My Mom is my Hero

My Mom is my hero. She recently celebrated her 80th year walking Planet Earth. Her journey hasn’t always been an easy one. Truthfully, it has been filled with extreme difficulties starting with fleeing her childhood home ahead of the advancing Russian Red Army. She hadn’t turned six years old before she watched her mother and grandmother pack up their belongings–except for the valuables they’d buried in the backyard–and attempt to catch a train to Berlin. By the time she turned seven, she had survived a World War. She was a happy girl, in spite of living the life of a refugee, with no place to really call home. Her youth was filled with hardships, but she kept her spirits up, and somehow through it all, managed to hold on to her innocence.

Mom met Dad at a church camp one Summer. She loved him instantly and hoped he would be the one God intended her to marry. And get married they did, but not until after they buried her future father-in-law, who died a hard death from a combination of cancer and other ailments. She stood by my father’s side as he grieved the loss of his dad and looked after his mother. Like me, my Dad grew up an only child.

They got married and lived in small apartment hosted by the owner’s of a small café and inn in a tiny German town near Lake Constance. From their they moved to Switzerland because the jobs were more plentiful, due to a burgeoning economy. When I was born they met some friends at the hospital who would later invite them to come to America, continuing my family history of migration.

The Bantaus

When we came here, neither of my parents spoke English. Like me, they had to learn. And learn my Mom did. She adjusted to a new life in a new land, leaving behind her parents, siblings, nephews and nieces, and friends. Marshall, Texas was a hospitable place, but not one used to foreigners. Certainly not Germans.  But Mom, who has displayed an incredible friendly spirit through her life, made friends quickly. The list of people who helped her adjust to her new home is long. You simply can’t make it in this world without a good support network.

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As a young lady, Mom was a beautiful, gregarious soul who never met a stranger. This continues to be true today. Mom makes friends, through church, through community outreach, and through her artwork. Though life has thrown her more than her fair share of challenges, Terri and I have witnessed my Mom rise to the occasion, exemplifying what it means to be an overcomer. Through it all, I’ve seen her faith blossom and her love for people grow. That ain’t easy in this world. That’s why Mom will always be my hero.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who have been blessed to raise children and who have been a blessing to so many. You may not always realize it, but you have had an incredible impact on more people than you can ever imagine.

God bless you all.

Mom is my Hero

Remembering My Dad Ten Years Later

Today, March 25, 2018, marks the 10th anniversary of my Dad’s passing. It’s hard to fathom that ten years have gone by since my Dad’s death from the effects of a massive stroke. He had his first major stroke in the Fall of 2003. It was debilitating.

I remember standing at the end of his hospital bed back in 2003, realizing that he didn’t recognize me. He had no idea who I was, what our relationship to each other was, or why I was standing at the end of his bed. The stroke had robbed him of the ability to have any short-term or long-term memories. So everything he learned, he forgot immediately. Everything he knew, he no longer remembered. His death nearly five years later, while difficult in many ways, was a blessing in disguise.

 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness. 

Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

I’ve watched my Mom blossom and grow tremendously after she faithfully took care of him during his most difficult years. She modeled the harsh reality of “for better or for worse” during those years. Both Terri and I were amazed how well she took care of him and how valiantly she took on the challenges that my Dad’s initial stroke brought to her doorstep. In the ten years since, we have seen Mom bloom.

My Dad worked hard. He had lifelong friendships. He helped others. He tried to be the best Dad he knew to be. Living in the East Prussian seaport of Pillau, near the city of Königsberg during the Second World War, Dad grew up quickly. With his own father away at war, he found himself becoming the man of the house at an early age. He learned early in life what it meant to sacrifice and suffer as he and his mother fled his boyhood home a few weeks after Christmas nearly dying on a ship bound to Denmark in early January 1945. Dad had not yet turned 10.

Both my parents are survivors of a war that did not involve them yet changed the course of their lives forever. Dad never talked about his experiences during the war, with the exception of a few stories, like watching a headless woman running in the streets carrying her newborn child after a bomb had detonated near her. No doubt these early experiences changed how a once innocent boy viewed the harsh world he called home.

The Bantaus

I imagine these early childhood experiences shaped his disdain for war and his preference for reason in matters of faith. How could they not. He loved machines and math. He knew what to do with machines, naturally gifted in understanding what makes them tick. For him, machines were trustworthy in an untrustworthy world. He knew the Bible, yet had no real love for religion. He favored learning to make up your own mind over indoctrination. His childhood had taught him that life spared no quarter.

From the numerous people he influenced and mentored, I learned that he was generous in sharing what he knew once you proved to him you were worth investing the time to teach.  He wasn’t an easy man. He was exact. He was super-organized, always knowing if anything was the least bit out-of-place. Dad had no use for dishonest people.

When I was a young boy, my Dad was my hero. Somewhere along the way, we grew apart, not seeing eye-to-eye on nearly anything. Like him, I was and always have been headstrong. We never stopped trying though. Over the years, I grew to love my Dad. I think he grew to love me. I know that today, I miss him and wish he were here. I don’t know if he was a believer. I have no real evidence to say that he was. But I do know God’s grace is immeasurably greater than anything we can imagine and that with God all things are possible. Therefore, I look forward to seeing Dad in Heaven one day. I’m sure we’ll both be pleasantly surprised.

To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. Philippians 4:20 (ESV)