Sunday, February 16, 2014

My Mother’s Eyes

When I was a singer in the Cherub Choir at Lansdowne Methodist Church in 1960 we sang an anthem on Mother’s Day that went something like this:  “My mother’s eyes are watchful eyes that never fail to see where she may find some happiness or gain some good for me.”  That was my mother, the one with the watchful eyes.  For Janie Mae MacLeod Olver family was everything and her vigilant eyes were always looking for ways to bless her family.  God was the only thing more important to Mom than her family.   

Mom graduated third in her high school class academically but she never wanted to go to college or have a career.  Her goal in life was to raise a family!  She married at the age of 19 and only worked outside of the home in order to earn money to help with bills and see that my sister and I went to college.  Her career as a school secretary was ideal for a mother with small children who attended the same school.  It was handy to have mother downstairs in the school office if you ran out of lunch money or got sick.  We would walk home together when there was an early dismissal because of snow.  The day I graduated from college she quit her job working as a school secretary.  Before she retired she coaxed the principal she worked for into putting in a good word for both of her daughters when they were applying for teaching positions in the Baltimore County Public School system.  We were both hired.   

Mom spent the next 10 years of her life taking care of her aging parents and Dad’s aging siblings and then came the grand-children.  Never was there a grandmother like my mother.  She spent many, many days watching the children and taking them on exciting trips and buying toys and clothes.  She was always looking with her blue eyes for things that they would enjoy reading and lavished on them countless interesting picture books.

Mom also loved to take photographs and her camera was like a second set of eyes for her.  Photography was her life-long hobby and passion.  She had over 100 picture albums that documented the events of our family life with meticulous detail.  Each photo was carefully placed on magnetic plastic pages and decorated with stickers and flowers.  Mom was a perfectionist and we were used to posing for pictures several times in order to get the lighting and positioning just right.  Mom was never in the pictures much herself, but her watchful eyes looked at them with pride and every birthday and holiday gathering was not complete without the ceremonious picture-taking of the family sitting around the table together. 

With her eyes she always made sure that my skirts were not too short, that my hair was parted straight down the middle, that homework was done right, that kitchen counters were clean, and that the crafts for her Sunday School class were perfectly arranged in little boxes.  She also could see when I was sad and encouraged me, stayed up all night watching me when I was sick, watched me practice the organ so that I could play for the worship service at church at the age of 14, and she cheered me on at every school play or ministerial accomplishment.

Mom loved family history and wrote detailed genealogies of both sides of the family.  She knew more than most of our Mormon cousins about our interesting and occasionally colorful relatives from the past.  As I leafed through her genealogy books full of pictures and stories of these forefathers and mothers I could see her eyes telling their stories of their hardship and triumph. 

Once I talked her into giving a speech at one of my churches about our family history for a Woman’s Day tea party.  Although she was an extreme introvert and she would have rather died than stand up and speak in public, she did it.  She did it to make me happy and the talk was illustrated with colorful pictures and amusing antidotes.  Mom was a star that day with everyone was looking at her for a change!

Mom loved Dad.  They were soul-mates for life. Married for 65 happy years!  She kept Dad organized.  Mom arranged for all the family vacations and details of administrative life around the house.  Together they raised kids, cats, and one special Boston Terrier named Dolly.  In retirement they took quite a few bus trips together to vacation resorts and she brought her camera along, taking pictures at every stop and fashioning them into a special trip album when they got home.   Together they grew older and moved to Charlestown Senior Living Community and enjoyed retirement years with less house-keeping responsibilities and more time to take pictures, help out with grandchildren and volunteer at church. 

Mom’s two eyes grieved over my one eye.  I was born with micro-opthalmia.  My left eye did not develop normally for some unknown reason and I could not see out of that eye.  Mom noticed that the minute I was born and told the doctor in the delivery room that there was a problem.  They did not believe her at first but later the doctor came into her room with a sad face and told her that her watchful eye had been right, her baby was blind in her left eye.   He said she should be happy because normally babies like me were totally blind and I had one good eye.  Mom never took any pictures of me when I was a baby.  She was afraid that those old-fashioned flash bulbs on her Brownie camera would hurt my sighted eye.   Later Mom came to “see” that this one eye was my calling in life for disability ministry and God had planned it all along for good.  It takes the eyes of faith to see that kind of thing.  Mom had that kind of vision as well, the eyes that see God’s hand at work in all things, even during the disappointments of life.  

Mom saw God in the beauty of nature and especially and at the dawn of a new day.  She used to take my sister and me to see the sunrise over the ocean during our seaside vacations when we were children.  Her favorite hymn: “Still, Still with Thee” by Harriet Beecher Stowe, speaks of a radiant purple morning sun and the” sweet consciousness” of being with the Lord.  The last verse reminds me of Mom’s transition into life eternal:

“So shall it be at last, in that bright morning when the soul waketh and life’s shadows flee; Oh in that hour, fairer than daylight’s dawning, shall rise the glorious thought I am with Thee.”  I have no doubt that Mom is seeing that celestial sunrise with her blue eyes in heaven at this very moment.   


  1. She done good. It's very moving to read your tribute. Blessings to you!

  2. What a beautiful reflection on the life of your mother. I am so very sorry for your loss.