By Leila McPherson Herron Waters, MSW
It is often said that a major role of parenting is to give your children roots and wings. I am blessed to have had two parents who gave unselfishly of themselves, while marinating me in unconditional love, care, and support.
My mother transitioned from life to reward in May of 2004, but I feel her presence surrounding me continually. I don’t think of my mother in the past tense. As long as my heart beats, she lives. She lives in her three beloved grandchildren and the precious great grandchild we welcomed into this world last September.
Ode to my Mother:
My mother was reared in the Cherry Community of Charlotte and received her elementary and secondary education at the Morgan Street School and Second Ward High Schools. She later completed her undergraduate study at Johnson C. Smith University and took several graduate courses throughout her life.
Born the ninth of ten children, Mother developed a thirst for education and a desire to advance in her very early childhood. She would often tell us the story of how she gathered up several books and started on her mission “to go to school” as a preschooler. She almost made it to the Morgan Street School before being intercepted by a neighbor who told her she wasn’t quite old enough and would have to turn around and go home.
She was not defeated in the battle to advance, rising above her circumstance to succeed. I watched my mother overcome many battles of life with grace, purpose and dignity. I watched her overcome the battles of being a minister’s wife with refinement, composure and grace. I watched her carve out a 43-year career as a successful educator while simultaneously rearing three strong-willed and often rebellious “preacher’s daughters.”
I watched my mother deal with the battles of illness, but never allowing illness to damper her spirit or lessen her fight, determination and faith. How can I summarize my mother’s life, her struggles, her battles, her fight? In poetic verse I’ll say;
The Battle is now over for you, mother dear,
The Battle you so graciously and eloquently fought.
It’s time for us now to take up the banner, continue
the lessons you taught. Ma, I will remember the lessons that you taught us. They will always stay fresh in my mind. You taught us to care, stand together in love; to be honest, forgiving, and kind.
Thank you, Christ Jesus for the life force known as Louise Christine.
The teacher you picked special for your classroom above.
Thank you mother for the legacy you left us.
Your beautiful legacy of LOVE!
Ode to my Father:
What manner of a man is called by the name; The Rev. Dr. Vernon Mack Herron? What attributes could adequately describe him? Webster’s Dictionary states an attribute is “an inherent characteristic; an object closely associated with or belonging to a specific person.”
When I think of your life, my beloved father, six key attributes come quickly to mind. Vernon Herron is a scholar, a griot, an organizer, a visionary, a preacher’s preacher and a father.
You are a well taught man. You possessed a zealous thirst for knowledge that you have maintained throughout your life. You kept your mind open and encouraged your children and all those around you to continually acquire knowledge. I will always boost with pride your numerous academic achievements. You did not receive your doctorate degree from honorary means, you earned it!
A Griot (historian)
You are our family’s griot who infused us with an appreciation of our history. As the chronicler of our family tree, you were able to trace our family back to the time of slavery.
You have always been a neat, clean and an orderly person who could create a systematic approach to just about every task. You taught us that everything has a proper place and should be placed in it.
You are also an organizer of people, motivating them in a working relationship to get the job done.
Not born before your time, or after your time, but right on time! You saw things that should be; dreamed dreams that could be; and took action to make your dreams a reality. You created a better life for us by thinking outside the box, and I thank you.
A Preacher’s Preacher
You are known for your thorough Biblical research, dynamic and charismatic style. By allowing God to speak to us through you, our hearts burned with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit with your encouraging messages.
In a household full of women, there was never any question who wore the pants in our family. My mind goes back to when my sisters and I wanted something we knew you would oppose. We would rally Mother to our side and unanimously pronounced; “we are the majority!” In an unflinching stance you’d raise up your head high and reply; “I’m the majority!”
I remember the Sunday car rides to look at beautiful homes with, of course, a stop to Dairy Queen for ice cream. Our family vacations throughout the country to attend the Alpha Phi Alpha Conventions, will always be cherished memories. How proud I was of the lessons you taught of citizenship and racial pride through your example.
You marched with Dr. King from Selma to Montgomery, represented the City of Joliet at Dr. King’s funeral, and participated in many civic organizations throughout your ministry. While other children played with their toys, from your exposure, we played Communion in the basement with grape juice and Baptism in the swimming pool.
I will remember how you would motivate us to do a particular task by saying; “If you do this, I’ll give you half of my kingdom.” As I matured and advanced in math, I started to wonder exactly how many halves there were in his kingdom? I later realized that his kingdom was not about financial riches which the world seems to crave, but a treasure chest of desired attributes I’ll take that to my grave.
You taught us to be conscientious, consistent and concerned. You taught us that life’s new lessons should be continually learned. Through your parental vessel, I am endowed with a great inheritance. Through you, I have become academically, culturally and spiritually enriched.
Saying thank you for giving “half of your kingdom” is certainly an understatement. I know now, that you gave us your all!
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
About the author
Leila is the second of three daughters of Dr. Vernon M. Herron and the late Louise O. Herron. She is retired and is the mother of one, Alex Waters, with a Masters degree in Social Work. She takes her name from a family aunt, the late Leila McPherson Davis, who was the family philanthropist and taught school in Mecklenburg County for 43 years. (See blog 83) Leila is the caregiver, confidant, chauffeur and companion of her father, Dr. Herron.