Most of us have no idea where we were or what we did on September 23, 1966. But for six children in Dayton, Ohio, that date will always be one of the most significant of their lives. It was the day their mom decided they would be a family.
Nine months earlier—just before Christmas in 1965—Marjorie Schulte sat stunned in the living room as her husband announced that he was leaving her for another woman. Three daughters and three sons, ranging in age from 14 to three months, sat with her in the living room and cried.
Marjorie walked shell-shocked through the next few months, watching helplessly as her family slowly unraveled. But something happened in her heart on that September day—her anniversary—when she returned from a meeting with her now ex-husband. She realized that the family would fall apart unless she did something to pull them out of their downward spiral. So she gathered all six kids around her and said, "With or without your dad, we will be a family."
"Please help me raise these children"
I truly believe some of the biggest heroes in our culture are single parents like Marjorie—parents who struggle to meet their families' needs and to somehow raise godly and responsible children.
Marjorie made one amazing commitment. She would do whatever it took to provide for her family, but not at the expense of being a mother. She decided that, no matter what, she would be at home when her kids returned from school, and she would be involved in their lives.
She sewed draperies, mowed lawns, nannied other children, and shoveled sidewalks. She delivered newspapers with her kids. She watched every penny, and not only put food on the table but also helped put most of her kids through college.
She would lie in bed at night and cry out to a God she hardly knew at the time, "Please help me raise these children. I can't do it on my own." And God answered her prayers. Against all odds, her children are solid, responsible adults today, with families of their own.
"A Tribute to Our Mom"
One of Marjorie's sons, Jeff, served as my personal assistant for several years and today is a pastor and one of our speakers at Weekend to Remember getaways. I wish you could see his face swell with pride as he talks about his mother.
It was Jeff's idea in 1989 to put together a special book as a Tribute to their mother. It didn't take much coaxing to get his five siblings to join in--that's how proud they were of their mother.
Each wrote their own Tribute, and Jeff had the manuscript bound. It's a best-selling book—eight copies were made. The cover reads, "We Will Be a Family ... September 23, 1966 ... A Tribute to Our Mom." It's published by "J. Schulte Publishing"—Jean, Jack, Jim, Joanne, Jeff and Judy. I also like the line on the second page: "For more information: Contact any of the authors personally and they will gladly tell you more about their mom."
All six kids and their families gathered for a family celebration. They sat Marjorie on a couch, showed her the book, and all the kids took turns sitting next to her and reading their passages aloud. I've seen the video of these event, and it is so emotional it ought to be rated "K" ... for Kleenex!
Following are excerpts from the book, all written to a woman who truly is worthy of honor.
A TRIBUTE TO MARJORIE SCHULTE FROM HER SIX CHILDREN
" ... When I smile at you today it's because I feel our hearts are one." --Jean
Every morning I can remember hustling down stairs dressed for school always to find you at the kitchen counter packing lunches or completing the task of sorting out the butter and the peanut butter toast while we headed straight for the large pan of cocoa simmering on the stove. Off we would go without a care or worry. We knew where you were and we needed that feeling of home and the love that was always there.
You went to each of our school activities and sporting events, trying to at least get to see each person. You became involved in our school and let us know how important we were as well as the people we were with and the activities we participated in. You not only coached for 25 years but you found time to even be the St. Helen athletic director.
Mom, thank you, not so much for being in the role of my mother, because this was God's gift to us and I am grateful to Him for that. But thank you for choosing to be my companion and friend on the journey walking through life and death with me and freely and unconditionally loving me. Those have been your gifts to me.
I want you to know that when I smile at you today it's because I feel our hearts are one. And when I cry it's because I feel your closeness.
"You have managed to fulfill yet another dream ... Something special ... done out of love." --Jack
You are the most complete package of love God could have ever provided to me as an example on this earth of Him. The selflessness of your actions in all areas of your life has been a constant reminder of the attitude Jesus came to show us. Thanks, Mom.
So many wonderful thoughts and memories come to mind when I focus in on what you have been to me. You have always been with me; to comfort, to hug, to hold and be held, to laugh, to cry, to talk to, to care, to share in the joys, to weather the frustrations, to share the wins, to share the losses and to show me that all I had to do was my best and it was enough. You never expected a star, just a son, and I could grow up with that peace of mind.
I'm sitting with you in the living room on the couch staring out of the front window. I'm twelve years old and it's pretty late at night. I heard commotion downstairs and the front door open and close. We watch Dad's car pull away from the front of the house. We cry and we hug and I'm praying to God for strength. I love you and I hate so very much for you to hurt. "We'll make it, " you tell me, "we have to stick together and we'll make it." And I believe you, and trust in what you say because you're my mom.
You have made this "our family." We can share our innermost thoughts, dreams and desires within this household. We don't have any concerns or worries that information passed inside these walls will leak into the outside world. There is peace within our home and a confidence and togetherness few families experience.
"I wanted to scream to the world, 'This is my mom!'" --Jim
Not a day goes by that I don't thank God for the privilege of being your son. I thank Him for allowing me to grow up and live in a home which, under normal circumstances, would have weakened and collapsed but which instead strengthened and grew. But, most of all, I thank Him for blessing me with a mom who has given her love and life to her family and, in particular, to me.
