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

Charles M. Fill­more, 1898.

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

portrait
Charles M. Fillmore (1860–1952)

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 death bed 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. 90–91

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