A Tribute to Mom Phyl

17 05 2015

This past Mother’s Day was the typical happy occasion in the Miller home as we took a moment to give honMom Phylor to my Lady who is so richly deserving and also to celebrate the other two mothers in our family, our daughter, Jamie and daughter-in-law, Traci. The time would not be complete if we didn’t take a moment to remember mine and Cathy’s mothers who are now with Jesus. But this year’s occasion was met with a mixture of sadness and joy at the sudden loss of Cathy’s other mother, the one we lovingly referred to as Mom Phyl.

It may sound a little confusing for some of you, but if you have been regular readers of “Traveling the Rock Road,” you learned from earlier writings that my Lady was adopted at age 3 from an orphanage in Ohio by Clyde and Bette Lenhart. Phyllis (Mom Phyl) gave birth to Cathy at a young age and made a wise decision to give her up for adoption. At the age of 33, Cathy was reunited with Phyl and a strong friendship grew between them. As the two of them became close and talked about their lives, a story began to emerge, one of a woman who seemed to face adversity throughout much of her life, and yet may be one of the strongest and courageous people I’ve ever known.

Being a teenager and pregnant back in the 50s could be hard enough, but when you have authorities over you calling all the shots, removing you from a harmful home environment and sending you to a place distant and alone away from everything and everyone you’ve ever known, well I imagine it had to be pretty scary. Phyl’s one shining moment of joy in this strange place came at the birth of her beautiful little girl, only to have that short lived when the baby was taken from her days later and not to see her again for 33 years.

It was a few years later Phyl would fall in love and marry the man she planned to spend the rest of her life with, only to see that end within eight years, but not before he gave her something she cherished more than life itself, two daughters and a son. Unlike losing her first daughter, no one was going to wrestle these three from her grip, and she set out to pour everything she had, mind, body and soul into the lives of these precious gifts of God she was given.

As any single parent will tell you, it’s not an easy task, or for the weak-hearted to be both mom and dad in the family, but Phyl was determined to make it work. And to make it work, they were going to have become more than a family, they would have to become a team, each knowing their role and the expectations placed upon them. Regimented, structured, and packed with discipline, Phyl led her little family, often with a very loud voice that commanded respect and obedience. Her oldest daughter was delegated to 2nd in command at a young age helping with the two younger siblings and anything else that needed to be done to secure the wellbeing of them all. The two younger kids’ function might appear easier, but it really wasn’t. The golden rule rules according Mom Phyl, “Do good in school, keep out of trouble, listen to what I tell you, learn when I take you to church, and never disrespect me; do these things and there’s a good possibility you might live long enough to produce future generations!!” I imagine to an outsider Phyl’s ways and manner might have seemed harsh, perhaps in this day and age they might have seemed criminal. But this dear lady didn’t grow up in a soft atmosphere; the world she came to know was hard and at times unkind, but she learned to use it to her and her children’s benefit.

I mentioned Lady Phyl could be loud; well I have theory on that. Let’s say you see someone who has inadvertently wandered into the path of an oncoming semi, not realizing they’re about to be hit. Are you in a quiet and gentle tone going to say “Uh, excuse me, but if you don’t move this instant you’re going to be an added statistic in the field of road kill.” NO! You’re going to scream at the top of your lungs, “Look, get out of the way, move now!!” Phyl knew what would bring harm, be it physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, to the ones she loved most; and a quiet demeanor would not get the point across. “Listen to me, pay attention, because I’ve been there and I don’t want you anywhere near what I’ve been through!” I call it Mom Phyl’s way of saying, “I love you.” She also taught them that they may not have a lot, but if they learn to appreciate what they do have and what God has put around them, they were rich.

The years passed and in certain ways life didn’t get easier for Phyl, she now struggled with physical limitations causing her to take an earlier retirement than she had planned. I guess it could be said that she had more than her share of adversity when you look at her past. But like so many “Travelers of the Rock Road,” it’s not the past that defines a person, but the present and the future. In Mom Phyl’s case her rough past prepared her to be the best mom she could to three kids who repaid her sometimes “rough” approach by growing and honoring her with productive lives, loving grandchildren and marriages that have been long lasting and loving. If you place me and Cathy into the equation, Mom Phyl’s children combined have over a hundred years of marriage! That’s a pretty awesome stat in this day and age huh?!! If that’s not a candidate for “Super Mothers of America,” I don’t know who would be. Phyl was finally blessed with a man of honor in her life who stood by her side and loved her the way she needed– awesome!!

Two things stick out to me on the day we gathered with the family to spread her ashes at her favorite park for bird watching; first her son said to those gathered, “You know as long as we have, Faith, Family, and Friends, we are truly rich.” And my thoughts, “Hey Phyl, they got it, you got through to them, without spilling blood! Way to go Sweetheart!!”

The second moment that stays with me was later that day when two of her grown grandchildren spoke at her memorial, telling through tearing eyes how she taught them to love the simple things in life, and especially God. “Lady Phyl, your incredible legacy lives on in new generations, Dear One.”

“The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the love of a Mother” St. Therese of Lisieux.

The world will not see or know Mom Phyl as one of the great women of history. But for the ones of us who did know her, whose lives she touched, her memory and lessons will be continued on to future generations as we recount the wonderful woman of faith and family that she was.

Scripture speaks of Phyl like this, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Proverbs 31:25-30

We seldom get back to Ohio, but I think we may make a trip on occasion to the park where Phyl loved to watch the birds and remember a wonderful and awesome, Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother and Wife who gave so much of herself for the good and pleasure of others.

When I get to Heaven someday, I picture me walking around checking things out. I also picture hearing a loud bellowing voice calling out to me, “HEY JOHN, OVER HERE!” I won’t even have to turn around to know who it is. “Hey Phyl, so glad we’re together again!”

See you next time!!




2 responses

18 05 2015
stephanie rutherford

Wow that was so nice. She was the mother to my best friend, although we have drifted apart I still think of her, and how she treated me like one of her own. You truly will be missed mom Phyllis!!

18 05 2015

Thank you for your kind words, Stephanie. Were you friends with Theresa or Aggie. I’d be glad to pass along your greeting. We will definitely miss Mom Phyl.

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