not only of her Bible teaching,
but also in her "mothering." Many men are in the ministry today
because my mother encouraged them in the Word of God.
How do I
know the proper way to set the table? Mother taught me. The other
girls didn't know where to put the knife and fork or how to fold a
napkin. I did, because Mother taught me. Other people didn't know
how to make an introduction, give a speech, write a paper, or make
a proper bed. I do, because Mother taught me.
She taught, by example, how to dress
like a Christian woman. Although she was well dressed, Mother did
not conform to the fashion of the world. She was a conservative.
"Always remove one piece of jewelry before you leave the
dressing room," she would tell me. She never wore earrings, or
lipstick, and never, NEVER dark red nail polish--in fact, no nail
polish at all. For her, it was a sign of "worldliness." It used to
be for everyone. To mother, this was "world conformity"--and maybe
she was right? When GERTRUDE SANBORN got up to teach or sing, her
clothes, her jewelry, or her hairdo did not distract her
listeners. They saw Jesus.
never wore slacks. During the closing months of her life I tried
to get her to wear some of my sister's slacks so she wouldn't be
cold when she went outside. I thought I could fool her! I thought
I could persuade her, for she had had strokes, was weak, and
didn't always remember. She looked at me and said, "I don’t
wear slacks!!" Do you know something? Now, I don't wear them
either! THAT'S INFLUENCE!
Mother taught me to sing. She had a
beautiful voice. It was full and expressive. She sang for big
crowds and she sang for little crowds. She sang when she worked;
she sang when she was glad; she sang when she was sad. Yes, she
sang through her tears--and Mother had many of them. Why do I know
so many gospel songs, hymns, and anthems like "The Holy City"?
I know them because Mother sang them. Our house was filled with
singing. "When you sing a solo, don't sing all the
stanzas--maybe only two," she would say, "Stop while the
people are enjoying the message. " She taught me to keep
singing, even if I made a mistake. "Make the words up as you go
along, Vonnie, no one will know the difference; and don't forget
to look at the people."
Mother taught me to love the Bible!
Al- most all of the Scripture verses that I have retained are
verses my mother taught me. She taught me to respect and
appreciate the AUTHORIZED VERSION, and not to become ensnared with
paraphrases and the dynamic equivalent method of translating. She
became militant for the Textus Receptus. This was Mother's
conviction and my father's too. Along with her Saviour, the Bible
was her "High Tower," her "Strength," her "Rock,"
and her "Hiding Place." In times of deep distress (and she
had them) she ran to the Book of books-- her Escape, her Place of
fortitude, and her comfort during the cares of life.
Mother taught me to live while
holding hands with sorrow She and my father were living examples
of reaping in joy while sowing in tears. Why do I say this? I will
try to be brief. My parents had three children (three daughters)
and a son-in-law--making "four." I am the oldest. Each one of us
had a radical problem. Problems few had ever heard of at the time.
The second-born died at the age of twenty from cancerous Hodgkin's
disease. (That is the same disease from which my husband, my
sister’s brother-in-law, is presently in remission.) My baby
sister, who was born in 1935, was a perfect child until she was
born. During the birth process, her brain was injured and she has
lived the life of a dependent toddler all these years. Until the
hour my eighty-three year old mother went to the hospital to begin
the dying process, she cared for Beverly. And me? As a
three-year-old child, I had a bone disease that kept me in a
hospital bed. How would you like it if your little girl had to lie
flat on her back for three years? Praise God, I can walk; and can
I ever talk!! The Lord has blessed me with a husband who loves me,
and with five adult children and four "in-law" children, too.
eighty-two, my dear father had his leg amputated. Perhaps that was
my mother's greatest grief. Daddy never complained. It was
amazing. Until the day of his death, he worked as hard as he ever
did--from his wheel chair. I thought my mother's heart would break
over Daddy's loss.
with so many burdens of her own, shared my grief with the
continuing illness of one of her grandsons. Her grief was a double
one--sorrow for him and for me, his mother. How I miss her prayers
and tender compassion! She taught me much about "mothering." She
taught me how to smile through tears. She taught me to trust God
in the fire and in the flood.
Mother taught me to love the
Saviour. She opened up that Black Book and taught me about Jesus.
