Sunday, March 8, 2020 -
Today, I asked my wife Kathie to read this at my mother’s funeral, since I was not there to pay tribute…
I am Philip Zodhiates, the only son of my mother, and I would like today to pay the honor and respect to my mother which she deserves. It is with deep regret I am not able to be here in person to do so.
It is my mother who brought me into this world. But more importantly, it is she who helped bring me to salvation. I recall still today, vague as it may seem in my memory, but still certain, bowing my knee next to her at a young age and confessing my sin to God, asking for the blood of Jesus to cleanse me of my sin, making me God’s child. As a child of God, I am still maturing and will do so till my last breath.
But that event in my life epitomizes the life of my mother. She lived her life very selflessly, compassionately, caringly. Like my dad, she too had a passion for lost souls to come to salvation in Christ. She often quoted to me 3rd John 1:4, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in truth.” This became very evident to me especially during the last 15 months that I have been imprisoned for my faith in the Lord. She has been one of my biggest encouragers, repeating her belief until I would get frustrated with her that God put me in prison so I could lead men to Christ. I’d get frustrated when I said to her I was ready for God to vindicate me and send me home. Because she’d inevitably say, “Well, there may be more men there He wants you to reach.” But that was my Mom, always willing to sacrifice even her own comfort for the lives of others. For those who know me, they can see how when you couple the passion and zeal of my dad with the quiet loyalty and servant-hood mentality of my mom that I now am where I am.
My mother grew up in poverty, the youngest of three girls in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Mom moved after the Great War with her mother out of the poor coal-mining area of Northeastern Pennsylvania to New York City to look for work. It was not long afterward that she was attending a service at First Baptist Church on Broadway near Central Park West, that she met my dad, who had come just a few weeks earlier from Cairo, Egypt, where he’d grown up. His childhood there and, at times, in Alexandria, Khartoum, and South Sudan, was also extremely poor.
So if you ever considered my mom and dad penny-pinching tightwads, now you know why! Yet they’d always seemed ready to give to anyone who had a need, sharing their modest lives with the lonely, the needy, or the orphaned.
When my mother fell a few years back, and the doctors said she was not able to go back to the independent living apartment, it fell upon Kathie and me to find her a new place to live. Compared to her previous abodes, Morning Pointe Assisted Living seemed luxurious, and we knew she would not take well to that fact, or the additional expense it would incur. Looking at the options, as well as her financial ability, we made the call to put her there, as God miraculously opened the door in a place that normally has a waiting list. Lo and behold, when I took all of her insurance papers to the office of that facility, they were very excited to report to me that every penny would be covered by long-term insurance! God was indeed preparing her to step into His glorious presence in the final home He had prepared for her.
My mom wanted everyone to know the Savior, and she’d share with every nurse. Growing up, I remember she’d never leave a restaurant without leaving a Gospel tract, something she kept doing all her life. And living just on the Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge, we’d constantly be going through toll booths. But each and every attendant would get a Gospel tract handed to them. When I was young, Dad’s office was in Times Square. We were in the city a lot, going to Dad’s office, or to the services of the Greek Evangelical Church that met near Port Authority. Always, mom would hand me Gospel tracts to help her distribute on the streets.
My dad traveled a lot when I was growing up, often for weeks or even months at a time. Some years dad would be home only one weekend a year. She was left with four, and when my sister Olga came, five children to care for, driving back and forth to school every day. I don’t remember one instance of her ever complaining about being left alone or people invading her privacy. This shows a lot about her character. She was not perfect – none of us are – but she had endured a lot during her 92 years. The fact that she endured without complaining demonstrates much about her.
When I ended up in prison, at first I was inundated with letters and notes from many, many people. I knew I could not answer them all. And so, I would write one letter every few weeks for all who wanted to hear from me and I wanted to communicate with, which was graciously distributed by the folks at the 419 Fund via email. Thus, I began journaling daily, which was posted at www.romanseight28.com. Only two people got special letters – my wife, Kathie, and my mom, who had no access to the internet or email. Kathie would also send her a hard copy of my daily journal in large print, which she told me she would read over and over again. She became one of my most faithful prayer warriors, and she begged me, as did others, to write her specifically. She and Kathie were the only ones I wrote regularly: Kathie through the prison email system, but mom with a handwritten letter. I called her once a week, but our minutes are limited, and we could only talk from 5-7 minutes, which she would always say were too short. So I wrote her special letters once a week, but I did not expect her to write back. Yet she always would. Mostly she’d just fill her letters with apologies for her barely legible handwriting, as she was plagued by arthritis in her hands that made writing almost impossible. Yet, she made an effort to send me something once a week. I’ve saved everyone and will cherish them forever, and I will miss them in the remaining weeks or months I must remain in Kentucky.
I am very sorry, Mom, I’m not able to be there to say goodbye to you. And I am very sorry to not be able to be there with all to honor and celebrate your life and your graduation onto eternity that we are rejoicing over today.
The last words she spoke to me, or at least that I understood, were on Friday, February 21. She said, “I’ll see you in heaven.” And indeed, I will.