There’s no such thing as can’t

God has given us the capacity to accomplish almost anything we want, if we just believe we can.

RGS 90 yrs

In October my family, brother, daughters, nieces, nephews and cousins, gathered in our “home town” of Ramona California to remember, honor and celebrate the life of my mother Rebecca Gertrude Stoker, who had passed away in July.  Gertrude, as most people called her, I called her Mom, had touched all of our lives in some fashion and her spirit and gifts live on in everyone who has ever known her.  Her life had been full of blessings and challenges and through it all she persevered and she never gave up.  She seemed to embrace the belief that if you wanted something bad enough and were willing to work hard enough you could achieve any goal – she believed…

“There’s no such thing as can’t.”

During the early 60’s, Chuck, my oldest brother, attended and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD.  At that time the Navy football program was nationally ranked and was blessed with two Heisman Trophy winners, Joe Bellino a running back who you probably have never heard of and a guy by the name of Roger Staubach who you might have heard a little something about.

Well, Mom was a big fan and we tried to watch any game Navy had that happened to be televised, not many back in the days before cable.  However, the annual game between Army and Navy was always aired live and we would make every effort to watch the game, reception permitting. Some of you may guess what I’m saying here.  The dance of someone out at the antenna and you in front of the TV yelling suggestions about turning the antenna one way of the other trying to defeat the televised snowstorm.

It is an understatement to suggest that the Army-Navy game was a big deal to Mom.  She wanted to help the team beat Army so she did what she always did best – baked cookies and gave encouragement.  I don’t know if she would do this each year that Chuck was at the Academy but I can remember on more than one occasion helping her pack up the cookies for shipment to the Navy football team along with a note encouraging the team to do their best, to believe in themselves and that there is no such thing as can’t!

That was the essence of Mom, always the optimist – Well that, a little Stoker stubbornness and ultimately a belief in Christ!  All of which got her through life.

The stubbornness and the can-do spirit are a direct product of her parents and the circumstances of her childhood.  Born in Gainesville, Texas in February of 1919, the second of four children by Sam (Snooks) and Bessie Stoker, Mom grew up during a time when your wits, determination and creativity were the only things that kept food on the table, clothes on your back and a roof over your head.  I’m sure that Snooks and his family would be considered poor by today’s standards but he and Bessie managed to hold the family together and provide their basic needs.  Snooks was gifted with the talent to construct things and combined with his entrepreneurial spirit led him and the family from Texas to Oregon to California.  He did what he had to to support his family and he took responsibility for finding new opportunities when the latest endeavor turned sour.

Snook’s wife, Bessie was the glue that held the immediate family, and eventually the extended family, together.  A God-loving Christian, a mother, a cook, a baker, a seamstress, a gardener, Bessie took care of almost all the her grandchildren at various points in their lives so that her own adult children could deal with the issues that seemed to happen frequently in their lives, divorce, unemployment, reeducation, relocation.

It was this galvanization of spirit and character received from her parents that forged the can do spirit in my mother.  When the going got rough, as it did repeatedly, she didn’t wallow in the misery or look to the government for assistance, she hunkered down and found a new way to support herself, to reinvent herself, to provide for her children.  I never felt like we were poor or lacked for anything growing up and I now know that this is because of how Mom (and my brothers) dealt with her struggles.  Her upbringing had taught her to be resourceful, creative and optimistic and she taught these same qualities to me and my two brothers.  Mother personified the true, original American spirit of independence and responsibility.

Mother’s childhood and struggles through her adult years is not the sole reason that she developed her “there is no such thing as can’t” character.  In fact if her worldly experiences and situations were the only basis for her character then she would never have survived to be 94-years old.  The foundation of her can do spirit was her faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.  I’m convinced that her belief in God helped her see opportunity in the darkest days of her life.  God was the rock that gave her the strength and energy to push through the toughest of times!

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. —Hebrews 6:19

I don’t know when Mom accepted Jesus Christ as her savior but I’m thankful that she did.  When I traveled to Kingman, Arizona the day before she died I was apprehensive about my reaction to her impending death.  However, when I arrived late Thursday night and found her laying in the hospital bed with a breathing device strapped to her face I knew that her time had come.  When she awoke shortly after my arrival she reached out, raised her head up a little and through the mask, and with a forceful gesture of her hand said, “Get this thing off me! Just let me go!” or something to that affect considering she had a stoke a few years before.  I told her that I understood and asked her to be patient while I sorted out the details with the Doctors and nurses.  I didn’t want her to be in any pain while at the same time I knew I must respect her wishes.

On Friday morning I discussed her condition with the various doctors and we developed the plan to take Mom off the breathing machine, give her medication to ease the pain and to let God decide when it was her time.  Trish, my second cousin, arrived and as we sat on each side of the bed holding her hands the nurse administered the morphine and removed the mask and Mother instantly appeared to relax although she was not awake.  At first she was breathing normally but then more and more labored but never gasping, never painfully.  At one point near the end she opened her eyes focused on something, not anything in the room, not me, and a single tear traced a line across her cheek.  She closed her eyes and she fully relaxed into the waiting arms of Jesus, she was no longer burdened by this life, with this world.

Sitting there watching her breath her last I was surprised at my reaction, I was at peace.  This peace came from knowing that Mom was going to a better place, the best place possible.  She was going to heaven and she would soon be with her mother Bessie, Jesus and God!  My peace was born from the knowledge that Mom had been saved!  I don’t know when or why she accepted Christ as her Savior, all I knew was that I was thankful she had.

As I mentioned earlier, Mom’s legacy lives on in everyone who was fortunate enough to know her and is represented by the generations who now carry on her creativity, her love and her can-do spirit into the world. I ask each of us to keep that legacy in mind as we live our lives; as we raise our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I ask that we each pray, not for her, she is in the best place possible, instead pray for each of us, our families, our neighbors, our countrymen to live positive, responsible lives dedicated to Christ!

I pray that we all live by the creed that,

”There’s NO such thing as can’t!”