I can’t believe it, and neither can my mom. She turns 100 years young this week on May 4. Wow! I looked at her a few days ago and said, “You’re a centenarian!” She replied in jest, “I’m not a centipede!”
My mom, Wilma Norris Knight, was born in 1921 in rural Wilson, Oklahoma, where I grew up, too. I think its population peaked back then with a whopping 1,800 people.
My mom had a very difficult first half of her life. She was raised in abject poverty, and she was given away as a ward of the state when she was only 8 years old. She was treated for two years for a rare disease, living away from the family in a children’s hospital.
When she returned healthy a few years later, she lived through the Great Depression. Her entire family – including the young kids – used to pick cotton in fields just to survive. When done picking one field, they’d often move to another town to pick another field. There was nothing easy about life in the Dust Bowl, especially during the decade of the Great Depression.
Mom married my father at 16 years of age but was abandoned to raise her three boys all alone. I was the eldest, and often had to assume the roles of my absent father. We were as poor as church mice, but that’s what also prepared me to overcome the obstacles of this life.
Mom has been an example of perseverance and faith her whole life. She is the last survivor of her 11-member biological family. She’s also endured the deaths of her two husbands, a stepson, two grandchildren and my younger brother Wieland in the Vietnam War. She’s had cancer repeatedly and has gone through roughly 30 different surgeries for a host of issues – and yet she’s still here to tell about it. (Her inspirational and only official autobiography, “Acts of Kindness: My Story,” is available through Amazon.)
My mother has prayed for me all my life, through thick and thin. When I was born, I almost died from complications. When nearly losing my soul to Hollywood a few decades ago, she was back home praying for my success and salvation. She even prayed for me to find a woman to change my life, and it worked. I equally celebrate my wife, Gena, during this Mother’s Day week. Gena helps me run all my enterprises and is CEO of our new artesian bottled water company, CFORCE. But most of all she is the mother of our twins, the love of my life and my best friend.
With my mom’s birthday at one end of this week and Mother’s Day at the other, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God for these two incredible women’s influence in my life. I wouldn’t be the man I am without them.
There’s a Spanish proverb that says: “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.” I think that’s way undervalued for my mom since she’s also now a centenarian saint.
Mom, I don’t know what’s more difficult to believe: that you are 100 years old or that you have a son who is 81 years old! Regardless, I’m so grateful you are my mom, and so is brother Aaron. We always have been. We’ve been through thick and thin in this life, and we are still going strong – a little rust but still runnin’!
Here’s my mom’s five-minute interview on the Mike Huckabee show, when he used to be on Fox, for those that want to hear more from my maternal heroine. If I am a patriot and culture warrior, it’s because she showed me the way!
In the chapter titled, “Growing Old Ain’t for Sissies,” in her autobiography, Mom wrote:
Comedian George Burns, who lived to be 100 years old, put it well: “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.”
I believe that. And so did my deceased husband George.
We stay young in body by eating well and staying fit, but young in mind by not settling for status quo and always pressing onward and upward.
Despite our numerical age, the young in heart are those who are always challenging themselves, starting over, facing fears, taking risks and never giving up. …
Abraham Lincoln once said, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
I love you, Mom! Happy 100th birthday! And Happy Mother’s Day, Mom and Gena! I thank God for you both every day! And I thank you for helping God to make me all I can and should be.
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