Wisdom and Beauty
As I write this, it is the day after we celebrated my oldest friend’s eightieth birthday. We partied on Zoom, both because of the current health situation and because we are scattered from coast to coast and from Canada to Mississippi. Ken’s daughter organized the party. I’m sure we all learned things about him we didn’t know as we played trivia games with Ken at the center.
Interspersed with the game questions were pictures Ken’s daughter had gotten hold of, pictures of Ken and his family going back to when he was practically a babe in arms. In some of those pictures I recognized my friend as the child I had known when we were both in late elementary and junior high school.
I’m not going to share any of the stupid things we did together at my house on Friday nights when my parents went to a church meeting. He was—still is—two years older than me, and I’m sure my folks thought his age would somehow imbue the situation with a bit of maturity. It didn’t.
Suffice to say we didn’t do any irreparable harm to the house and its contents, and we both obviously survived. Here we are today, an octogenarian and one so near that age I can almost see it from here. When I had a chance to extend my good wishes yesterday I told him what I’ve said so many times before. He is the closest thing I have to a brother. I’m an only child, so having someone I can say that about means a lot to me.
Ken has a lot going for him. He was—is—an excellent musician. He is the most natural athlete I’ve ever known. If an activity involved physical coordination it came easily to him. He is bright enough to have had a wide choice of career fields. He chose sociology, and the field is richer because he is part of it.
What struck me most yesterday were pictures of Ken’s mother. She was beautiful! I didn’t pay any attention at the time; she was my best friend’s mother, and I hadn’t yet reached the age where I found females attractive. But looking at those pictures I could see how beautiful Mom Davis was.
I call her Mom because one summer she became a second mother to me. I was fourteen, had just finished my freshman year of high school, and was finally old enough to work at our denomination’s summer camp. Mom Davis was the cook. I was her kitchen slave. I washed the pots she dirtied cooking three meals a day for a couple hundred campers and staff members. She was an exacting taskmaster, and in my first real work experience, the best boss I could have had. Most of what I know about work ethic I learned that summer. Many lessons weren’t fun, but I learned.
For many years Ken and I moved in different circles in different cities. Our lives touched peripherally; even more so my life with that of Mom Davis. I was able to keep track of her through my parents, who had continued their friendship long after Ken and I were grown and gone. Several years ago, Ken and I reconnected. One outgrowth of that renewed connection was that I was able to spend time with Mom Davis. She’s gone now, but what she taught me that summer has stayed with me.
What didn’t come through in those pictures was her inner beauty and inner strength. Left a widow, she raised three sons to manhood, sons of whom any mother would be proud. As is often true of Scripture, not every word of these verses from the last chapter of Proverbs is true about this woman who meant so much to my life, but enough is true that they stand as a lasting tribute to a woman of beauty—inside and out.