"until the end of time"

Mama continues to be on my mind an awfully lot and I keep thinking of her legacy. My mom was not a perfect person, but she did so many things right. It's so gracious of God to bring those things to the forefront of our minds after someone dear passes. The same thing happened with my dad. Good thoughts are so easily recalled and bad thoughts tend to stay in the background. It's an interesting phenomenon. 

Several months ago, before Mama went into the nursing home, I spent a lot of time with her. I'm not going to pretend it was easy; it was very hard, and I was often in tears of frustration and fatigue. But bed time was always sweet. She would ask me to sleep with her and then we would pray. We prayed and we prayed and we prayed. Since Mama would forget she had prayed, she'd always start again after I prayed and then prompt me to pray again because she'd forgotten I prayed. 

A fascinating thing about our prayer time was her lucidity. Her words were never twisted. Never. She would sometimes apologetically say, "Lord, I don't know how to say it, but you know what I mean." But she had said whatever it was perfectly fine. She had a regular refrain in her prayers that made an impact on me. She prayed consistently that all of her descendants, "until the end of time," would be saved, and that "not one hair would be lost." 

I pray for my offspring daily, but until prayer time with Mama, I never thought to pray for the offspring far removed from me. I pray for my children and grandchildren, but never had I considered praying that my descendants "until the end of time" would be saved. Well, I do now. 

Mama's prayers were the only time she made good sense. I always marveled at that. Then one day, unlike her regular words that "not one hair would be lost," she asked that "not one hoof would be lost." It was the first time she'd used a wrong word in prayer time. Weeks later, I was reading about Moses and the great exodus and read these words: not one hoof was lost. Even her wrong word wasn't really wrong if you considered she was praying Scripture.

When Mama went into the hospital, I spent the remainder of my time there cleaning her house and going through her stuff. When I came across all her saved items from Debbie, my sister that died at 14 months, it was clear to me that they needed to be buried with her. She'd saved it for 63 years, it could hardly be thrown away. I put it in a box and, eventually, it was buried with her.

Shortly afterward, Mama moved into Edgewood Nursing Home. Near my time to come back to Canada, Gordon flew down so we could drive back together. We went to see Mama one last time at the nursing home. When I told her we were headed back to Canada, she prayed for us. I do not recall what she prayed, but it was bang on and powerful. It was a commissioning-style prayer, if that makes any sense. I was quite convinced, through her prayer, that it was our final goodbye. Thankfully, I was wrong.

Mama dyingA few months later, I was back in Arkansas, and God so graciously allowed me to be with her as she drew her last breaths. Diane and Mama's twin, Jill, were there too, and each of us had a daughter with us. Jill had Peggy, Diane had Misty, and I had Stephanie. I'll ever be thankful that we were there. She wasn't alone. As she departed this life, we were able to tell her that she had lived a good life: her children loved her; her children loved God; she taught us to pray and read our Bible; many of her grandchildren were walking with the Lord; she was home surrounded by family. "You were in the hospital, but now you are home and we are all with you now." I remember saying, "Mama, tell Debbie we love her." I don't really know why that came out, perhaps because in my heart Mama and Debbie can't be separated. And it's true, I do love Debbie, even though I never knew her. I don't know how that love came to be, but I love her and I always have.

thursday thirteen, things mama said

Back in the day when I blogged regularly, Thursday Thirteen was an awesome way to capture things that were cumbersome to Mom and me
write. During my recent time with Mama, just prior to her death, she said things that were cute, sweet, peculiar, and insightful. But most things were lacking lucidity. Because of her advanced Alzheimer's, she seldom made much sense. 

This Thursday 13 is composed of things Mama said near her end that touched me. 

