I continue to work my way through the sermons of the old Presbyterian preacher De Witt Talmage. In one volume of his collected works I came across a sweet sermon in which he lauds mothers and encourages their children—especially adult children—to give them the honor they deserve.
There is no emotion so completely unselfish as maternal affection. Conjugal love expects the return of many kindnesses and attentions. Filial love expects parental care, or is helped by the memory of past watchfulness. But the strength of a mother’s love is entirely independent of the past and the future, and is, of all emotions, the purest.
The child has done nothing in the past to earn kindness, and in the future it may grow up to maltreat its parent; but still from the mother’s heart there goes forth inconsumable affection. Abuse cannot offend it; neglect cannot chill it; time cannot efface it; death cannot destroy it. For harsh words it has gentle chiding; for the blow it has beneficent ministry; for neglect it has increasing watchfulness. It weeps at the prison door over the incarcerated prodigal, and pleads for pardon at the Governor’s feet, and is forced away by compassionate friends from witnessing the struggles of the gallows. Other lights go out, but this burns on without extinguishment, as in a gloom-struck night you may see a single star, one of God’s pickets, with gleaming bayonet of light guarding the outposts of heaven.
Oh, despise not a mother’s love. If heretofore you have been negligent of such a one, and you have still opportunity for reparation, make haste. If you could only just look in for an hour’s visit to her you would rouse up in the aged one a whole world of blissful memories.
What if she does sit without talking much: she watched you for many months when you knew not how to talk at all. What if she has many ailments to tell about: during fifteen years you ran to her with every little scratch and bruise, and she doctored your little finger as carefully as a surgeon would bind the worst fracture. You say she is childish now: I wonder if she ever saw you when you were childish. You have no patience to walk with her on the street; she moves so slowly: I wonder if she remembers the time when you were glad enough to go slowly. You complain at the expense of providing for her now: I wonder what your financial income was from one year to ten years of age.
Do not begrudge what you do for the old folks. I care not how much you did for them, they have done more for you.