I Remember Mother   1 comment

Above:  John Dodson Taylor, Jr., and Nell Barrett Taylor, Summerville, Georgia, Winter 1960

Image Source = Gene McGinnis, Summerville, Georgia


FEBRUARY 2, 1915-MAY 20, 2001


A Eulogy in Remembrance of

Nell Fox Barrett Taylor

Delivered by One of Her Sons

Reverend John Dodson (Jack) Taylor, III


Summerville Presbyterian Church

May 22, 2001

2:oo P.M.


I speak now of loving, laughing, and weeping.  I speak now of mourning and dancing.  I speak of working, creating, and giving.  I speak, finally, of rest.  Thus I speak of life, and of making the difference in life that Almighty God has put us here to make.  This is about the seasons of our lives and specifically about the life of Nell Fox Barrett Taylor, Randy’s and my mother.

Yet I speak not only of Mother, for I am compelled to speak of the man she loved as husband and father for over thirty-nine years.  He was the man who shared the seasons of that life with her.  Nell Taylor would tell you in a heartbeat that John Dodson Taylor, Jr., was her man, the only man she had ever loved.  He was her husband and the father of her two sons, Randolph Fleming Taylor and me.

Like all of us, Dad was thoroughly human.  Sometimes Mother and Dad did not understand each other.  Sometimes they did not even like each other.  But do any of us always understand and even like each other?  No.  But, oh! how they loved each other!  As the years passed their love deepened.

Since Dad’s passing on September 27, 1976, I have often thought about their relationship.  I have been enabled to understand their relationship.  I have been enabled to understand their relationship within the context of the biblical stories of God’s love for all of us; their love was unconditional.  For, as surely as God loves us just as we are, so Mother and Dad loved each other.  Neither one had to measure up to someone’s standard in order to have the love of the other.  St. Paul said it so well:

Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I speak for myself.  I remember Mother as well, Mother.  She loved Randy and me with a mother’s heart, for there is no heart like a mother’s heart.  Randy and I are, in some ways, very different.  And that is alright.  Mother realized that this just meant that we were unique.  Not once did I suspect that Mother judged either of us by the other; I never suspected any comparison.

With his knowledge of electronics, computers, and computer programming, Randy has made contributions I can only imagine to the business sector.  Mother and I were, and I am proud of Randy’s successes and contributions.  Moreover, we were, and I am proud of Randy.  Randy moves in and is comfortable with the world of technology.  I move in and am comfortable with the world of the abstract:  philosophy, theology, and ministry to the human spirit and all of its mystery.  I deal, then, with that which we can only feel but which, to me me, is no less real.  Mother was proud of the directions our lives took professionally.

Mother watched as Randy and me struggled to grow and to find direction.  I saw Randy as mischievous and somewhat daring.  I was not as adventurous as he, although I had my moments.  I always admired Randy and his daring, adventurous ways.  And in all of that Mother loved us with a passion.

Mother felt for us.  She cried for us, often at a distance as Randy and I began to move out on our own.  She yearned for us.    Her telephone calls to me–and, as I recall her last call to me, often included the words,

I just wanted to hear your voice.

Mother loved her grandchildren, Barbara Nell and Kenneth Randolph.  She loved her great-grandchildren, Laura Elizabeth and Franklin Heath.

I remember Mother as a church musician.  She looked forward to Sunday morning and to meeting the choir.  She loved choosing and preparing the service music.  Gladly did she leave the selection of the hymns to the pastor, Bob Pooley and Bill Hotchkiss, although she consulted about the choices.

Mother had a strong sense of right and wrong.  She also had strong feelings about what is appropriate inside the church building, especially during the worship hour.  I remember her holy anger and flashing eyes one Sunday morning when she interrupted the prelude, turned to the congregation, and gave them a good old-fashioned and well-deserved tongue-lashing about the noise and chatter which violated and cheapened the sanctity of the prelude, that part of the order of worship which is intended to help set the tone and spirit for worship.  Mother knew well that long ago this sanctuary was dedicated to the worship of God and nothing else.  We forget that all too easily.

