(Sweeter As the Years Go By)

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My Mother's PictureMy mother's name was Veronica. She was the sweetest person I have ever known. She could have been a doctor, but fate did not allow it to happen. When she was young, a missionary in the island recognized her intelligence and potential. He asked permission from my grandmother to send her to the United States to be educated there, all paid for. But my grandmother wouldn't allow it. She would not let her go, and that was final. In school, she was the brightest, and sometimes she was asked to help children twice her age and size with their lessons.

If there was an important occasion scheduled and important dignitaries were to be present, my mother would be asked by her teacher to do some recitations for these VIPs. When the important event came, my mother, who was so tiny and hard to be seen amidst a throng of people, would be lifted up on a table and she would do her recitations there. She told us that she would recite her pieces in the most fanciest English she could muster mimicking the 'American accent, intonation, and diction' of her American instructor. She used facial expressions, gestures and other body language when appropriate. After her recitation, the whole place exploded with applause.

Even though my mother did not finish school, she saw to it that she educated herself for usefulness in this world, and this she did very well.

Before my mother met and married my dad, she was a business woman who owned and operated a general store in Umatac, a village located at the southern tip of the island. She was also a school teacher in the public school system teaching weaving and embroidery. But for the most part, my mother was an herbalist. I couldn't understand why she did not get out of the care-giving occupation because in her younger years, she was enrolled in a nursing program, but got kicked out of the program when a patient she was taking care of vomited, and my mother vomited on top of her.

As an herbalist, my mother would make herb concoction for the people in the island. Those who were sick were made well. It was amazing to hear the testimonies of the people concerning healing from my mother's natural herbs. However, my siblings and I did not appreciate my mother's special talent. I guess we just took it for granted. Even when we were older, no one ever thought of recording the things my mother did--the herb remedies she made that people all over the island flocked to our place to get. Little did I realize that in my older years I would become interested in herbs and other natural remedies. I deeply regret not showing an interest while my mother was alive in the natural remedies that she valued and practiced.

My mother was a practicing masseuse. She didn't go to any massage school to learn different techniques because they weren't any, but she knew exactly what to do to melt away the muscle tightness of the people. As a result, the people felt good, they felt relaxed, and the blood circulation started flowing, enhancing health.

Not only was my mother blessed with natural healing talents, she had a knack for counseling troubled people who came to her for help. She was sensitive to their needs and seemed to have divine wisdom in giving the needed advice, counsel, and exhortations. It seems to me that our house was always filled with people. It was like a medical and psychiatric clinic of sorts. My Mother was super cautious about germs and contamination on her family, and she routinely scrubbed and disinfected the whole house. Sometimes we were told to stay in our rooms and not come out because a patient with tuberculosis or other infectious disease was present. Even if close relatives with infectious diseases (tuberculosis was common then) came to visit us, we were not allowed to come out and visit with them. Couldn't understand, then, why all my life I always came up with positive results when I took tuberculin tests for job placements. Medical personnel explained that this didn't mean anything as long as I took care of myself and stayed healthy.

Did my Mom charge an exorbitant price for her services? Not at all. As a matter of fact she didn't charge anything. The people, however, managed to pay her in other ways. For example, they would bring groceries, produce from the garden, clothes, sometimes they would bring cookies, candies, and bubble gums for us kids. We enjoyed this part which explained the reason for our tooth woes later on. Other times they would roll up dollar bills and leave them at places conspicuous enough to be found even by us kids.

My mother was talented in other areas as well. She had the most beautiful, clear soprano voice you could ever hear. She had no training whatsoever and sometimes I wondered had she received voice training, she could have been a professional singer. She played the piano and taught her children to appreciate music. All her children play some kind of musical instruments. Daniel played the violin in his high school orchestra, David played the trumpet, the girls all played the piano, Joseph played piano and trumpet. Currently, he goes to a nursing home in the Pasadena area and plays the keyboard for the folk there.

Come to think of it, my Uncle Frank (my mother's brother) played the piano, guitar and violin. He and mother would plan and conduct drama-type programs for their church.

At one time, she and Uncle Frank put on a skit. My uncle, who was younger than my mother, was a young man who joined the Navy. He had his sea bag, kissed his mother good-bye and left home. He was going to see the world, and he was deliriously excited. The mother, however, did not share in the excitement. She was sad to see her only son leave home.

