By Pastor Tim White
I feel like God has outdone himself by blessing me with a mother that is way more than I deserve. Elizabeth Jane Saunders is a bright light in the world and in the life of her family. She was raised on a chicken ranch in Eagle Valley, Oregon. Eagle Valley was home to the Saunders and Cundiff’s who settled there from the Oregon Trail. Her father, Winston Saunders, had contagious enthusiasm and as an Engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad he was a larger-than-life character to all his grandchildren. He spoiled my mom by always buying her an Easter Dress. He was a political leader in Oregon and received invitations to more than one Presidential Ball.
Her mom, Elizabeth Jane or Betty Saunders, was a hard-working lady who worked as a maid in the La Grande Hotel and could make the best cinnamon rolls in the world. She added a touch of class to our family and had a girlish giggle. She was also proud of her Cundiff Heritage as my mom is Cundiff strong also. My mom met my dad when they were in grade school. And you can ask any of her four boys - this was the luckiest day of my dad’s life. She was very popular in High School and was a Student Body Officer. We look at the pictures of her and she was just a beauty queen who looked like she could be an actress or something. Still today I can see that undiminished beauty in her eyes and character. She married my dad and even lived in the White family log cabin when I was a baby. I have a picture on my wall of me and my mom and people often ask me if that is a picture of Abraham Lincoln and his mom, but it is me. She and my dad worked their way through college and seminary and moved to the Tri-Cities to start a church which would become the Cathedral of Joy. She canned food and picked crops with her children at her side. She always stood up for us when a bully would threaten us in the tough neighborhood we lived in. And she expected her boys to do the same for one
another. She played the piano and organ in church. And after her dad passed away of a heart attack she
became a nurse because she wanted to care for people in their most difficult trials. She worked graveyard shift at Kennewick General Hospital with Jeannie Sutten’s mom, and Russ Smith’s mom. When she got the job, it was the first time our family had any money and she bought us our first color T.V.
Since she had been a cheerleader, when she came to our games we could always hear her above the crowd saying, “come on Timothy!” When my brother was playing quarterback for Eastern Washington University vs. Boise State in Boise, someone behind us began to criticize my brother’s playing. He had thrown 3 interceptions, but he always carried the team on his back and eventually threw 3 touchdown passes to win the game. The man behind us said something about my youngest brother and my mom said, “do you know who I am?” The man said “no”, she said “I am that boys’ mother.” The man said he was sorry then my dad whispered to my mom “do you know who that man is?” She said “no.” He said, “that is the President of Eastern Washington University.”
My mom took care of the dying in the Tri-Cities in their homes before there was a hospice. She cared for her mother-in-law and father-in-law when they were dying. It got so hard with my grandpa White that I told her “Mom, grandpa doesn’t remember who he is, I think we can put him in a care facility - you can’t burn the
candle at both ends like this.” She said “Well, I know who he is, and he is not just my father-in-law, this man was my pastor when I was a little girl. “
My mom helped us all on our homework, loved her grandchildren at a level that was way beyond the norm. She has always loved my dad and been his closest friend. In my life she always knows how to encourage me. She tells me “you are a Saunders and a Cundiff too, so keep a strong upper lip.” I am not sure what that means but my lip has always been pretty strong.
When I place a carnation on the altar this Sunday, my prayer will be thanking my God for blessing me beyond what I deserve with an amazing mom - there will be a little tear in my eye as usual. Then, when I get home, I will call my mom to see if she got my Mother’s Day present and we will talk and laugh and I will be praying that I am doing a good job of honoring the mother I love. Won’t you do the same thing this Sunday? It’s not just another Sunday.