My name is Steve Teare. I’m the eldest of the four Teare children. In 1957, my family lived in Indiana. West Lafayette is on one side of the Wabash River. It’s home to Purdue University. My Dad was attending Purdue to get his doctorate degree in Agronomy. We lived in the university’s married-student apartments. That summer, I turned four-years-old. My brother Brad was not quite two. The feature-length, Disney animated film, Bambi, was re-released in theaters then. I imagine my mother took me to see the movie for my birthday. It was a shock to my young mind and heart. I learned a new thing I never even considered: Mothers can die.
In the film, the deer fawn, Bambi, grows up very attached to his mother. He spends most of his time with her. Bambi is curious and inquisitive like all children. His loving mother cautions him about the dangers of forest life.
One day at the end of winter, Bambi and his mother go to the meadow and discover a patch of new grass. It’s finally the arrival of spring. As they eat, Bambi’s mother senses a hunter and orders Bambi to flee. As they run, gun shots ring out. When Bambi arrives at their thicket, he discovers his mother is no longer with him. He’s unaware that the hunter killed her.
Bambi wanders off in the forest calling for her. But she never answers. His father appears in front of him. He tells Bambi “your mother can’t be with you any more”, revealing to Bambi that his mother is dead, then leads him away. The death of Bambi’s mother was so dramatic and emotional the movie writer’s had it occur off screen. Reviewers criticized the film as a “horror story.”
Even Walt Disney’s own daughter Diane, then 24 at the time of this showing, complained that Bambi’s mother didn’t need to die. She felt Disney could have taken creative license and altered the story.
For me, in the darkness of the theater, I was overcome with a panic and anxiety I’d never felt before. I was afraid. I began to cry. I plead with my own mother to know what happened to the doe. “Where is she?” My mom reassured me that everything would be all right and that the mother deer had gone to heaven. I trusted and believed my mother then –and I believe her still today. All children reunite with their Mothers who love them.
I’ve gradually overcome my natural fear of losing my Mother because I learned from her there’s a life after this one. We’ll be together again. Our love is not broken.
When I was born, my mother’s wish was that I’d become a preacher someday. We were Methodist’s then and a preacher could sustain himself and his family by charging fees for his services. When I was 12, our family joined the Mormon Church — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since Mormon ministers are volunteers, they receive no pay. This ruined my Mother’s dream for my vocational future. She told me this story when I left to serve as a Mormon missionary in Argentina. For her, my mission fulfilled her desire. I would preach of Christ’s love.
So I tell you what she told me those decades ago, “Don’t be afraid. Everything will be all right.” Our mother is in a safe and good place.
Even though I can’t be with you today, I’m glad I get to “preach” to you of things my Mother taught. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He died that all mankind might rise again. My mother knew it and I know it. It’s true. When you examine your heart, you’ll know it’s true, also.