  1. She told my sister about a man getting startled. "They afraided him."
  2. One day as I sat with her, she said, "Darling, you look so sadful." 
  3. "We need to have a prayer meeting. Tonight, we're going to kneel down and pray. Lord Jesus, I need you the most."
  4. When she was awake, she was likely praying. "It's in Jesus's name I'm asking. I don't know how to ask, come be with us. Teach us how to walk, speak to our hearts. We're all sinners ready to be spoken to. So many powers are hung out to dry."
  5. She called each nurse, "Teacher."
  6. She told me I was beautiful. "You look just like your mother, but I think your mother is prettier." I asked, "Do you know my mother?" She replied, "I've seen her a couple of times. You're gorgeous, especially when you're beautiful."
  7. When I told her she was my mother, she said, "Let's not get carried away."
  8. She was often very worried about her parents, especially her dad. When she'd ask where they were, I'd say they went to town for groceries. She'd say, "How do we know something bad didn't happen to them?"
  9. "Will you be taken away from me? Stay here with me."
  10. "Should I pay?" "No Mama you don't owe any one any money. You've paid for everything." "Well good."
  11. "Get the hair out of your eyes." All my life, she's told me that. That time it didn't irritate me at all.
  12. I sang "You Are My Sunshine" to her, then she started talking about it in third person. "That sure was sweet when Valerie sang, "You Are My Sunshine" to me.
  13. She often prayed for all the men in the family, my brother, Michael, the most. But for each of her brothers and all her grandsons, she prayed "May they be mighty men of valor." 
  14. Praying, she said, "Deliver our children. I ask this for my kids."
  15. "I love you like the dickens."
  16. In prayer, "I'm asking for your saving grace. The house is tore up. Let it be clean."
  17. "Come on, Beautiful." I replied, "I'm right here Mama," to which she responded, "Very good. I love to hear you say that."
  18. "Bless your heart, Baby."
  19. "Lord, help Michael shut-up."
  20. She put both hands on my face and said. "I love you. I love you so, so much. Of all the people in the world, I love you the most, outside my family."
  21. Interestingly, her last spoken words were, "Be still." When the paramedics brought her "home," they jostled her around terribly. She was quite drugged and couldn't really wake up, but she managed to tell them to be still. 

I exceeded 13, but that's okay. 

Mama has always prayed. When her mind was going, going, gone, she prayed near constantly. Near the very end, her prayers were very disjointed and lacking sense. What a comfort to know that God knew exactly what she was trying to say, what her spirit was expressing. That is such a beautiful thought, actually it's not just a thought, it's a fact. "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us . . ." Romans 8:26. Her prayers reached heaven perfectly sound minded. Thank you, Holy Trinity.


Updated a couple days later: I shared the above memories with my siblings and aunt and two of them had things to add to this list. My sister, Diane, shared these:

  1. She told me that someone had been “scorchy” with her. 
  2. She talked to Stacie about not worrying and said, “Do you pray?"
  3. “Jesus, you are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”
  4. “Lord, you are the one I want to love…”
  5. With Vernie sitting beside her, she prayed, “Lord, is Vernie good?” And Jill promptly spoke up, “Tell me what He says." 
  6. I was bent over her close (with mask on), and she was talking when she suddenly stopped mid-sentence and said “What beautiful eyes.” It was so heartfelt, so sweet. I told her I got them from my mother. She asked who my mother was. I told her Geraldine Piearcy. I saw confusion cross her face. She was quiet for a moment and then said thoughtfully, “There’s two Geraldine Piearcy’s.” I didn’t not know it then, but I learned afterwards that there really is.


My Aunt Jill, Mama's twin sister, wrote this:
She kept saying at one point, "Jesus make Vernie not talk to me that way!"  I asked her how I was talking to her and she said, "Like I'm an inferior person."  I said, "OK I'll not talk that way to you any more."  But in reality I hadn't been talking to her that way.  Diane said a nurse had come in earlier and had "talked down" to her.  Diane thought she was just calling everybody Vernie and that's why I got the blame for somebody else talking down to her.
My favorite memory of Geral was when I first walked into Hospice House that first morning after she moved in.  When I opened the door to her room she was lying with her face toward the door.  She saw me come in and her whole demeanor sharpened and went on alert.  She stared at me and said disbelieving like, "WHO ARE YOU?"  I reached up and removed my mask and said, "Who am I?  Don't you know who I am!!!"   I've never in my life felt so much joy at that moment at seeing her again and watching the relief and joy spreading over her face.  There was no doubt about it.  She KNEW WHO I WAS!  She may not have been able to say my name but she KNEW WHO I WAS!  I've thought about that moment a million times since then.  It was a perfect moment for me.  I think it was for her.  I take much pleasure from remembering that one moment when we first made contact. 
Those memories, even if I wasn't there for them, are very special to me. My favorite thing about blogging is the family records it preserves.

i can't see you

Mama armsAs you might imagine, my dear mom is on my mind lots. Having been a victim of COVID lockdowns in the nursing home, she would hardly let us out of her sight when we finally got to be with her in the hospice house.
On the day I took this picture she didn’t want me to sit down because sitting down meant she couldn’t see me as well.
I’m glad I stood.


