With Mother's Day just around the corner, Zondervan has released a loving portrait of one of the 20th century's most visible wives and mothers --- Ruth Bell Graham, wife of Billy and mother to Anne (Graham Lotz), Franklin, Gigi, Ruth, and Ned. Ruth is the author of this collection of memories and her sepia-tinged prose is full of personal stories that create a scrapbook-like profile of her mother that spans Ruth Bell's childhood in China to her current role as family matriarch in North Carolina.
A LEGACY OF LOVE is certainly sentimental, but it hovers above schmaltz by including many of the lessons Ruth Bell taught her children that garnered her such keen admiration in the first place. One gets the sense that Ruth Bell was a woman with a lot on her mind, most of it relating to her faith, and she was eager to pass that faith-filled perspective along to her children.
"Mother was sitting with a visitor and me looking out at the patch of lawn in the front of our house and the few sentinel pine trees growing up above the lawn from lower ground. Mother told us that, originally, she and my father had planned to build our home at a lower spot on the mountain, about where those pine trees were standing. In order for the house to have a view, Mother and Daddy would have had to cut those trees down. Daddy was open to doing so, but Mother was not. Apparently, the property's original homesteader had carried the trees as saplings on his back all the way from Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi. Mother could not bear to feel the trees after such a sacrifice.
To solve the problem, Mother explained, she and Daddy simply decided to build the house at a higher point on the mountain. 'I find that to be a good way of solving problems,' she said to us without batting an eye. 'Just move to higher ground.'
It was as if she had pulled a new adage out of thin air!"
Ruth goes on to say that such matter-of-fact, didactic moments punctuated her growing-up years with unbelievable frequency. Her mother was able to extrapolate little lessons from life easily and naturally without sacrificing her sense of empathy and compassion.
That Ruth is able to capture her mother's spirit so beautifully is itself a legacy of her mother. Ruth Bell has a well-documented love of writing, and it's a passion she passed down to her namesake. On her 13th birthday Ruth was given a green leather journal with pages edged in gold, "a grown-up book" in which to record the events of her life. And one suspects it's the discipline of journaling, developed at a young age, that allows her now to recall the days of her life and the lessons of her mother so vividly.
"I have found that writing --- particularly journaling --- is much more than chronicling events. As I imagine must be true for Mother, writing helps me clarify my thinking and get perspective on life. I do record events, but then I try to apply Scripture to those events. I ask God to reveal himself to me in the details of my circumstances as I write them out, and I listen for his voice. I may come to my journal with a jumble of disconnected facts and perceptions; but once I am finished writing, I often have a much better understanding of both what has happened and what perspective I need to adopt," writes Ruth.
Along with memories and lessons learned, the pages of A LEGACY OF LOVE are populated with family artifacts and pictures of the Graham clan taken through the years, including some shots of Ruth Bell in China as a young girl. But this is more than just a scrapbook. Given their shared faith and love of journaling, A LEGACY OF LOVE is an especially moving tribute from daughter to mother.
Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel on March 22, 2005