|From Tragedy To Triumph|
The Story Of Two Mothers
By Reid Callaway
".......... A scroll of remembrance was written ........" (Mal 3:16 NIV)
I feel that God has caused "a scroll of remembrance to be written" in response to a Christian, inmate friend sending me a picture of he and his mother. He had gotten out only long enough to see her briefly. She died 33 days later. These are words from his letter..
" PS Brother Reid, Iíve enclosed this picture for itís laid upon my heart that you see it. There is something there for someone else to see....... I feel I must send it to you for reasons I canít explain...... it may be just for you, I donít know.........."
Inmate William Greenway was right, the picture meant a lot to me and brought back memories of my mother and all the love Iíve missed. My motherís name was Anne. Anne met Bill just before he went overseas in WW II. After the war was over they settled down to raise their family. Mama and Daddy had five children, Linda, Reid, John, Lamar and Sandy. There was also another brother that had died at birth between my brother John and I . Mother was strict on us and always tried to make us behave while loving us, dearly. Mama tried to impart wisdom to her children because the Word of God says in Proverbs 29:15 "The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother." With that many kids, there was never a dull moment in our house. Dad traveled and sold textiles and mother stayed home with the kids. We went to church every Sunday without fail. I believe, I was the closest to my mother, not that she loved me more than she did my sister or brothers but I was her oldest son and God enabled me, somehow, to feel her hurts. Now that I look back, the Lord was teaching me to listen and obey the Holy Spirit.
After my youngest brother Sandy was born and into the first grade, mother began to go through the "change of life". She had made her children her whole life. She never had to work. Dad didnít believe in that. He had Daisy to help mother after we moved to the country town of Greensboro, Georgia from the Atlanta suburb of Decatur in 1959. Daisy, our house-keeper, loved us like we were her own kids. Now that mothersí child bearing years were over, it effected her mind greatly. She began to cry a lot and blame Dad for everything. Dad didnít know what to do so he did nothing. He began to take a lot of verbal abuse. You know, like "You donít love me anymore." I was 15 years old at the time. My older sister Linda was 17 and she seemed to be in a conflict with Mama continually over teenage problems, like hair and clothes. My younger brother John was 10 and Lamar was 9. Those two boys fought like cats and dogs but that can be expected of close brothers. Sandy was 5 or 6. Dad provided for our needs and there was much love in our house. I donít know how my parents or anyone else for that matter, can effectively raise that many kids. It was done by the grace of God.
Mamaís mother, grandmother Anne Sue Rhodes, was a rather cold, reserved type of woman and not one to show her love outwardly. My mother was her only child. Mother couldnít talk or confide in her. When mother needed motherly love and understanding, grandmother Rhodes kept her distance. I know she must have misunderstood the situation at the time. Mother was backed into a corner in her own mind and grew worse. I began to support mother because of her obvious loneliness and the emotional pain. Not that I ever believed the things she said about Dad not loving her but because she needed someone on her side. I could feel her isolation and see the tears. God put it on my heart to come home every day from school and hug her neck and tell her I loved her. I knew nothing else to do except to tell her that I loved her. Mother was the last person you would ever expect to take their own life.
She became interested in our hunting rifles and wanted to learn to load them. We would learn latter from notes she wrote, that she had planed to take Dadís life that day too. He would come home for lunch and she would end both their lives. Mother had written a note giving the kids away to other family members. By the grace of God, Dad was late for lunch that day. People who know about these things told us later that when someone has a plan to kill themselves, that when the time comes - they go on schedule. When Dad didnít show, mother took a rifle, put it to her head and that was it. Daisy, mothers helper, was there that day in the next room, hearing the shot, she called the police. By being late that day, God had spared my father. Dad rode in the ambalance as they rushed mother to Emory in Atlanta. She died on the way. We were all brought from school and told the horrible news. Dad would arrive later to reassure us that things would be all right and we would carry-on without mother. Dad prayed and asked God for help. We all wept bitterly together, crushed by the news of mothersí death. My poor father was left without a wife and five kids to raise. Grandmother Callaway had been notified and was on her way to be with us.
