A Tribute to Gertrude Sanborn
Selling Author of With Tears in
My Heart: Poetic Meditations of a Christian Woman
"Reflections of a Daughter"
by Yvonne S. Waite
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.
dresser 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.
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.
one 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
mother’s 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
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
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.
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
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.
mother 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!
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."
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.
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.
about 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.
Mother, 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.
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?
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!
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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 whole relationship.
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,
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!
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.
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.
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.
With Tears in My Heart
400 Poetic Meditations of a Christian Woman
Original Poems With Complementing Scripture
Gertrude Grace Sanborn
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