Yesterday would have been Mom’s 86th birthday. Since her death in July 2000, I have missed her greatly. But for some reason, this year it hit harder than in recent years.
Missing her has been tempered by a deep-rooted joy in knowing she is in heaven. Mom had a genuine, tested-by-fire and saving faith in Jesus Christ. I was there when she met her Savior as children and grandchildren worshiped around her hospital bed. And her final words have helped me through some weighty trials over the past 13 years: “God is in control and everything He does is good.”
Over the past week my thoughts of Mom have produced musings about the legacy I want to leave for My People. I want my life to count for those I will never meet in this life. Mom died before any of my eleven and counting grandchildren were born. But her life has influenced theirs through my children and me. How? Here are just a couple of the ways…
We love to laugh. Especially at each other.
Hardly a day passed without Mom calling one of her sisters to tell them some hilarious (to her, at least) story about one of her grandchildren. Sometimes I used to stand at the door of the little apartment we added onto our home just to hear her “die laughing” with one of the Aunts about some antic or silly saying by one of the kids. Her ability to find and enjoy humor in everyday life situations taught me to do the same…and one of our favorite things to do as a fam is tell exaggerated stories about one another. We love to laugh because of her.
Food isn’t just to keep us alive.
Being raised during the depression affected Mom in several ways, and one of them was the cherished place food had in being a family. Everything was homemade with very few written recipes. Except for the Stove Top dressing. Mom had me in the kitchen at a young age making fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, pies, mac and cheese, pineapple upside cakes and chicken n dumplings. And cooking was a fun event, not a duty.Because of her, our holidays, birthdays and just-hang-out-for-no-reason times always involve lots of food and lingering around the table laughing and talking.
We cherish family…a lot.
Mom grew up with 7 siblings who she loved and stayed connected to throughout her life. Her sibs were her closest friends. They turned to each other for help, comfort and laughs. After Daddy’s death from a heart attack when she was just 49, Mom’s relationships with other couples waned and my aunts and uncles took even more of a front seat in her life. They argued, disagreed, fussed, gossiped and got angry…but the phone call was eventually made to be reconciled. She was the one who first told my little Joshua and Jaime, “You need to be nice to each other because your friends will come and go but you will have each other for the rest of your lives.”
A few nights ago when Josh texted Jake at 10 PM wondering why in the world he hadn’t come over the watch a game with him, I smiled. I reminded him that this is what happens when you grow up in a litter. The puppies love being together. We have Mom to thank for that.
We want to trust God and persevere through trials.
Mom lived a life of suffering and sacrifice. She dropped out of school at age 12 to clean homes to help support the family; raised her youngest brother as her own when she and Dad were just starting their own family; lost several children to miscarriage; worked nights as a waitress to bring in extra money; watched one brother die in a house fire and another to brain cancer; cared for my older brother after he was left paralyzed at age 21 in a swimming accident; lived with chronic pain for most of her life before and after 7 back and neck surgeries; and lost my dad just 8 months after my brother died at age 27.
Yet her smile and veracious commitment to serving others remained through it all. In her early 70’s she accepted a job to be the companion of “an old lady” (of 80) — and
came home with funny stories (like the time this dear woman was confused about the Grand Canyon being in New York City). Through pain and declining health she babysat grandchildren, made biscuits and fried apples for whoever was craving them, taught me how to start Thanksgiving prep days in advance, reached out to neighbors with food or help with their own aging parents…without a complaint.
It’s an amazing thing to watch my children mirror the persevering love for God we observed in Mom. As they’ve gotten older, I have brought them in on her story more
and more. To them, she was Nannie: vibrant, fun, loving, involved, and cheering them on at basketball games (even when Janelle was running down the court about to score for the other team). Because of her faith and joyful trust in God, they knew nothing of her life of suffering. But they did know that she and her sisters climbed up onto the roof of their little house and threw the cat off repeatedly to find it if it would indeed have nine lives.
I have my legacy curriculum. God, by Your grace and power help me to pass on to my people what she passed on to me.