Tag Archives: mom

A Fisher of Men

Robert Mitchell — November 21, 1934 ~ July 8, 2008

Today is the 11th anniversary of my father’s passing. Pop was a pretty incredible person.  No, he was not a great businessman, scientist, inventor, writer, statesman or orator.  He wasn’t remarkably successful by any conventional measurement.

What made him incredible was that he spent the last decade or so of his life walking with Christ despite serious trials.  The more money the world took from him, the less materialistic he became.  As his health got worse, he only became more patient and at peace.  The more loved ones who were taken away, the more he loved those who remained.  The more the world conspired to try and make him bitter, the more he smiled.

And the closer death came the less he feared.

Pop’s pocket Bible — a special edition with instructions for bringing people to faith (a reference to Matthew 4:19 “And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

As a young man Pop considered entering the clergy but decided against it.  His reason was the same he gave for not taking promotions at work and for not pursuing a career in law enforcement after his service in the Military Police.  He didn’t want to be the kind of person who told other people what to do or how to behave.  And he didn’t want to give anybody the impression that he thought he was better than anybody else.

The irony is that his humility made him the ideal clerical candidate, yet I’m the one I’m in seminary.  And my humility is far from legendary.  When I was a young man, my mom always said that my lack of humility would be my downfall if I didn’t overcome it. 

And so, on this anniversary of Pop’s passing, I sit and appreciate Mom’s warning and Pop’s example.  I admire my father’s humility and strength and try to emulate them as best I can.

And I pray that someday I will be a good fisher of men.

Pinking Shears and Fishers of Men

Pop passed away back in 2008 and Mom followed him in 2016.  But the home in which I was raised — the home my parents bought for nine thousand dollars in 1962, back when nine thousand dollars was a lot of money — is still in the family.

Although the house has been rented out for almost ten years now,  Mom and Pop have yet to be driven out.   They are in that house, in every crack, nook and cranny.  A house that old, inhabited for so long by a family, cannot be emptied of its essence in a mere decade.

Their belongings still come to the surface in that house, emerging like clay tablets from the sands of Mesopotamia.  Things are drawn out from the backs of closets.  They shake free, fall out, bubble up.  Slivers of paper, notes, ballpoint pens.  Old keys.

The other night I was over there getting ready for the next tenant and I found a tiny box in the attic.  It contained a letter and a Bible.  The letter is dated November 19, 1957 and was sent from my grandmother to my father to wish him a happy birthday while he was in basic training at Fort Gordon, GA.  The Bible is The Testament for Fishers of Men. and the inscription says it was given to him my Aunt Jane in 1954.

Tucked inside the Bible was a newspaper clipping my mother gave him.  How do I know Mom gave it to him?  Because it was cut out with pinking shears, and because it’s a love poem.  My mother was many things.  First, she was the woman who loved my father most.  Second, she was an accomplished seamstress who definitely owned a pair of pinking shears.  I know this because I still have her shears stowed away in an old sewing box.

Here’s the poem, a love message from Mom to Pop from long ago.

This Much I Promise

This much I promise you my sweet
By all the stars above
There is no other soul on earth
To whom I give my love
I cannot promise I will be
The picture of perfection
Or that you will not know a day
Of sorrow or dejection
I cannot sear that you will use
A gold or silver spoon
I cannot pledge a kingdom or
The surface of the moon
For I am only human as
A being God created
And I can only undertake
The things He contemplated
But I can promise  you this much
Whatever else I do
I love you, and as long as life
I will be true to you.

Look Mom — It’s Workout of the Week #39!

Betty Mitchell -- August 2nd 1937 ~ January 13th 2016

Betty Mitchell — August 2nd 1937 ~ January 13th 2016

Yesterday was the 1 year anniversary of my mother’s passing.  This week’s knowledge lesson comes by way of her.

Mom had a less than perfect childhood.  She wouldn’t want me to share any details, so I won’t.  All you need to know is that those experiences were a weight she carried her entire life.  Sometimes they almost pulled her under, but she always came back to the surface with grace and poise.



And, unlike some unfortunate souls who suffer wp-1485461001717.jpgin childhood, she did not pass down the abuses she suffered onto me.  On the contrary.  Mom instilled in me a lifelong sense of wonder, a love of all things spiritual, and a deep respect for intellectual pursuits.

On my 18th birthday Mom gave me a Bible.  And on the card she suggested that I read Philippians 4:8-9.  I did read it, and I never forgot it.  This passage is great advice for anyone.  But when you consider the weight that she carried, it’s easy to see how important, perhaps even lifesaving, this passage must have been to her.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Thanks Mom.  You were amazing, and I miss you like nobody’s business.

And now for the workout of the week.

Cabal Fang Workout of the Week #39

10-Minute Grappling Half Pyramid.  Set a timer for 10 mins and complete a half pyramid of Bag Lifts, Splay-n-Punch, and Get-up with 1-2-Punch (1 of each, 2 of each, etc.).  See how high you can climb — with perfect form! — before the timer beeps.  Take as few 12-count breaks as you must.  This sounds ridiculously easy on paper.  It ain’t.  Breathe deep my lovely little snowflakes, and try not to puke.

Meditation on Peace.  The sentiment of Philippians 4:8-9 referenced above is a universal truth.  In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius said, “Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”  Where focus goes energy flows.  Set a timer for 10 minutes.  Settle into your chosen meditative posture.  Imagine a specific scene — a place and/or time where/when  you experienced total peace if only for a moment — and visualize it until the timer beeps.


Goodnight Mom, Sleep Tight

GRADUA~1I miss you Mom.  You were so full of poise and grace and southern charm, so educated, spiritual, and progressive.  Yet it seemed sometimes that you had stepped out of an older, grander time.

You were Scarlet O’Hara with a laptop, Rita Hayworth with a solid working knowledge of HTML.

Thanks for teaching me how to find my way around a card catalog, how to type, how to pray, and how to question everything.  Thanks for instilling in me a love for words, poetry and music and a deep appreciation for culture.  If it wasn’t for you I never would’ve been a writer.  You were a dreamer, a diva and one hell of a dancer.  You were amazing.

I love you Mom.  Goodnight, sleep tight.


Betty N. Mitchell, 78, of Sandston passed away on Wednesday, January 13, 2016. She was a graduate of Pan American Business School and most recently worked as a legal secretary for the Virginia Bar Association. She was a belly dancer for years at Shiva’s School. She studied genealogy and published a book on the Naff and Related Families Genealogy in the USA. She was preceded in death by her husband, Robert E. Mitchell and parents, Jesse Naff and Naomi Kirby. She is survived by her son, Robert E. Mitchell, Jr. (Karen); four grandchildren, Tiffany, Robert, Amber and Morgan; three great-grandchildren, Kota, Shunta and Audrey; and two brothers, James M. Kirby, Jr. and Thomas N. Kirby. The family will receive friends Friday, Jan. 15, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Nelsen Funeral Home, 4650 S. Laburnum Ave., Richmond, VA 23231 where services will be held Saturday, Jan. 16, at 11 a.m. Interment will follow at Washington Memorial Park. Online condolences may be made here.

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