I don't know where the tradition began or how long it had been observed, but to this day, I can still see — in the eye of memory — men, women and children all climbing the steps of the little grey stone church building which sat on a bare rock shelf in the sawmill town of Calico Rock, Arkansas.
As a child, I was far more accustomed to bramble briars and prickly pear cactus than flowers, so who could blame me for having this stand out so plainly in my memory? Perhaps it was the stark bareness of the hillside, whose soil had long since washed into the White River leaving only huge flat slabs of sandstone that made me remember the roses. I only know that the impression remains clear and strong to this day, though more than fifty Mothers' Days have come and gone.
There seemed to be a special honor given to those who wore the white rose. They were more deeply moved by the speeches of the day. They were more thoughtful; and to me, they seemed to wear a special cloak of wisdom and maturity.
I can still remember thinking in child-like ignorance how proud I would feel when I could wear the white rose. Child-like I say, because at that tender age and innocence, I never really connected the consequences with the honor. Many years have passed since I first traded the red rose for the white. Although that white rose brings back many happy thoughts, I never put it on without remembrances of things I wish I had said or done before the red rose faded.
For many of us, our memories — whether sweet or sad — are locked until eternity. However, there may still be time for you to make the memories that you want to carry you through the days of the white rose.
The fifth commandment — carved in stone by the hand of Jehovah and preceded only by the commands concerning the awesome holiness of God and the sacredness of the Sabbath — is written for us in the twentieth chapter of Exodus in verse twelve: "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you."
Do you want to give a gift to your mother today? Would you like to give a costly and lasting gift? Then determine to live in a way that will bring honor to your mother, to God, and even to you! Flowers are beautiful, but they wither and die. Gifts given in love are sweet to the giver and the receiver, but they are broken, worn out, and lost. Only a life of purity truly honors your mother for eternity. Loving talk is easy and promises are quickly broken, but a life of trust is a living monument of far greater honor than a great grey granite stone with words of sweet sentiment and erected to ease a grieving and regretful heart.
It is left to the Apostle Paul to make the last reference to this great commandment, this great truth, as he places relationships in their proper place. He says, in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter six and verses one through three: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth."
If it were possible to be honorable and selfish at the same time, we might dwell on the promise of longevity as a motivation for proper honor to our mothers — we certainly are a people who place much value on living long. However, that kind of motivation would never stand the test of frustration, age, and sickness. Only patient, obedient love will stand up against the raging torrent of the river of time. Only love will remain when the gifts are worn out, when the flowers have withered, and when the red rose is traded for a rose of white.