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A Tribute to Kathryn Henderson - Mom

December 05, 2014

A few weeks ago, as the third quarter of the Florida-Georgia football game was coming to a close (a very important component of this story by the way), I received a message that my 99 year old mom, Kathryn Henderson, would not make it through the night.  Hospice was coming in to make her comfortable.   Mom was in a nursing home in Cumming, Georgia, near Atlanta, where she had lived for the past few years.  At around 11pm that night, I received the news that she had passed.

“Mom” was technically my stepmother.  I never really embraced that term because I always felt she was so much more deserving of love and respect than what the term “stepmother” implied (the mental image of Cinderella’s stepmother I guess).  My mom came into my life when I was nine.  My mother passed away when I was eight from breast cancer and my dad remarried.  I was the best man in their wedding!  So, for 48 years she was my mom.

From day one, mom treated me as her own son.  There was never a doubt or hesitation of her love, devotion and support for me.  For that I am truly grateful.  Today, I want to celebrate her life and share a few of my favorite memories of Kathryn over the years.  I hope they bring a few smiles to you, as they do to me, and give us all something to ponder as we “Grow Forward Together” at Henderson Wealth Partners.

This week she would have celebrated her 100th birthday.

First, mom drilled into me the importance of being polite.  I can’t tell you how many times in my early years I heard from her when responding to an adult with a “yeah,” that mantra of “yes ma-um” (make sure you accentuate the “um”), “no ma-um”, “pa-leeeze” (that’s TWO syllables!) in her south Georgia accent.  I had to repeat it on numerous occasions.  I learned manners, “start at the outside and work in when you are at the SUPPER (pronounced suppah) table.”  How to shake hands with a firm grip AND look a person in the eyes.  I learned how to dress.  A single OR double Windsor tie knot?  No problem!  Most important – how to “match” your clothes (a good lesson for both my dad and I at the time).  

As I grew into my teens, “let your conscience be your guide” is what I heard when I started out the door.  On Sunday mornings she would sit in the #2 pew on the right side of the church fanning herself with that “Jesus fan” (you know, the solemn picture of Jesus on the hand fan so prevalent in southern churches).  When my dad bought me a motorcycle for my 15th birthday, mom had to have a helmet too so I could take her for rides.  Mom even rode on the back of my motorcycle in our town’s annual parade a few years – holding tight with one arm and waving/talking to friends on the side of the parade route.  Mom was also my center and receiver in football when I was 11 or 12 years old.  She would “hike” the ball to me, run out for a pass, and then endure a jarring tackle as she ran with the ball.  ALL in one play!  Poor thing, she was only 4-11 and 106 pounds!  I could go on and on.

My dad passed away when I was 19.  Nothing changed for me and mom as far as our relationship was concerned.  In my mind it was still mom and I and we remained just as closed even though we lived in different states for the past 35 years.  The last time I saw her was this past summer in Cumming.  There were special moments when I am sure she recognized me.  Her eyes would light up for a brief moment and even a few tears.  There was very little talk as we sat in the nursing home garden just holding hands with Rina and Sammie.  In the silence of the garden nothing needed to be said but our touch spoke volumes.  The bond was just as strong and built on 48 years of love and devotion.

As we celebrate our “new” branding at Henderson Wealth Partners this year, it is important to understand that really there is nothing “new” in our core beliefs and mission.  They have been built over 57 years and grounded in our “core” and influenced by people such as my mom.  Our core of trust, integrity, work ethic, respect and caring for people, and providing first class service is what we strive to EARN and is not seen as something that should be granted.  We take very seriously the stewardship you have placed in our hands in your financial planning and we are honored you have chosen us to work for you.

My goal is to share and pass down this legacy to my family.  I hope you have the same objective for your legacies for your family.  As I tribute to my mom, Kathryn Henderson, I wish for you and me that we will all:

Live as Long

Love as Much

Pass along lasting legacies to our families

Oh yes, that Florida-Georgia game at the beginning I referred?

Since I was 9 years old, my mom and I had an annual $1 bet on the winner of the Florida-Georgia game!  Even when I was at Florida on the football team, we still kept the “bet” (gosh, was that an NCAA violation?) and the dollar would be mailed back and forth each year – EXCEPT – those glorious years it stayed with me a spell during the Spurrier years!

Maybe her passing during THAT game was her “goodbye.”