Friday, May 22, 2009

Tribute to Mom - Eleanor Shepherd

On Sunday it will be exactly one month since she left us.  To honour her, I want to share with you my tribute to my Mother.  Throughout her 95 years, there were three loves that came to define the life of our mother.  My two brothers and I became aware of them while we were still quite young.  The most important love in her life was her love for God.  I have often told the story of how I came to understand that as a little girl.


My parents were the corps officers (pastors) of The Salvation Army Edmonton Temple corps (church).  Every Sunday night before the evening service (called the salvation meeting) in those days, the faithful gathered for prayer.  I think it must have been that there was nobody to look after us, so we accompanied our parents to the prayer meeting.  I recall one Sunday evening, hearing my mother pray with great fervency for one of the men who attended the services sometimes, but had not yet made a decision to accept Christ as the Lord of his life.  As I opened my eyes, somewhat mystified by the intensity in her voice, I was amazed to see the tears falling as my mother prayed for this individual.  I began to understand how important it was to her for people to enter into a relationship with the Lord, whom she obviously loved so much. 


My adult children told me a story that they heard from their Grandpa one evening, as the family began to gather around my mother, sensing the end was near.  They saw a faraway look in his eyes, and asked, “What are you thinking about, Grandpa?”


He responded with a story that dated back about seventy years.  He told of my Mother living in a little town called Hant’s Harbour on Trinity Bay in Newfoundland and how he lived in another town on the same bay called Winterton. They had begun going out together and he planned to travel that Saturday from Winterton to Hant’s Harbour along the coast in a sailing boat.  All day long Mom went from window to window, inside the house constantly glancing toward the head of the cove to see if the boat was in sight.  Then finally as the sail came into view, she beamed with joy at his arrival.  That was so much a picture of their relationship.  They loved being together and for sixty-six years they treasured their relationship as husband and wife.  There was never any doubt in the minds of us at their children that the one woman above all others that Dad wanted to be with was Mom and the one man around whom her world revolved was Dad.  What a wonderful security that provided for us as we grew up in their home.


The third great love of my Mom was her children and grandchildren.  Each of them had their own special place in her heart and in her prayers.  As I talked with my brothers after Mom’s passing about what I should choose to talk about in  my tribute to Mom, my brother, Donald shared with me an experience I understood so well.  He told me about spending some time with Mom last year when he was visiting here from France, where he lives.  He had an opportunity to ask her if she still spent time praying for his children.  When she assured him she did, he felt that it really did not matter what else she could do.  Her blindness and physical frailty did not define her.  It was her prayers that really counted. 


Not knowing about this conversation, about six months ago, I too was visiting my parents and had some time alone with Mom.  I was particularly concerned about my children at the time and I asked the same question, “Mom, do you still pray for my kids?”  Her assurance that she continued to do so was a great reassurance to me.  Their was no better way I knew for her to show her love for me and for my children. 


These were the three loves of my mother and she refused to allow the experiences of her life to diminish them.  When nearly thirty years ago, she lost her sight, she did not stop loving God.  She found new ways of cooperating with Him to help to bring His love to others with an enriched prayer life. 


One of the notes that I received this week told me a story I had never heard.  The person recounted to me how my mother was leading a women’s conference, just after she had received the news that nothing could be done to improve her sight and it was only going to deteriorate.  That morning the women sang,


“Pilot of souls, I trust Thy guiding hand;

Take thou the helm, and at they blest command,

I sail straight on until, the harbour won,

I reach the glory of they sweet well done. 

O man of Galilee!”


Holding tightly to His hand she walked, trusting Him when she could not see from that day until Friday, April 24th, when she opened her eyes and saw His loving face, leaving us with the assurance that our love for one another can be nourished from the same source.


Thanks, Mom, for your loves. 



Donald said...

You've said it all acurately, Eleanor. Thank you.
Bye the way, I forgot to tell you I too have a very early memory of a Sunday evening service, probably in Edmonton. I was sleeping on somebody's knees (goodness knows who's ??!). I can simply recall walking up and hearing the choir(songsters) singing "Oh how I love the Saviour's Name, the sweetest name on earth". Is it any wonder that I love peaceful and harmonious hymn singing ?
With my love,

Peter Black said...

What a precious and poignant tribute. It really warmed my heart, as did Donald's comment.
"Oh how I love the Saviour's name" with good Salvation Army songster harmony echoes down the corridors of time in my mind even now as I type,from my days in Glasgow.

Eleanor Shepherd said...

Thanks, Peter. I did not know that The Salvation Army was in your background.

David said...

A beautiful tribute sister! I didn't find this site until this evening. Lovely photo to accompany the same. I was just reading the next prayer letter when I came across the suggestion to check out this location. We are thinking of you and praying for you during yet another time of change in your life. May God continue to bless and be always with you and may you continue to use your talents in the future as in the past, in His service. Love, David.

sharon said...

You are relating the story of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31: 10-31.

Verse 28 sings from your lips and your heart.

May every Christian mother have such a lovely eulogy, Eleanor.
It is a blessing to read.

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