A Tribute to Our Mother, Mary Madeline Jones Howard

A Tribute to Our Mother
Mary Madeline (Jones) Howard
Daughter of Dexter & Lottie Jones
May 17, 1922 – May 18, 1992

If we were never thirsty, we would never know the satisfaction of a cool drink of water…if we never experienced sickness, we would not know the blessedness of good health…and if we never experienced the pains of death then we could not know the joy of living. We celebrate the life of our Mom because she enjoyed life. She knew the hard times and she knew the good times. She tasted the bitterness of death and the sweetness of love. She accepted the challenges of life with her chin up and her shoulders squared, with determination that the world would be a better place because she had passed through. You knew her as a teacher, as a friend, a co-worker, a saint, a prayer warrior, a sister…I knew her as all of these and I called her “Mother.”

Our home was a happy home. We never realized that we didn’t have much because Mom always found a way to provide the things we needed and even some of the things we wanted. She always found a way to entertain us. When we didn’t have money for vacations, Mom would hook up the water hose and spray us as we ran and frolicked in the yard. She built tents for us out of blankets stretched over the clothes line or over chairs if it was a rainy day. When there was no money for toy guns or cars like the neighbor kids had, Mom made toys for us. She ruined Dad’s power saw cutting out paddle boats for us to float in the bathtub. She used empty wooden spools to make self-propelled cars for us. We were the envy of the neighborhood with our customized rubber guns with real ammunition made from circles of old bicycle inner tubes. There was no argument from the “enemy”. He knew he had been hit because he felt the snap of the strip of inner tube. So all the kids in the neighborhood placed their order for rubber guns and got them.

Mother was concerned about good nutrition for her family. Since there never seemed to be enough money to buy the groceries for the “balanced diet” she wanted us to have, she was always looking for a supplement. Regina, Gary, Marilyn and I will always remember the cod liver oil. A teaspoon a day would take care of any lack of nutrients. Try it some time. Not even a spoonful of sugar could help that medicine go down. It’s not good in orange juice either. We suffered through the cod liver oil treatment for several weeks and it seemed that she had a limitless supply. Of course, we protested loud and long each morning when it was time for our daily dose. We finally persuaded Mom and Dad that if it’s good for us then it must surely be good for them too. So they agreed to take a daily dose with us. I don’t really know what happened, but Mom and Dad should have tried it sooner, because after one dose for them that bottle of cod liver oil mysteriously disappeared and we suddenly had all the nutrition we needed. Of course we were too smart to ask what happened to it. We just went around acting very healthy.

Mom daily prepared family meals. We always sat down together and no ate until every one was present. There was no TV and the radio was not turned on. Meal time was family time and we talked. It didn’t matter that she only had 2 glasses that matched. She just set those jelly jars and peanut butter jars on the table along with the cracked, chipped plates she had accumulated and the mismatched odds and ends of silver ware picked up at a rummage sale(that’s garage sale to the younger folks.). She always set the table-knife and spoon on the right side and the fork on the left, the glass of water to the upper right. She set out the bowls of gravy, mashed potatoes and peas and a platter of fried chicken and we were ready to eat—but only after we offered thanks. Dad always got the largest piece of chicken. After all, she said, “He works hard to provide for us.”

Mom finally got her matched set of glasses—real stem ware, with a patter of leaves etched in silver around the rim. They came straight from the large box of Gain laundry soap. Of course as much laundry as we had to do, it didn’t take long for her to accumulate a matching set of 37 glasses. That was before any of them were broken as we did the dishes. Finally, we could use the fruit jars for their intended purpose—to can summer fruits and vegetables for “when the snow flies.” We would go to Bixby and pick green beans, peas, tomatoes, corn and okra by the bushels. We would go to Porter and pick peaches and apples. You name it, we picked it. Then we went home and washed, peeled, cooked and canned.