She showed me within its pages that I was a sinner and needed a
Saviour. I, who was a "good" little girl of nine years of age, was
not good enough to go to heaven. She showed me John 3:16 where God
loved me so much that He sent Jesus to be my Saviour and to die
for my sin. She taught me Romans 10:9-10, and I confessed with my
mouth the Lord Jesus and believed in my heart that God had raised
Jesus from the dead. She explained that it was with the heart that
I could believe unto righteousness, and with the mouth that I
should confess this belief. I saw Jesus Christ on the Cross in my
place. I heard of His love for my soul. I believed and I was saved
from Hell's doom. A little child can be saved! My mother was not
only my "birth mother" but also, she was my "spiritual mother." No
wonder I loved her?
Mother was a separatist! She taught
me not to become entangled with the world, nor to mix my life with
those who mixed with the ungodly. She taught about the apostasy
and the need for ecclesiastical separation. She was an old time
Regular Baptist. She and my father knew what it meant to come out
of the Northern Baptist Convention (now the A.B.C.) and the price
for being in the fray!
She taught me that
I, as a Christian woman, should remember that my body belonged to
Jesus, and that I should not give it or lend it to a man apart
from marriage. When I was growing up, there was nothing to admire
about an unwed mother or an adulterous wife. Perhaps today, with
the emphasis among Christians on "pro-life," we may be forgetting
about the sin that caused a woman to become an "unwed mother" in
the first place--the humiliation and the shame. I am not talking
about our compassion for the woman or for the child. I'm talking
of the sin against God and against her own body when she commits
such immorality. Yes, I know God forgives. I'm talking about the
fact! It should not be named among us! When I was young, the fear
of an unwed pregnancy was part of the deterrent for young girls to
remain pure! Fornication and adultery were sins, and every- body
knew it. By the way, they still are! Mother never heard of an
"alternate lifestyle" or “recreational sex." In my day, "just
say no" was what a girl was taught to say to her boyfriend,
and a boy was taught not to ask. Who ever heard of drugs?--except
from the drug store; and only bad girls smoked!
During her whole lifetime, a
daughter seeks for the imprimatur of her mother--her mother's
stamp of approval. Yet, during that same lifetime, that same
daughter strives not to be a rubber stamp of that mother. Then one
day in her maturing years, that daughter gets up in the night and
looks into a mirror and sees her mother's face looking back at
her. Believe me, it is scary! Just the other day I met women whom
I knew as a little girl. She looked at me and she said,
"Vonnie, you look just like I remember your mother!" Do you
know something? She looked just like I remember her mother, too!
A mother receives a lot of
rejection. Have you noticed? Often her "good" is evil spoken of by
her daughter. A mother longs for her daughter. She lives for her
daughter. Her daughter is her life's work! A mother is a woman who
loves, laughs, listens, labors, and laments where her daughter is
concerned. Often her daughter misunderstands her. Some daughters
do not perceive that Mother is a person, too. During my Bible
School days, a friend looked at a picture of my mother and said,
"Your mother is pretty." For the first time, I really
looked at her picture, and saw that she was pretty! I was
startled. Up until then she was just Mother. Sad to say, some
daughters, who have never married or who have never born children,
seemingly never understand their mothers, because they have never
been mothers themselves.
There comes a time when a mother
must realize that she cannot live a vicarious life through her
daughter. A mother must not dream her dreams through her daughter,
or live her unfulfilled life through her daughter's fulfilled
life. A successful mother cuts the ties and loosens the cords.
That way both mother and daughter have freedom to grow. Some
mothers forget this. This "letting go" of the emotional ropes
tying mother and daughter together should begin quickly--perhaps
at the baby's first step, then in grade school, more in high
school, much at college, and most at marriage. This "letting go"
process is where some mothers may fumble. I have found, in my
experience, that this emancipation of my daughter from our
home--never from our heart--has returned her love, appreciation,
and respect for her father and me one hundred fold! I cannot
express the satisfaction it is to have a mature daughter (a mother
herself) walking in The Way of the Lord.
