First person: Letters of Love — A Mother’s Day tribute

By Karen O. Allen

Special to The Alabama Baptist

This month my mother, Margaret O’Kelley, will be celebrating her 90th birthday. She still teaches Sunday School at the same church I grew up in at First Baptist Church, Sylacauga. Twenty-four years ago, I had an idea that resulted in the most memorable Mother’s Day gift I ever gave my mother. It cost me nothing but she still talks about it to this day.

I decided the best way to tell my mother how much I appreciated and loved her was to show her. Literally. Her influence helped shape me into who I was and for that, I was grateful. I determined it would be memorable to visit some of the places that molded my life. While visiting each place, I would present a letter to explain her impact, then and now, regarding that particular location.

I told her to reserve the entire day. No clues were given. The day came. Anticipation was high.

Special journey

I invited her to sit at the piano bench in the living room. We opened my first letter. I read about how the bench was where I recalled my youngest childhood memory — the place where she taught me how to write my name. With a last name like O’Kelley, this was no easy task!

The next location required getting in the car. I drove a short distance, stopping in front of an old house with a wraparound porch. Mother commented that it was the house where my first piano teacher gave me lessons. Exactly! I presented my second letter describing how music had become an integral part of my life. I reminded her how I had begged to take piano lessons until she finally relented, wondering where the money would come from and hoping I was not too young. We lingered as we sat in the car laughing and weeping.

The next stop was the basement of my hometown church. This was where new believers met to learn about the doctrines of the Baptist faith. I soaked in every word although I’m not sure how much I understood at seven years old. I presented a third letter to thank her and Daddy for being Christian role models and for shaping me with godly character. We sat in the hard wooden chairs for an hour talking about my teenage years, youth retreats, Sunday School teachers and more. Our day continued with three more letters at various places and ended back at home.

Truly, it had been a “Mother’s” Day — a day set aside to revere the mother God chose for me.

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