Maybe one of my favorite memories describes my feelings best. It was senior night at Wilbur Wright. The announcer called, "Number 42, Jim Schulte, son of Mrs. Marjorie Schulte." We walked out to mid-court with our arms around each other. Here I was, standing before the crowd with the World's Greatest Mom and I was her son. I could not believe how fortunate I was. I wanted to scream to the world, "This is my mom!"
I thought I would burst from emotion that night just as I feel now as I write this letter.
I want you to know that I cherish you, honor you and thank God for you every day.
"I beam with love and pride when I tell others of you." --Joanne
I always felt I had a tough childhood—wearing mostly hand-me-downs, getting teased and called names by my brothers, not being liked by my sister because I liked to play with dolls, never seeming to fit in anywhere, and not having a daddy around to hold me and love. me. I always felt I had to prove myself in some way or another, to measure up; anything I could think of so as not to be overlooked.
But I understand now, as a parent and as a mom, that you can't do everything, be everywhere and protect everyone at all times. You just do the best you can. And I see now, you did do the best!
I want to go back in time a bit and share with you some of the times I remember.
The time you saved every penny you could so you could take all of us kids to Stop-N-Go for a ten cent Icee. That was the best Icee I ever had.
The time you tried teaching me to throw a softball in the fourth grade (when I decided I wanted to, of course) and I looked really uncoordinated until I asked you if I could try throwing with my left arm. We both knew then that there was hope for me yet.
The slumber parties I'd have down in the basement were always so much fun. Since we didn't seem to go to sleep, I'm sure you didn't either with your bedroom right above us.
I have to admit, I really felt special being the first one to give you a granddaughter, Christina Nicole, March 22, 1986 and then Kelly Jo, July 19 1988. I can't begin to tell you how much I needed you, too. It meant so much to me when you took a week's vacation to come help me after Kelly was born.
I think of the countless times I tell people about you and how incredible you are—how you managed to raise six children on hardly any money—yet you were willing to stay home and not go out to work so you could always be there for us. You sure sacrificed a lot for us. And I beam with love and pride when I tell others of you, your love, faith and dedication to keeping us a family.
" ... You are more than just a great mom—you are a woman to be honored." --Jeff
The Bible speaks of the importance of parents training their children to live wisely. Wisdom is defined as "skill in everyday living." You have taught me how to live skillfully. I have especially noticed since I've been out on my own, how so much of what I do, I don't even think about, I just do it - because I saw it done by you.
In addition to teaching me practical things, you gave me a heart. You modeled and entrusted to me a set of values that I look forward to passing on to the next generation. There is no way you could have done much for yourself all those years since most all of your energy was saved for us. I want you to know I benefited from each unselfish decision you made on my behalf.
It couldn't have been easy much of the time. But you were, and still are, always there for me.
When Dad left home some twenty-three plus years ago, there were so many things you could have done. You could have turned inward--feeling sorry for yourself. You could have become angry—inevitably taking that anger out on us. You could have given up—blaming Dad for all our problems and leaving the "world" to raise us into its mold.
But you didn't.
I believe God has His hand upon your life. Just look at what He has done in and through you. To God be the glory, our family is a miracle. The Lord told the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Paul's response was, "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me." In verse 10 he continues, " ... when I am weak, then I am strong."
Mom, because you were weak, God's grace made you strong.The result: You are one of God's heroes. I have more respect for you than for anyone I know. I admire you. I esteem you. I love you. And I am deeply grateful to you. I am who I am because of what God has done through you. I live every day with that thought.
I, like my five brother and sisters, am forever indebted to you for the decision you made on September 23, 1966 to "Be a Family." You made us one, and by God's grace we will spend eternity as one.
" ... As the many tears fell from my face, I knew that you loved me and that I had at least one true friend." --Judy
I wish at times that you could know my heart because it's difficult for me to put into words the depth of love I feel or the emotion that wells up inside me when I think of what you mean to me. I get frustrated sometimes trying to express how I feel because I'm not very good with words and the best I can usually do is cry to get it out. But, at least I'm able to get it out.
I have fond memories as a little girl coming downstairs in the middle of the night when I was sick or had a bad dream. You would pull back the covers and tell me to crawl in with you. No matter what the problem was, I usually fell fast asleep. And to this day, you have the most comfortable bed in the house.
Our love and friendship continued to blossom as you helped me make it through high school. When I didn't think I had a friend in the world, you were there to hold me or give me an encouraging word. And as the many tears fell from my face, I knew that you loved me and that I had a least one true friend. Even though I tried some things to fit in, resulting in disobedience and dishonesty on my part, I believe you knew deep down I was vulnerable and just wanted to be liked and accepted.I'm so thankful I never really became friends with those people because I might not be where I am today.
Mom, thanks for being my friend anyway.
I would consider it a blessing to have as good a relationship with my children as I have with you. I look forward to staying up late with them talking, going to their ball games, being their biggest fan, as you were mine, and holding them close through good times and bad, letting them know I'm there for them and I love them. And, I know I can do those things only because I have experienced a wonderful example of what a mother should be. I am proud and thankful that you are my mom. You've been a mother and a friend, and I love you, Mom, very much.
Copyright © 2005 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
1. For more information about writing a tribute, read the article "The Best Gift You Can Give Your Parents." You can also see examples of tributes at the end of that article.
2. Listen to Dennis Rainey talk more about honoring your parents in the FamilyLife Today® series, "Putting Your Parents in Proper Perspective."
3. Order Dennis Rainey's book, The Forgotten Commandment.