Leadership · MISSIONS · Evangelism

From Hard Times to "Softly and Tenderly"

I will never hear the old hymn “Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is Calling” without thinking of my mother. It was among her favorite hymns and songs. Often she was humming the hymn while working around the house or while reading her Bible. In her earlier days, she and my father would sing in quartets at the church, and many times that hymn was one of the selections.

My mother’s life was lived in two rather simple chapters, which covered more than eight decades through the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. The first chapter could be called “Hard Times.” Mother was born two years before the stock market crash in 1929. She and her family lived on a farm and struggled to make a go of it during arguably the worst economic times in the history of our country.

My mother lost her mother when she was nine years old. It was a devastating loss for a large family during the Great Depression. It was especially problematic for my mother, who became one of the surrogate mother figures for her newborn sister. For the next eight years or more, Mother sought to balance doing housework, going to school and adjusting to a stepmother, who entered the picture later.
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entered World War II, life took on another challenge for everyone, including my mother. She said goodbye to my Dad, who would return from the war and marry her. That marriage took place in 1945 at the end of the war.

Following the war, like many parents Mother and Dad sought to build a better life for their families. Eventually, they moved to Birmingham and joined the working class part of society seeking to be good parents and faithful Christians. This meant hard work by both of them and active church involvement.

In 1969, my father died suddenly following surgery. This was among the hardest of times for my mother and for me. At this point, I was a freshman at Samford, trying my best to make it financially and academically, and Mother was a widow in her early forties. We both were seeking to do our best to keep our spirits up and to look to the future with a sense of hope.

Three years following my father’s death, my mother married again. This led to the “Good Times” chapter of her life. She and her new husband, Audie, enjoyed 36 good years of marriage. They traveled together and worked together, and they experienced a good life. I was happy for her and I was grateful to the Lord that she had found someone with whom she could spend the rest of her life. They were a happy couple, and it brought to me a sense of gratitude and joy that their lives blended so well together.

A month ago, mother fell and broke her hip. She had been slowing down for sometime, but that fall changed her life. Just days later, she developed pneumonia, and then she was placed in the Intensive Care Unit. Audie stood by her bedside talking to her and encouraging her to get better. By now, mother had been placed on a ventilator and a feeding tube. Then on June 6 her heart couldn’t take the challenge of functioning any longer and she passed away.

Roger Willmore, our convention president, pastoral leader and friend to the family led in the graveside services on the following Monday. He offered words of comfort from God’s Word and mentioned several things about mother, which brought encouragement to the family.

First, mother had a nickname, often used by Audie. It was “Mickey Mouse.” Audie would call her “Mickey” or “Mouse” all the time. She earned that sweet nickname years ago. When Noelle, my oldest daughter, was little, she came to Audie and said, “Let’s go call Granny ‘Mickey Mouse’.” The name stuck with her, and Audie used it lovingly from that point to the end of her life.

Among other salient observations Roger made was the fondness mother had for the hymn, “Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is Calling.” As he spoke concerning her love for the hymn, I could see my mother in her younger years singing in church. I could also visualize her the last time I spoke to her in the hospital. She had her Bible in her lap reading the New Testament when I entered the room. She smiled at me, and we talked a few minutes before she took a nap. At about nine o’clock on Friday, June 6 (the anniversary of D-Day in WW II) mother heard Jesus softly and tenderly calling her home. Mary Lois Argo went to be with Jesus.

This was a life lived in two major chapters. With faith in her Lord, she was able to endure the hard times and enjoy the good times.

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