Mom wasn’t able to get the education she wanted, but she was determined that her kids were going to have the best she could provide. We did well in school because she accepted nothing less. It didn’t take a special government study or some wise educator to tell her that reading was important. She just seemed to sense what was right when it came to learning. Now that I think about it, Mom was really our first teacher and she continued to teach us important facts about living even to her final week on this earth. We walked regularly to the library, pulling our wagon loaded with books so we could practice reading. I guess we read every book that library had to offer. Mom always figured out a way to buy every book the book salesmen offered. When they came to our door it was almost a sure sale. They just had to say “book” and Mom said “yes”. We ended up with five or six sets of encyclopedias, volumes of best loved literature, How-to books, science books, biographies, etc. And we ready them all, including the encyclopedias.

Mother was even more interested that we learn the things of God. It was very important to her that we attend Sunday School regularly. When we went on vacation we always found a Sunday School to attend even though it might not be of our faith. Mom wanted us to learn the Bible. Many times she would have me sit by the ironing board while she was ironing and have me quote Bible verses for her so that I could win the memorization contest for Sunday School. One of us seemed to always win the contest.

Even though we did not have the nicest things—our furniture was second-hand from the auction—Mom insisted that we take care of what we had. We knew better than to put our feet on the worn, tattered couch or to jump on the bed. Mom wanted us to make a good impression on people when we went to visit so she spent many hours telling us how to act. She spent a lot of time teaching Regina how to walk properly and how to sit properly. She would have Regina stand against the wall so that her back was straight and her chin up. Then she placed a book on her head and had her practice walking correctly. “Hold your stomach in, Regina. Tuck your buttocks in more.” Finally, frustrated with all of the hard work, Regina responded with, “When do I get to breathe?”

Mom taught us how to treat people with respect and common courtesies. She showed us by example, that all people are God’s children and that even the most unlovely and unlovable deserve a kind word and a pat on the back.

Mom had her favorites—her favorite song leader was Doug. Her favorite trio was Regina, Doug and Marilyn and her favorite preacher was Gary. She never said, but I’m sure she had her favorite usher too. Her favorite grandchild just happened to be which ever one she was with at the time. And she loved to entertain them. Even when she was too weak to get out of bed, she entertained them by removing her dentures and touching her nose and chin together. During the time of Mom’s leaving us she often would ask us to sing. She never failed to ask us to sing a song for the children. Being sick was one of my favorite times. For it was then that I received Mom’s undivided attention. Mom would stop the Meadow Gold delivery truck and buy a quart of ice cream just for me. I didn’t even have to share with the other kids. I got a bottle of ginger ale and chicken noodle soup served on a tray while I lay in Mother’s bed, propped up with several pillows. What luxury!

Well, I could tell you about the parties she planned and the dozens and dozens of tacos she prepared for us and our friends. We always had room for one more. I could tell you about her Sunday School class where each student was special and felt more loved than any other member of her class. I could talk about her work in the clothing room where she and Sis. Bass sorted, washed, and mended used clothing to ship to the missionaries. We could never forget the hours she spent standing over a vat of hot grease frying doughnuts to sell to help support the church school. Oh yes, don’t for the peanut brittle. From teaching Sunday School on Sunday morning to sweeping the church on Saturday afternoon, Mom gave her best to every job she undertook. Church was the center of all our activities. It was our reason for living.

Mom also gave her best to her family. She was always busy—busy working to make our lives better. But in her “busyness” she always had time to love and to play, to build a snowman, to hunt four-leaf clovers and make flower chains. To plan a picnic in the backyard or to plant a garden. Mom was not too busy to make special memories for us. And we will always remember the wonderful times. Matthew 7:20 says: “…by their fruits ye shall know them.” And you just need to look at her family today to see the fruits of her labor. She has six children, two sons-in-law, three daughters-in-law, and eight grandchildren who love God and whose desire it is to live for Him. She built a haven of love for her husband and children and her influence will live on and on. The light of her life has not gone out. No, it has not even flickered. Daniel 12:3 states: “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament: and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” Mother’s light is much more than a small flame. It is a beacon of hope shining for everything that is just and good and pure and right. Mother has truly become a “star” in our lives and her influence will shine on and on through the lives of her children and grandchildren and for generations to come if the LORD should tarry His coming. She has created a spark of light in each of us.

By: Douglas Howard (at the passing of our Mom)
The Children of Madeline: Regina, Gary, Douglas, Marilyn, Elizabeth and Samuel