After a while, this sheltered young man was lured out into the world by his Navy buddies. He became one who loved the world and the things of the world, being involved with wine, women, song, and who knows what else. His letters home, which once were regular, were now few in coming. Then, they stopped altogether.

Soon, she received a letter from the captain of the ship her son was in. The content of the letter was not good. Her son had gotten himself in trouble and had not reported for duty. It had been several days since they last saw him and they suspected that he was drinking heavily. They offered their condolences.

The mother was beside herself as to what was happening to her dear son. Hadn't she raised him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Hadn't she spent quality time with him? She looked back when he was a little lad. Oh, he was a sweet and loving little boy, a very promising little fellow, always wanting to help her. He was her pride and joy no doubt. She remembered how he had picked bouquets of beautiful lavender aboubon alalag and given them to her as a token of his love. He was just a little fellow, yet he knew mamma would love those beautiful flowers. Tears started to flow down her cheeks as she reminisced of those olden days. They were a happy family, she and her boy.

Slowly, she walked over to the table by the window and placed the captain's letter on it. Even though she was brokenhearted over the waywardness of her son as the letter reported, he was still her son, and nothing could stop her from loving him dearly. Her heart was breaking as she turned to God for solace and comfort. She had been praying most earnestly for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction upon her wayward boy--that somehow he would, like the prodigal son, turn from his evil ways and come home to her and to God. With a heavy heart and a sad countenance, she picked up the captain's letter and held it close to her heart. Then looking out the window with tears glistening in the lamp light, she, in her clear soprano voice, sang out plaintively: 'Where is My Boy Tonight?'

Where is my wandering boy tonight--
The boy of my tenderest care,
The boy that was once my joy and light,
The boy of my love and prayer.

O where is my boy tonight?
O where is my boy tonight?
My heart o'erflows,
For I love him he knows;
O where is my boy tonight?

Once he was pure as morning dew,
As he knelt at his mother's knee;
No face was so bright, no heart more true,
And none was so sweet as he.

O where is my boy tonight?
O where is my boy tonight?
My heart o'erflows,
For I love him he knows;
O where is my boy tonight?

O could I see you now, my boy,
As fair as in olden time,
When prattle and smile made home a joy,
And life was a merry chime.

O where is my boy tonight?
O where is my boy tonight?
My heart o'erflows,
For I love him he knows;
O where is my boy tonight?

Go for my wandering boy tonight;
Go search for him where you will;
But bring him to me with all his blight,
And tell him I love him still.

O where is my boy tonight?
O where is my boy tonight?
My heart o'erflows,
For I love him he knows;
O where is my boy tonight?

At the end of her rendition, not a dry eye was found in the audience that night. To hear the music of Where Is My Boy Tonight, click on the left button; to stop click on the right button.

~ ~ ~

In spite of the business of caring for people in their sickness, my mother took time out to acquaint us with our Heavenly Father. She read the Bible to us and told us Bible stories. I remember having her re-tell stories of David and Goliath, Daniel in the Lion's Den, Joseph--sold as a slave by his brothers, and many others. She was a gifted story teller.

In Guam, there was a custom when someone died, that people would come to the home of the family for an all-night mourning vigil where intermittently the Rosary was recited. In between the Rosary, people would gather round my mother to hear stories from her.

Oh, how I wish to have recorded the stories my Mother had told then and stories about her own life growing up and living in the homes of Baptist missionaries at different times in her young life. A good part of her education was obtained this way. There were Mrs. Logan, Mrs. Jenkins, Mrs. Lottrell, Dr. Godfrey, his wife Veronica, whose name my Mother was named after. These were common names in our household.

On Saturday mornings, Mom would spend hours talking with Dad about her life staying with these missionaries. It was like she went on an incredible journey full of exciting adventures, and at the end of the journey she had amassed great treasures of wisdom and knowledge like diamonds, rubies, and pearls. Dad would be sitting there spellbound. It was incredible all the things she had to say about these noble people who left the comforts of their homes in the United States to live with us in Guam, a speck of an island somewhere out in the vast Pacific Ocean, mosquito-infested, humid, hot and unbearable at times. But they had a calling; they had a mission, and they accomplished it to the glory of God. Little did these missionaries know of the far-reaching effect of their teaching and influence for they have continued to span and ripple through time and into eternity.

My mother was so influenced by the principles outlined in the Word of God. She even named us kids after Bible characters. While most children in Guam had beautiful Spanish names like Margarita, Rosa, Lourdes, Antonio, Miquel, etc., we were named Daniel,    David,    Ruth,  Lydia,    Joseph,    Esther,    and Elizabeth.

