While accepting the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award, Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant took time to pay homage to the sacrifices his mother made in raising him and his older brother.
After garnering 119 first-place votes to just six for Miami's LeBron James, who won the last two MVP awards and four of the previous five, Durant fought back tears as he had a special message for his mother, Wanda Pratt.
Pratt got a standing ovation from the crowd after her son said she was “the real MVP.”
Pratt raised Durant and his older brother, Anthony, as a single mom in Washington, D.C., working long hours and sometimes skipping meals so her sons wouldn’t go hungry, Durant said during what has been called “one of the greatest MVP acceptance speeches of all time."
While this may not be one of the greatest columns of all time, with today being Mother’s Day, I want to take a few moments to sing the praises of the wonderful woman the Lord hand-picked to be my mom — Juanita Wright Cannon.
Born the 12th of 13 children in 1924 into a country family outside the small mining town of Fredericktown, Mo., mom went to a one-room schoolhouse in Snowdenville “holler,” just over the hill from Cornwall, during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Becoming the only one in her family to graduate from high school, she moved to St. Louis as a 17-year-old, working in a munitions plant making bullets for World War II for a time and later getting into secretarial work.
After a year of saving her money, she moved back to the “holler” to use the money to help redo the family home for her mother.
When she was 19, she was invited to move to Cleveland to work at Bible Place, the international headquarters of the Church of God of Prophecy, in the office of new General Overseer M.A. Tomlinson.
One of her responsibilities included doing all the bookkeeping for the construction of Fields of the Wood, the church’s biblical monument park, just inside the North Carolina state line, a few miles northeast of Ducktown.
While serving as the local church’s youth director, she met my dad, Gene Cannon, just before he shipped out with the Navy to be a key ingredient in the Allied war machine in the Pacific Ocean, bringing a swift end to World War II.
They started dating when he returned to Cleveland, and, according to dad, she and my grandmother, Mamie Cannon, began planning their marriage.
Their wedding was the first service of any kind in the Wildwood Avenue Church of God of Prophecy (which is now the Peerless Road Church congregation), held on Good Friday, April 4, 1947. The church had its dedication and first worship service two days later on Easter Sunday.
They just celebrated their 67th anniversary last month.
“She’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” my dad proclaims.
They had four sons — Daryl (DG), Jerry, David and myself — as well as numerous other “adopted” children, who were welcomed into the family. She always had time for whomever the Lord sent her way to help.
I guess coming from a large family, mom was always comfortable with a house full of people. I remember growing up on Meadow Lane, you never knew who was going to be at the house when you came home, whether they were there just for a meal or a week or two.
Whether it was during the church's annual assembly or the three-week long Bible Training Institute, there were no strangers, only extended family, even if we were meeting them for the first time.
That's how I got my sister — Dr. Darline Bell, a wonderful mother in her own right.
Moving from Kansas to attend Tomlinson Memorial School, she got hooked up with mom and moved in with us just before I was born. I was a teenager before I finally understood she actually wasn't "blood kin," but that didn’t matter to us because she was part of our family.
While raising her husband (who is two years younger than her) and family, mom worked at church headquarters for more than 45 years, plus was very involved in the local church as well as the PTA program at Oak Grove Elementary School for many years.
Despite working a full-time job, mom would come home, cook supper every night and keep the house extremely clean, teaching us how to help out in the process.
She even helped local college girls earn spending money by having them come clean the house once a week, but of course the night before she made the house spotless.
My brother, David once expressed accurately that our mom has "the gift of hospitality."
Mom turned 90 a couple of weeks ago (April 24), and while the years have taken their toll on her short-term memory and hearing, I think the hardest part of aging for her has been to deal with is not being able to take care of her family and friends like she used to.
She still wants to fix meals and do the things she did for years when family comes to visit, but she doesn’t have the physical strength to do so. The “want to” is still there, but the time has come for her to be on the receiving end of the hospitality she taught us. That transition hasn’t been easy for one who has blessed so many for so many years.
While watching someone you love so much go through things they have no control over can be disconcerting, I quickly realize that at 54 there are a lot of things that I used to be able to do that I no longer can. It’s a part of life. Not necessarily a fun part, but never the less it will happen to all of us.
Even with her limitations, mom is always full of surprises. I just learned Friday night that she’s not the person I thought she was. It turns out her first name is not Juanita. It’s Elva.
She informed me when she started high school she switched her first and middle name because the teachers calling roll would ask for Elva and she didn’t like that.
It reminded me of when my oldest son declared he would no longer be Bobby, but Robert when he started high school.
He’s still Bobby Joe to me and mom will always be mom, no matter what her birth certificate says.
I am so privileged today to be able to wear a red rose on my lapel (if I still wore suits), signifying I have my mother with me, and I don’t take that for granted.
I am a lucky man to have both my parents still living and providing prayers and inspiration for me on a daily basis.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you. I thank the Lord that when he sent me to this earth, he chose to bless me by having you be my mom.
You’re my MVP mom!