Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Legacy for OCC

In celebration of Mother's Day I want to pay tribute to my Mom, Mabel Tarr, and the legacy of her continuing love that has enabled me to follow God on this Operation Christmas Child journey. My Mom is 97.75 years old. She was born on July 13, 1913 and deserves to count every month of her amazing life.

Mom has seen a lot of changes over nearly ten decades of life and much of that life has not been easy. I believe there were 10 children in her family (only 3 now survive)and because her parents couldn't afford to care for all of them, my mother, in her preteen years, was given to her aunt and uncle to raise. They provided for her materially but she worked hard for them in return.

Mom's biggest 'claim to fame' is that she attended school with Lucille Ball and even acted in plays with her at the Jamestown Little Theater. Our family calls the following picture of Mom her 'Lucille Ball picture' because we think there's a resemblance there.

When Mom was about 35 she and her first husband packed up their four kids (ages 4-12, I think) and left their family in Jamestown, NY to move to Erie, PA. On the night they moved into their new home, my mother's husband died in his sleep. She was left with four children, no family nearby, and no job. She couldn't even drive a car. But she trusted God to get her through, and He, of course, did.

She remarried (to a widower 15 years her senior) a few years later and I was born a year after that. Eighteen months later my younger sister, Patti, was born but she had an undetected congenital heart defect and died at 10 weeks.

Mom learned early and well to move past grief and get on with life. Even at 97 (okay, 97.75) she looks ahead to what's next. She's a two-time cancer survivor (cervical cancer 29 years ago and a 5 hr. surgery for colon cancer at age 95). She does two crossword puzzles every day, does her own laundry, still lives at home with my sister, and knitted many of her Christmas presents last year. She is a staunch supporter of Operation Christmas Child--both financially and with her help in bagging soap and candy.

My Mom taught me and my four siblings a few things over the years that helped shape our lives:

1) If someone needs help and you're in a position to give it, then GIVE. We used to tease my Mom that we were going to put on her grave marker, "Well done good and faithful sucker" because she could never say 'no' to anyone. But I now value the legacy that taught us to be open-handed.

2) If you make a commitment or a promise, keep it. Mom's work ethic is amazing. She has often stayed up all night to finish a sewing project or make favors or bake for a bake sale. Her life has been so full that she's often worked to the last minute but she WILL DO what she promises. One of her trademark sayings is, "Never do today what you can put off 'til tomorrow, 'cause you might die tonight and you won't have to do it." That's just her legacy of humor, though, and that's a story for another time.

3) If you're going to do it, do it well. Mom passed on a legacy of excellence. She is an expert seamstress, having taught herself to sew when her oldest daughter was a baby. Her first project was to make a coat for her daughter out of one of her husband's old costs. Pretty ambitious--and that is classic Mom. She's an accomplished cook who made lavish holiday meals for our large blended family, worked full-time into her 70s at a shoe store, and volunteered as Den Mother, Girl Scout Leader, PTA President, and took the lead in several Masonic organizations. And she did it all well.

Consequently, our family works hard at what they do. My oldest sister became the Supreme Worthy High Priestess (like the international president--don't ask) of a Masonic organization for women and spent an entire year driving around the country with my mother. They gave up their home and lived in hotels, traveling to every state of the union--my sister was 60 and my mother was 82 at the time.

My oldest brother ran 31 marathons and is still working now at age 74. My next oldest brother has bowled a 300 game and is an accomplished golfer. My third brother is a Baptist pastor who works tirelessly in his small congregation and is one of the most humble (and greatest) persons I know. He spends every Saturday morning at an adolscent treatment facility talking with troubled kids and showing them the love of Jesus.

Without Mom's legacy of giving, commitment, and excellence I don't know if I'd be packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes as I now do. And without this involvement in Operation Christmas Child I would have missed the greatest journey of my life.

Thank You, God, for giving me this blessing: Mom.


  1. Kathy - thanks for this post. What an inspiration she is! I can see where both your work ethic and your heart come from. Thanks for honoring her with your legacy.

  2. Whew... Kathy, that is beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes. I hope that you let your mom read this. I know she will be touched by it. I was and I don't even know her! :)