Guam was predominantly Catholic, and I believe still is today. I think that the Catholic people today are more open-minded about Protestantism than they were back then when I was growing up. Back then, we were the only Protestant family in the village of Mangilao. This was not a very pleasant time for me. I remember a school cafeteria proprietress pulling me aside and telling me that my father, who converted from Catholicism to Protestantism when he married my mother, would go to hell together with his family. I was just a little girl, and I didn't know what to think or say. I only knew that whatever my father did, this woman did not like.

In the class room at the end of the session, the rest of the kids stayed for parochial school conducted by the local priest, while my siblings and I were sent home early. We were different obviously. I remember not wanting to be different from the other kids. But I did not want to stay and attend parochial school either. While the kids loved the priest and kissed his hand, I was afraid of him all clad in his long, flowing, white priestly robe.

I am indebted to my mother for giving us a knowledge of God and instilling in us good ethics and moral values. The one thing that stands out clearly and vividly in my mind about my mother was her character. She reflected the character of her Saviour.

How did she do it? I didn't realize it so much back then, but now I do. She spent time with God. It seems to me that no matter what hour of the night or early morning I woke up, she was up reading her Bible and/or praying. I honestly don't remember ever seeing her sleep at all. Her prayers were long and earnest. Sometimes I would be half awake, hear her pray, then I would drift off to dreamland; after a while when I would come back to earth and reality and my bedroom, I could still hear my mother praying in the next room. Why, she hadn't finished her prayer! I'm sure that she was praying for us--her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Or, maybe she was just having a pleasant conversation with God. Many times I got upset and told her to go to sleep because if she got sick who would take care of her? Me! But, she would not listen to me. She would not argue with me either. It was hard to argue with someone who wouldn't. She would just continue reading her Bible, praying, arranging her things, her books, etc.

Very early one morning I heard someone in her room singing "Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow" in a strange deep, bass-like voice. I went to investigate. It was my mother, the high soprano singer, who was singing bass. I asked Why the bass voice?  She said she just woke up from a dream where she was with myriads of angels who were singing with deep, resonant bass voices, and she wanted to sound like them.

Today, if I hear the hymn, "If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again", I cry and cry for now I wish to not have gotten upset with her about being up all the time, but instead joined her in the quest for an intimate relationship with God. Had I done that I would have been a better and stronger Christian at that point in my life.

The secret of having a beautiful Christian character is spending quality time with God. My Mother spent quality time alone with her Lord--she was in the audience chamber of her King. These moments were sacred and precious. Oh, she was the most sweet, patient, loving and kind person you would ever want to meet. She was helpful to everyone even to people she did not know. She was friendly and outgoing. She was calm and collected no matter what the situation was. All these Christ-like attributes she manifested throughout her life and especially more so during her last years. They say that your true colors come out when you are in pain. I believe this to be true. My Mother proved it. Amidst the pain and suffering that she was going through, no complaint or fretfulness was ever voiced or manifested.

Years before my mother passed away, she was a nominee for the Woman of the Year award in Guam. When she passed away in San Diego in 1987, there were a lot of people who attended the funeral. She had lots of friends in Guam who would have loved to attend her services. I know that my Mother is greatly missed, not only by her family, but all the people who were helped by her. To me, my mother was the greatest woman in the world because she was a Christian in heart, and her memories to me have become sweeter as the years go by.

Sweeter As the Years Go By

Of Jesus' love that sought me,
When I was lost in sin;
Of wondrous grace that bro't me
Back to His fold again;
Of heights and depths of mercy,
Far deeper than the sea,
And higher than the heavens,
My theme shall ever be.

Sweeter as the years go by,
Sweeter as the years go by;
Richer, fuller, deeper, Jesus' love is sweeter,
Sweeter as the years go by.

He trod in old Judea
Life's pathway long ago;
The people thronged about Him,
His saving grace to know;
He healed the broken hearted,
And caused the blind to see;
And still His great heart yearneth
In love for even me.

'Twas wondrous love which led Him
For us to suffer loss
To bear without a murmur,
The anguish of the cross;
With saints redeemed in glory,
Let us our voices raise,
Till heav'n and earth re-echo
With our Redeemer's praise.

--Lelia N. Morris

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Sweeter As the Years Go By Midi
Where Is My Boy Tonight? Midi
(Where Is My Boy Tonight Midi is used by permission
from Grandpa Schober)