After that I was turned, I repented…because I did bear the reproach of my youth.@Jeremiah 31:19
illustration

Charles M. Fillmore, 1898. Fillmore wrote this song upon reading of the death of the mother of American president William McKinley. McKinley had a special relationship with his mother, who was very proud of him: In his youth, she boasted he would become a Methodist bishop (little did she know he would go somewhat farther). When “Mother McKinley” fell ill in the winter of 1897, she lived some distance from the capital, so the president had a special telegraph line installed between Washington and her home town. When word finally came of her impending death, he quickly wired back, Tell mother I’ll be there!

Mr. Charles Alexander related that a friend of his cut the poem out of a magazine and sent it to him. He kept it and made a practice of always carrying it with him to his evangelistic services. One night in Newton, Kansas, Mr. Alexander was to sing a solo. I saw in the audience, he said, “a great crowd of railway men, and with some doubt I finally decided to try this touching song, and was surprised at the extraordinary result.

“Many of the men stood up to join the forces of Christ. When the meeting was over, one big burly engineer came up to me and said, ‘Mr. Alexander, I promised my mother on her deathbed that I would become a Christian, but instead of that I have been going to the devil faster than ever. Preaching never touched me, but that song did.’

I used that song every night, and have been using it ever since. I have seen as many as a hundred or a hundred and fifty men at a single meeting rise and confess Christ during the singing of that hymn before the sermon began. It reaches all classes, because everyone has a mother.

Blanchard, pp. 90-1

Charles M. Fillmore. Arranged by Robert Harkness (🔊 pdf nwc).

portrait
Charles M. Fillmore (1860-1952)

When I was but a little child
How well I recollect
How I would grieve my mother
With my folly and neglect;
And now that she has gone to Heav’n
I miss her tender care:
O Savior, tell my mother, I’ll be there!

Refrain

Tell mother I’ll be there,
In answer to her prayer;
This message, blessèd Savior,
To her bear!
Tell mother I’ll be there,
Heav’n’s joys with her to share;
Yes, tell my darling mother I’ll be there.

Though I was often wayward,
She was always kind and good;
So patient, gentle, loving
When I acted rough and rude;
My childhood griefs and trials
She would gladly with me share:
O Savior, tell my mother, I’ll be there!

Refrain

When I became a prodigal,
And left the old rooftree,
She almost broke her loving heart
In mourning after me;
And day and night she prayed to God
To keep me in His care:
O Savior, tell my mother, I’ll be there!

Refrain

One day a message came to me,
It bade me quickly come
If I would see my mother
Ere the Savior took her home;
I promised her, before she died,
For Heaven to prepare:
O Savior, tell my mother, I’ll be there!

Refrain