Naomi Russell Taylor: March 13, 1923 — July 10, 2020
Something like this is what I wanted to share at mom’s memorial service if the Internet had coöperated
Humans, all humans, are remarkably complex. As little children, we naturally see our parents as perfect, omnipotent, omniscient. Our survival depends on it. A primary task of adulthood is learning to see your parents as human – a mixture of positive and negative – and learning to celebrate the positive and forgive the negative. And so, I choose to forgive any negatives, real or perceived. After all, I’ve been forgiven a much greater debt.
And, I choose to accentuate the positive. There is much there. Mom was a little ball of energy – working full time, doing all the housework, preparing meals, making beds, scurrying about caring for a husband, two kids and her mother-in-law in a tiny Baltimore row home. Picnics, bird-walks, visits to historical sites, dinner parties, extended family meals, church on Sundays … I get exhausted thinking about it.
She was self-effacing – never fully realizing that she was a pioneer as the nation’s first electronmicroscope technician teaching its use to a bunch of professional men. She took classes, attended concerts, read books, kept up on the news and faithfully drove to Hopkins’ inner-city medical campus every day, saving money by parking on the not-entirely-safe streets instead of in a garage.
Boy, was she good at saving money. She could pinch a penny so tightly Abraham Lincoln’s eyes crossed. She took a single hardboiled egg or a bullion cube to work for her lunch and ate the neck of the chicken. She didn’t save because she was miser – she saved and lived simply so she could be generous. And she was. Just the other day, I learned from one of our former Bible college students that she quietly gave him money so he could get home when his mother was sick. She did that kind of thing all the time.
She had a remarkable ability to make friends everywhere she went – lasting friends in Maryland, New Hampshire, Indiana, California, and Nevada.
She loved to give – not just money, but of her time, as well. She took me Christmas caroling to specialized hospital full of people on iron lungs (Google it). After she retired, she volunteered at the Annapolis hospital, at her church, and at the nature center in Oceanside. When she lived with Rachel and Derek and kids, when she lived with us, when she lived with Ann, she was always focused on “What can I do to help?” She had a true servant’s heart. I’m grateful for her example and undying love.
And, I’m especially grateful for her spirit. Ann was the first in the family to come to Christ, then me, and then, some years later, mom, although she was always a Methodist churchgoer who embraced the tenets of Christianity and sought to live a moral life. Her faith carried her through the suicide of her father, the lengthy absence of her mother when she contracted tuberculosis, the Great Depression, World War II, Civil Rights, her mother’s sudden unexpected death, anti-Vietnam War protests, civil unrest, the suicide of her grandson, and the deaths of all her siblings. Like the three Hebrew young men, she went through the fire, and came out not even smelling like smoke.
I’m especially grateful that she was a woman of prayer. When she lived with us, mom would nightly kneel by her bed and say her prayers. She kept a prayer list with all our names on it and took us to God daily. She loved Jesus, and that’s the greatest thing anyone can say about anyone else.
Proverbs 31: 30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
For about the last decade, almost every time I spoke with her, she paraphrased Philippians 1, saying, “Of course, it’s far better to be with the Lord!” She couldn’t wait to be with Jesus – her first love.
[The full context: Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.(Philippians 1:18b-26)]
And, now she is. Absent from the body, present with the Lord, crowned with lovingkindness and eternal glory! Praise be to God!