As people began to arrive with the news, I will never forget Grady Brown. Grady was from a black family of 13 children. Dad had help to raise him like one of my brothers. He was weeping at the death of my mother. Whatever Dad taught us, he had taught Grady. Dad hadnít raised us to be racist or to see color. We were taught to judge a man by the content of his character and not by the color of his skin. Jesus taught in Matthew 7:12 "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Seven or eight years later my Dad married Barbara, a widower, who had three daughters of her own. Dad went on to give us another blessed sister named Susan.
My Godly Grandmother Callaway, had gotten the news of my mothers death at the SAE fraternity house at Emory University within the hour. Grandmother was a house mother for 50 or so guys. She told the SAEís that day, as she left, she would not be coming back. God had provided the most Godly mother(Grandmother) anyone could ever hope to have. She had raised four boys herself and was again ready for this job, by the grace of God.
This is a true story about the kindness, love and Christ-like life of grandmother Callaway. Grandmother bought a large colonial home in Greensboro as a boarding house, from her dear friend, Mrs. Kate Boswell. Kate asked her if an old Confederate soldier who was living there could stay on in the house until his death. Grandmother said sure. Judge, as they called him, lived and ate at the house to the good old age of 97. He staying at no cost, living in one of the many rooms long after grandmothers own sons had finished college. My uncle said he grew up thinking Judge was kin. She also put two boys through college who were not her own children. I could go on.......
She raised us like her own children with a God-fearing iron hand. She would maintain order with a 3 foot piece of stiff garden-hose. At 72, she could reach across the dinner table and swat you with it before you could blink your eyes. I will never forget one day coming in the house after I was grown (23 or so, Ha!) and laughing at her as she was getting on my younger brothers. She got so mad at me that she grabbed me by the ear and led me to a large rocking chair where she promptly sat me down and began hitting me all over with that garden-hose. You must get the picture, I was just coming out of the Army, had been to Viet Nam and was strong as an ox. I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever seen and I could not stop laughing. I sat there trying to cover up from all those dear old grandmother blows, as she blessed me out. I had been disrespectful to her and was required to sit there for about an hour. She loved me enough not to let me get away with that kind of disrespect in front of my brothers.
Grandmother made us go to church without fail every Sunday, a family tradition we had learned from our youth up. She poured the love of Jesus into us in deed and not word only. She loved Jesus with every bone in her body. Grandmother Callaway was a Presbyterian and never fully explained the relationship you needed to have with Jesus to see and enter the Kingdom of God. (John 3:3-5)
"But Lord, thank you for your servants like grandmother who let their light so shine before men that we can see you in them and give you all the Praise, Glory and Honor." She prayed for us daily and lived a life of service to others. I prayed once and asked God to let grandmother live 10 more years to inspire my young daughter Hope. God answered that prayer. She raised us all and even lived to influence Hope until she was 13 and my next daughter Sarah until she was one. She died full of years living to be 95 or so.
Mother, I loved and miss you with all my heart. You died before girls became important to me. I always wanted to ask you about girls and their ways but never got the chance. That has caused me some problems to this very day(smile) but I pray that I am learning. Mother, Iíll never really understand what happened back there and why but now that I am a born again child of God, I donít have to know for God was in control all along. One day He will show me and I will understand fully, how it brought Glory to His Name. I think I already do. Her name was Grandmother Frances Wilson Callaway.
Mother you brought us to a point in time and then turned us over to Grandmother Callaway. No kids on the face of this planet could have hoped to have had two mothers as great as these, but... we did. For you can see now Mama and Grandmother, I work for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Satan tried to destroy our family. But God has used you ladies to raise up sons to plunder the "strong manís house" which is behind the "gates of Hell" in jails and prisons. Godís eternal power is at work in your sons and daughters for the saving of many souls for eternity. This has resurrected an Callaway preaching heritage that I thought had been abandoned. To God be all the Glory! Now, God has blessed me with a Godly wife and four Godly girls who are themselves on the way to the Kingdom. I can not take them there, for they must all go alone. I love and pray for them daily as you two must have done for us. May God allow me to teach them to love Godís Word and to help save the Lost. Your love and the loving prayers of the saints in the Callaway Family throughout past generations have not been in vain. The Bible says, "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands." (Deu 7:9 NIV)
Thank you Mama, for loving me. I remember coming in the backdoor and hugging your neck and telling you how much I loved you the day before you left us. Mothers, I love and miss you both.
Warrior For Christ - by His grace,
Prison Evangelist Reid Callaway