The Heroism of Motherhood
- Monday, March 19, 2012
Hanging on the wall in the Abigail Becker Ward of Simcoe Town Hospital is a portrait of a heroine known as "the Guardian Angel of Long Point Bay." This heroine is not dressed as a firefighter, police officer, doctor, nurse, or member of the military—though without a doubt, many heroes emerge from these callings. Instead, if painted in the garb she wore at the time of her heroic service, she would be shown in a simple house dress, barefoot. On her lap she holds a Bible, and she wears a large golden medal given to her for her heroism.
She did not ask for this medal, nor for any of the other awards she received in response to her noble deeds. She did not act out of a desire for fame or recognition. Webster's Dictionary defines a hero as one who is "renowned for his courage or feats of valor." Because of what she did, Abigail Becker was indeed a hero. However, first and foremost, Mrs. Becker was a mother, and it was this role she was called to fill long before she was needed as the heroic lifesaver she would become. I would even suggest that it was her calling as a mother that prepared her for her heroic task of saving seven men from a sinking ship in the cold November waters of Lake Erie. In fact, who's to say she was not a lifesaver already, even before she plunged into the waves to rescue drowning men?
On an average day, mothering may not seem that heroic: washing dishes, dirtying dishes, cleaning potty training messes, refereeing disputes, clarifying vocabulary words, dictating spelling tests, putting in the fourteenth load of laundry for the day, preparing to dirty (then wash) yet another set of dishes, wiping away tears, holding little hands, cuddling little bodies (and every once in a while, bigger ones). We may tuck our precious ones in with prayer each night and thrill to answer questions about the Lord and His Word any time of day, but we certainly do not see ourselves as heroes. Through all we do, we strive to teach God's truth diligently to our children when we sit and when we rise, when we walk by the way and when we lie down, that we and our household should "fear the Lord [our] God, and serve him" (Deut. 6:13).
We desire for our children to follow in our footsteps and love the Lord our God with all their hearts, with all their souls, and with all their strength. We sacrifice sleep, money, time, and patience for the wellbeing of our children. We go down on our knees for our offspring, crying with all our heart that God would hear our prayer and meet their needs. At times, we must love in the face of defiance, teach despite deafened ears, guide lagging steps, and encourage defeated spirits. And we do not call ourselves heroes? Of course not; for like Abigail Becker, we are not in it for the fame or fortune. We would appreciate loving recognition once in a while, but that is not why we do what we do. We do what we do because woven into the very fiber of our being is a keen desire to nurture, to save, to comfort, to heal, to guide, and, yes, to rescue.
It may well have been the same for Mother Becker. It is likely we will never encounter strangers surrounded by such dire conditions or in such grand distress as those men shipwrecked in a late November storm on Long Point Bay. Still, we can be inspired and encouraged by the tale of this inspiring lady lifesaver. Who knows? Perhaps we will come away with a new perspective on our own lot in life, a willingness to jump in and pull out the drowning man in our midst, and a fortitude to stand on the shore, no matter what, and cry out, "Swim! I will help you ashore!"
Abigail Becker lived in the vicinity of Lake Erie's Long Point, just off the northeast shore of Ontario, Canada. The low sand point was a likely spot for shipwrecks. It is unknown exactly where Abigail was when she noticed the wreck on November 23, 1854: whether she was in her home caring for her nine children, or whether she was out on the beach walking barefoot (her family had no shoes, for they were too poor to afford them) gathering firewood. No matter where she was, the moment she saw the ship's crew clinging to the rigging for all they were worth, she flew into action. A poem written by Amanda T. Jones describes it this way:
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