I recall a Saturday evening when Mother and I came here so she could finish preparations for music the next morning.  I also remember her sputter then her explosion when we walked in and found a young lady playing “The Rock and Roll Waltz” on her–Mother’s–Hammond organ! Mother understood that everyone’s opinions and tastes are to be honored as their own.  She also knew that each has its own place.  In this case the church sanctuary was most inappropriate!

I remember Mother as teacher in the finest, truest sense of the profession.  Precisely because she put time and effort into preparing her classes she rightly expected her students to put fort he effort to participate and learn.  She burned the proverbial midnight oil regularly, grading papers and writing notes of encouragement on the papers of those who needed  that encouragement.

A little over a year ago Mother and I sat at the kitchen table, talking about her forty-five years as a teacher.  She was staring out of the big kitchen window when, drumming her fingers on the table, she cut her eyes toward me and said,

You know, son, as a teacher I was supposed to make it possible for my students to love to learn, and I failed.

Well, of course, Mother did not fail.

I reminded her quickly of some of the differences she had made:  of the students who not only learned to love learning but who went on to college.  I also reminded her of the students who had graduated thirty-five to forty years earlier, who still called or came by.  I wish I could tell Mother something Randy said said as we sat in the hospital dining room last week.  He pronounced her legacy when he said,

Yes, Mom made a difference in the county, didn’t she?


I remember Mother as Glee Club director.  Music lover that I am, I enjoyed going to Glee Club every day.  We enjoyed going to Glee Club!  She made it fun, and we laughed–a lot!  We also got down to business.  Mother introduced a variety of music, such as standards and show tunes.  There was “In the Still of the Night.”  Show tunes included “Wunderbar,” “The Road to Mandalay,” and “There Ain’t Nothing Like a Dame” from South Pacific.  We had fun with that one!

There is so much more I would like to say.  So I will begin to close on a personal note.  Randy and I are the men we are today primarily because of the shared commitment and influence of Mother and Dad to us.  As the years have passed (thirty-nine have passed since high school graduation), I have come to realize the enormity of the impact of Mother’s life on Randy and me.  We are veterans of military service.  We are college graduates.  And through all of this and more, Mother was there.

In the sphere of the temporal, Mother encouraged us to enjoy all that God has given to us.  Where I am concerned, I have a deep love for music, especially the classics, the music of the masters.  It is music composed by men and women of history who simply had to compose lest the melodies haunting their minds be lost forever.  Thanks to Mother’s influence and encouragement I can lose myself in the solemnity of Bach’s Great Mass in B Minor.  At other times I allow myself to feel the praise and exhilaration of George Frederick Handel’s Messiah.

Mother was a Christian, although not in the sense of just living by a moral code of goodness.  Rather, she knew that she was a child of God.  She, as do all Christians, struggled with her faith, prayer life, and commitment.  She struggled with the difficult questions for which she could never find a satisfactory answer, finally being satisfied to leave the answers to God.

Mother knew the cleansing power of God’s forgiveness that is ours in Jesus Christ.  And whether or not she realized it, she taught me the value of the text from Ecclesiastes: that there is a time and place for everything, that all that has been will be again, and that I should not allow myself to be smitten with my own self-importance!

Mother lived the seasons of her life with dignity and grace.  In the finest sense of the word, Mother was a lady.  She wore the mantle of her faith and lived out her roles she played with thanksgiving and the humility that says she recognized her strengths and weaknesses and kept them in perspective.

Writing 1 Corinthians 13, St. Paul declared the tree greatest of the Christian virtues:  faith, hope, and love.  Faith and hope escorted Mother through the portals of God’s glory and into joys which are unspeakable and full of glory.  She has laid aside this veil of flesh and the mantles of faith and hope.  Now she knows the fullness of God’s love!

To everything there is a season.


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