Both females--mother and daughter
must become individual, God-fearing women. There is bound to be
rebellion sometime in this mother/daughter relationship. It may
sprout up often, or only once. That is how it is. There is nothing
we can do to change it. Oh, that such rebellion (though it be
unpleasant) comes while the daughter is within the love and the
discipline of the family home! How better then, than after the
daughter marries or is established in the business or missionary
Let me ask you a question. Will you
ponder it, please? Who says that a mother and daughter are to be
friends during the girl’s formative years? It would be nice, but
it seldom happens. Oh, there may be flashes of friendship, to be
sure. There may be mother/daughter talks and confidences and
sentimental mother/daughter banquets. Such moments of
companionship may be brief. The truth is this: from birth until
adult- hood, a mother is to be a ruling mother! Notice, I did not
say "through" adulthood! But, up until adulthood she is to
be the Mother--no matter the cost. Otherwise, there is an
irreparable break- down in the family. When a mother's word is
ignored or laughed at, she has no authority. When a father prefers
a daughter's desires and/or demands above the mother's commands,
he has dethroned his wife in the daughter's eyes. The mother has a
certain status in the family, which demands respect. She should
never abdicate! She has a certain mandate that she must fulfill.
That is why a good father will never permit his son or daughter to
"bad mouth" their mother, and will take steps early in this
parenting to cease any sassing or hitting of the mother by the
young child. That is why a father should defend the mother's
position as "mother!" It is another reason why a husband should be
true to his wife and close any wandering eye or fanciful thought
to- ward another woman.
If you have not discovered it yet,
you will find that a mother must bear correction from her
daughter. Have you noticed? I don't say that this is right but it
is an observable fact. Perhaps it has something to do with them
both being female, with them both vying to be "top dog" in the
eyes of the husband/father and before their peers, I don't know. I
suspect it has something to do with "growing-up." Remember the
Chinese symbol for “trouble”? It is two women under the same roof?
It is not easy. I've noticed from personal experience and from
observing others that this corrective procedure begins early into
the "job" of "mothering" and never stops to some degree during the
daughter watches with critical eyes her mother’s behavior--her
dress, her walk, and her talk. This policing of a mother never
ends. It seems to have no age barrier. As a daughter moves into
puberty, she monitors her mother's every move, her every gesture,
and her every eye movement. It is as if the teen-age daughter has
switched places with her mother, and is the parent now. It seems
that almost everything a mother says brings a roll of a daughter's
eyes ceiling- ward, accompanied with the all too familiar
sarcastic whine, "Oh, Muutherrrrrr!"
MY BUILDING UP
Mothers should “build up”
daughters--not only when they are insecure little girls but also
when they are grown women and become mothers and wives themselves.
One of the most important forms of “building" womanhood into a
daughter is for the mother to be an example to her daughter “of”
and “as” a submissive wife. The mother should teach a daughter by
example to love her husband dearly. Remember that “love” is a
matter of one’s will! A daughter may read many books on marriage,
but will remember best what she saw in the home on the subject.
This is no easy assignment!
On the other hand, daughters have a
"building job” to do, too. Sometimes a daughter is the only person
who can "build up" her mother. A daughter can feed or deflate a
mother's ego like no one else is able to do. A daughter can show
appreciation to her mother as a member of the human race like no
other friend is able to do. Daughters have a powerful tool in
their hands called "love." They should use it on their mothers.
Have you noticed that there is
something paradoxical about this mother and daughter duo
relationship? There are times when our daughters worry about us
mothers, and then there are times when we mothers worry about our
daughters. There is a bond between mother and daughter that
fathers don't understand. Anymore than mothers understand that
certain "something" between fathers and daughters.
MY REVERSED ROLE
Then someday--that dreaded “some
day,” you daughters will become “mothers” to your mothers. You
will feed them, bathe them, dress them, and change their adult
diapers. Those mothers with sickly bodies and baby minds will cry
for you in the night hours. In their helplessness, they will need
you like you have never been needed before. Their frightened eyes,
like wounded animals, will search your faces and haunt your
memories. They will not know who you are. They will not know your
name. Your heart will break. You will weep and won't know why. You
will long for a "mama" to understand and hold your hand; but you
will have none. Your roles will be reversed! No longer will you
have a mother to share your happiness or your hopelessness. You
will be the "mother" of your mother. For your mother will be
trapped in the past, or caught in the silent cone of the infirmed.