In my last column I wrote about key experiences that helped define my life and involved giving, receiving, risking and saving. I learned about charity at an early age through my mother's generosity and service; I experienced charity when we were helped following a flash flood and the loss of our home and business. I witnessed my father's courage when he saved a man's life, and my mother's faith as she prayed throughout that long and terrifying night.
Now, in this column, I want to give you the back story and the rest of the story: the defining choices that brought us to that life-changing and saving experience.
Long before I was born, my parents lived in a one-bedroom cabin with their first-born, my brother Gregg. This cabin was so small that Gregg slept on the porch. My father's chemical and equipment business in this agricultural community was adjacent to this cabin. After a few years of hard work, they purchased a big house next door. My father planned to rent the big house, and told my mother that they would continue to stay in the cabin. Then he left on a business trip across the state of South Dakota.
While he was away, my mother packed up their belongings, which wasn't much, and had Gregg take it in his little red wagon to the big house next door. Trip after trip he toted towels, clothing, dishes and more. Then she hired a couple of men to move the few pieces of heavy furniture that remained. After they settled into the big house, Mom waited for my dad to return, not certain how he would react to this surprise.
Exhausted from the long trip away from home, needless to say, my father
was shocked to see his wife and son had moved out of the cabin. When he found them in the big house next door, it was unexpected for many reasons. This was around the late '40s when women were not so independent. His reaction demonstrates to me the greatest testimony of his core character.
You see, he was big, tough and gruff. He was a man of few words, but very strong convictions. He was a hunter, a hard-working businessman, a disciplinarian, and a pillar of principles including honesty and integrity. My mom was always lady-like, polite and smart. It was so important to her that their son would have a safe and warm bedroom, that she made this move without her husband. She waited quietly that night as he came in the door of the big house.
He looked at her, he looked around, and then he said, "This house is too big for us. We hardly have any furniture. It looks empty." Then he smiled at my mom with that twinkle in his eye and said, "I guess we'll just have to fill it up with children."
Over time, they had five more children together. They were married 54 years before he passed on Nov. 11, 2002.
It was in this home all six of us grew up. In this big house, we survived the flash flood that destroyed most of the houses around us and completely submerged the little cabin. The big house had a basement, so the first floor was elevated. Had they stayed in the cabin, they would not likely have survived the flood that took more than 300 lives in our small community. Had they been in the one-bedroom cabin, I would not likely have been born since I'm the fifth of six children.
My mother is 92 now, and I just learned about this story in a recent conversation with her. She's beginning to share more of these stories with me, and I am grateful that her mind and her memory are so sharp. Through their choices, I'm learning about my mother's determination and my father's grace. She had a feminine but independent character, and he had a tough but loving nature. The love they had for each other and for their children was profoundly evident. I consider this a tremendous blessing. And having my mother this long so I can discover these stories is a treasured gift.
My challenge to you is to pay particular attention to the threads that weave through your life and connect you with others. You'll find glimpses of extraordinary love, courage and faith in these defining moments that have shaped your journey. Then, be mindful of the ways your choices are helping to define your life and how you are making a difference in the lives of others.
Becky Canesse, CEO of Just for Girls, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, dear readers, the writers of 'I am woman, hear me write' are taking a holiday. The column will resume Jan. 11, 2015. Happy New Year!