The wind howled outside and slightly moved the curtain on the window sill. The linoleum covered floor creaked as I walked over to the coal fired Heatrola that sat in the corner of our living room to slack it off for the night, hoping the stove pipe that disappeared through the ceiling and passed through our bedroom upstairs would provide enough heat. I recalled a few mornings when there was a miniature snow drift on the window sill by our bunk beds. I picked up the heavy bucket of coal and reached to open the door. The fire gleamed through the small windows in the door like a jack-0-lantern on a porch at midnight. I poured in a good helping of coal which I had just lugged up from the ground cellar accessed by a wooden door on the floor of the back porch. There wasn’t much coal left in the dust of the coal bin, which was lit by one dim light bulb hanging over it, but mom always seemed to get another delivery just in the nick of time to keep us warm through the cold and sometimes snowy Pennsylvania winter nights. The sulfur smell rising from the fresh coal covering the bed of hot coals smelled sweet to my nostrils.
I was one of Irene’s boys and we all knew the routines. We were just in grade school but already self sufficient in some ways. We knew how to make a fire, take out the ashes and work the damper to regulate the temperature in the living room which was the main heated area of our 1/2 a house apartment. We also knew how to keep house, how to “read it up” when company was coming or when mom was in a feisty mood, which wasn’t very often. We knew how to make simple meals when mom couldn’t be home because of work. We were getting ready for life and unknowingly she prepared us in many ways.
I headed up the steps leading up to my bedroom. The stairs to the second floor were shared by the couple who ran the general store located on the other end of the house and they lived in the apartment adjacent to us so we always made it a quick trip up the steps so “Rose” wouldn’t catch us in our underwear. I knelt down by my bed, folded my hands and closed my eyes with my face toward the heavens. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. God bless Mom & Butch & Larry & Bruce & Fred & Stevie. God bless grandma Anspach, Grandma Trailer, Grandma Back Home and Lucy’s Mom & Pop. Amen.”
There was a lot in that simple prayer that mom taught us. She instinctively taught us there was a God who watched over us. His loving care was evident in how He seemed to always provide for us and keep us safe. She taught us that we had eternal souls “I pray the Lord my soul to keep” and that when we die we go home to be with Him “I pray the Lord my soul to take”. She taught us that it was a good thing to pray for a blessing on others which instilled in us a caring heart attitude for family and their welfare.
I believe Mom was used by God to begin preparing my heart for the future day when I would open my heart and invite the Lord Jesus in, in a personal way. (see Bud’s Decision and Destiny) I would marry and have 3 sons of my own. I can still remember the night sitting around our supper table having some fellowship with friends from church after our Sunday evening service. The hour was getting late and I coaxed my wife Joanne to take the boys upstairs for their bedtime prayers when my friend said, “You’re the father and that’s YOUR job!” I was propelled into action by that admonition from that day forward. My boys and I had some wonderful and blessed times of prayer in their growing up years. To hear their simple prayers calling out to their Heavenly Father in sincerity showered me with blessings.
I hope the fathers and mothers reading this take the time to pray along with your children and grand children. What a great opportunity to lead them to the place where they open their hearts to the Savior. Teach them to pray. It will have eternal results. Now I lay me down to sleep…..
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