Grandmother’s Day

Mothers Day brought together three mothers and one grandmother. Kristin is the mother of Elijah (11 months). Alice is the mother of Calvin (five months). Kay is the mother of Kristin and Andrew (Calvin’s father) and grandmother of Elijah and Calvin.

Kay Mothers Day

Elijah, Grandma Kay, and Calvin

It’s only a matter of time before Mark Twain’s description of his relationship with his mother will describe Elijah’s and Calvin’s relationship with their mothers and grandmothers:

“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she rather enjoyed it.”

Grandma is having a great time with these little guys. Already Elijah is wearing her out chasing him around the house to protect him from his curious self. Calvin is not yet peripatetic, but he already offers his own kind of trouble. He’s huge and heavy for Grandma to carry. But, when all is said and done, when Elijah and Calvin are able to talk and look back on Grandma Kay, they will echo the serious complement Mark Twain paid his mother.

As Andrew’s picture from Mothers Day illustrates, I think she rather enjoys it.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, the day after Mothers Day, May 14, 2018.

Grandpa, we’re with Mika, right?

Eli and baseball IMG_5753Elijah and Grandpa had just read the President’s tweet about Mika Brzezinski when Elijah said a bad word.

“You need to be more respectful of the President!”

“Why?” asked Elijah. “He’s not my President! Look what he just did to Mika! What’s he have to do that for! He’s mean, Grandpa!”

“I wish I knew, Elijah. Most of his tweets happen when he wakes up early in the morning.”

“Maybe he needs to be nursed as soon as he wakes up. That always calms me down.”

170629123255-trump-tweets-assualt-on-brzezinski-1024x576.jpg“Well, I’m afraid Donald Trump’s mother is way beyond being able to nurse him. She’s really old, way older than Grandpa, Elijah.”

“Then you should call the White House. They should give him a bottle as soon as he wakes up before he attacks another mother! When he stops tweeting insults at women like Mika, I’ll stop calling him a mother.”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 30, 2017.




Oatmeal Cookies

Sometimes when you’ve been cooped up too long because of winter storms, your memory drifts beyond the snow drifts. You remember your mother and the aroma of fresh baked cookies. It happened this week to little Stevie Shoemaker out on the Illinois prairie.

My mother’s oatmeal lacy cookies

Mash flat with back of small teaspoon
each dab of dough. Cook for eight or
ten minutes at 350. Then
remove from oven, wait for four
long minutes till you slide a wide
steel spatula under each thin
(one rolled oat thick) cookie. Held
together by white/brown sugar,
one egg, one tablespoon of flour,
two sticks (one cup) of real butter,
when cooled are crisp but chewy, brown
around the edges: will not last an hour.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL

Mother's oatmeal lacy cookies

Mother’s oatmeal lacy cookies

Of Falls, Bungalows, Castles, and Fawns

This sermon was preached at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska May 12, 2013 following a trip to Cambria, CA that began with Kay breaking her ankle on the way down the stairs as we were leaving for the airport. The rest is story of William Randolph Hearst desire for a bungalow that ended up as a castle, and an encounter with Mr. Excellent. The fawn story never made it into the sermon because of a forgetful preacher.

The story of the fawn is this. The morning Kay and I were preparing to leave Cambria for the trip home, I noticed a deer in the backyard pacing. There was a fawn lying on the lawn. Examining the fawn, it appeared to be alive, but was not moving, injured perhaps. The next time I looked, its eyes were closed. After examining it, I called the owner of the home we had rented to suggest that she call animal rescue. I thought there was a dead fawn in her back yard.

When we arrived home in Minnesota there was a voicemail that Animal Rescue had come and taken away the fawn only to realize that it was very much alive. It had just been born that morning. Point of the story for a Mother’s Day sermon: God is like that mother, staying nearby waiting for her newborn baby to get up.

A Mother’s Love

Katie and Kay (Mom) at Katie's graduation.

Katie and Kay (Mom) at Katie’s graduation.

Today Kay shared this at the cemetery as we laid to rest the ashes of her first-born daughter Katherine (“Katie”)

For Christ to have gone before us,
To have kept us from ultimate sadness,
To be our brother, our advocate,
The One who ushers in the Kingdom,
And the One to come,

Does not keep us from our digging today.
We still gather here and throw the dirt on our sacred dust,
We take the shovel like all those gone before us
And surrender to the Unknowable—
The place where
Love and Beauty and Kindness grow wild.
Where sorrow has no needs,
Where there is all beginning and
Nothing ends.

I know this Love of hers lives on. I feel it.
I watch it in many streams of synchronicity,
Where my heart leaps from memory’s knowing,
Where I share a breath from her beyond.

And then I cry in secret,
Begging that she return

On my terms.

But if my begging is selfish,
The answer to it is not.
If I but knew the splendor of that Place where Love lives,
I would marvel in her good fortune
And ponder her grace inside a timeless waiting for us,
A begging for our good fortune
To come on her terms.

We live our lives in time.
She lives all time as Splendor.
We are bound between this stalemate
And the mystery that is our promise.

Until then we have no other luxury than
To shout her precious memories to the sky
In loud thanksgiving that Love herself lived with us awhile.

Then, because we live with fuller hearts
From knowing more than before our loss,
We turn our shovels over
As those with little other choice for now.
For now we dig.
And shed our tears
With greater Trust.

Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is
In heaven.

– Kay Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 9, 2013,
the third anniversary of loss and fuller hearts.

The Young Mother’s Risk

“I’d have gotten in the car

with an ax-murderer,” she said.


“It was long before cell phones.

I was driving between towns

when my baby in the car seat went into

fever convulsions.  I knew

exactly what it was since

her older brother had them too.

I pulled over on the Interstate

four-lane highway and poured milk

from her bottle over her head

to cool her down.  Standing beside

the road,  I had a finger in her mouth

to keep her from swallowing her tongue,

when a car pulled over and backed up

to where we were.  I climbed right in

and said to the man driving,

‘Take us to a hospital emergency room!’

The nurses cooled her down quickly

and she was fine.  I never saw

the Good Samaritan again…”


– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, Jan. 10, 2013

In remembrance of Leah Thomas

Leah Thomas was an attorney at the Legal Rights Center. Born and raised in southside Chicago, Leah’s older brother had been a member of the Black Panthers. She was raised with the cry for social justice in her bones, full of faith, smiles, laughter, and steadiness, a sturdy legal advocate and “mother” to the juvenile clients she defended in Hennepin County District Court.

She fainted one morning getting her coffee at Panera Bread. Days later she was gone. The funeral was held at her African-American church in Minneapolis. As Executive Director of the Legal Rights Center and Leah’s colleague and friend, I offered the following Tribute to Leah at the funeral.

Like light

Like joy

Like sun breaking through a storm

Her laughter

Brightens the room

Breaks the ice

Fills it with peace.

Mama walks lightly

Amid the trials and the cares

Quick as a black panther

Steady as a turtle

She coos with the tenderness

of the turtle-dove

walks with the strength of a lion.

With steady hand

With sturdy faith

And clarity of mind

She laughs

And soars her craft

Through clouds and storms

To lead us on and through.

Like light,

Like joy,

Like sun breaking through a storm,

She laughs,

She brightens the room,

She wipes our tears

She fills us with her peace.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Legal Rights Center, Inc., Feb. 1, 2005.