Mama b4 and afterMy poor mom was a victim of COVID. Although she had asymptomatic COVID at one time during the pandemic, that isn't what I'm talking about. She was a victim of the lockdowns. She was in a facility in Northwest Arkansas where she had enjoyed regular visitors. Mama was very social and all about family. With Alzheimer's, family visits were her best medicine. But when lockdowns were implemented, no one was allowed in to see her. Fortunately, we were allowed to FaceTime with her. She could hardly understand that and sometimes it just confused her more. She cried out for family members up to 12 hours a day, and was often hoarse from the effort. She declined rapidly. 
By six months into lockdowns, she had fallen twice, breaking a hip each time, she had two hip surgeries, and lost 26 pounds. But still, no family was allowed into the nursing home. One night, my sister nearest to Mama's facility, Diane, got a call from a nurse saying that Mama's vitals were not good and that Mama might be dying. Since she might be dying, Diane was allowed to go be with her. (If a patient is "dying" the family is allowed to visit.) My other sister, Stacie, from North Carolina, immediately headed to Arkansas to be with Mama too. 
After a couple days of Mama not dying, the administration told my sisters they had to leave and my sisters challenged them. It didn't go so well and instead they transferred Mama to a hospice house so family could be with her as she died. This was great news and once Mama was at the hospice house we all got to visit. Only one visitor at a time was allowed, but if the visitor was Mama's 84-year-old twin sister, another person could be there to prevent Aunt Jill from getting overwhelmed. It was a wonderful set up. We all spent lots of quality time with Mama. 
She was so precious. I'll always cherish the memories. Her mind didn't miraculously return, but her soul needs were clearly being met. We talked, she caressed us, patted us, called us Darling, Sweetheart, Honey and told us how much she appreciated us. Having not been able to see her because of  lockdowns, it was such a blessing. Such a blessing!
Well, with all the love and familial interaction, Mama rallied and the hospice house doctor told us she had to go back to the nursing home. We were utterly devastated. She got to the point she was at, we believe, from lack of human contact, and once she got the love, touch, conversation, and compassion she needed, she vastly improved. But improvement dictated that she go back to the nursing home and she was transferred that evening. We grieved and we wept. What a messed-up system! Mama roommate
We frantically started thinking outside the box trying to find a way to have her with us. That first evening, my daughter and son-in-law, Stephanie and John Mark, offered to let Mama and me live there until Mama died. We were over-the-moon excited. 
John Mark tore down the king-sized bed in the guest room and traded it for a twin bed making room for Mama's hospital bed. The room was set for us to be roommates. We were overjoyed knowing she'd get to be surrounded by family. I was committed to staying in Arkansas for as long as it took. I looked so forward to more time like we had at the hospice house. 
I was giddy with thanks. Thanks for Stephanie and John Mark offering to take Mama and me in, thankful for who they are, pro-family and pro-life in every sense of the word. Though a family of 10, they didn't hesitate to take in two more. Such generous spirits, they have.
I was so grateful that eight of my grandchildren would get to be part of sacrificial love in action. I hoped it would make a profound impact on them to see respect and dignity given to their great grandmother. 
I was so grateful for Gordon who shared the conviction that it was the right thing for us to do during this season of life. Not every husband would be supportive of their wife living 2000 miles away indefinitely (until her mother died, which we'd been told would be 1-3 months). I was so grateful that he is that kind of man, pro-family and pro-life. 
I could not think of a greater honour than to take care of Mama during her last days on earth. What a blessing to be able to serve her and help usher her toward her heavenly home with love and compassion. But that time was way less than expected. 

niece mindi eulogizes her mimi

My Mimi
Mimi pabob and mindiWe used to gather at her home every Sunday after church, with all the cousins. She made a yellow cake (usually with chocolate frosting) and would let it cool as the adults sat in the living room with coffee and talked. I remember sneaking into the kitchen over and over to scoop up a finger full of melted frosting that would drip over the edge of the Tupperware container that it rested on. Occasionally my aunt Valerie would come in to do the same and I remember thinking to myself “she is the aunt that is the most like me”.
She made the greatest “Mimi Burgers” of all time. The cousins decided that Mimi should open her own restaurant and call it “Mimi Burgers” or maybe “Mimi’s House” and only serve burgers and fries (which my PaBob would occasionally make in the garage in a deep fryer) and of course, a cake made from a box mix. That’s really all you’d need.
On these Sundays, all of the cousins would spend hours outdoors, running wild through the woods behind her home. We went on adventures which found us on the edge of the local cemetery, making up stories about how the people died. We would splash through the creek and catch frogs and tadpoles. We made up gymnastics routines on the metal play set they had installed behind her home. We would teach my PaBob’s German Shepard, Max, tricks, but they were mostly tricks he’d already been taught.
We caught lizards on the side of her garage for hours, always watching out for the elusive “Blue Racer” snake that my cousin Ben and brother CJ seemed to spot almost weekly before it raced off into the woods.
We pretended to drive my PaBob’s lawn mower, his boat, his Jeep. We rode their bicycles around the circle driveway that ran through their wooded neighborhood. We carried each other around the house in a wheelbarrow, creating elaborate obstacle courses. Every Easter egg hunt was there. Every piñata. Every birthday celebration.
When it was rainy, we would pile into the back bedroom, (usually no less than 7 of us, but more often up to 13 grandkids at once) and try to find Nickelodeon on a box tv the size of a small car. We would take turns playing hide and seek, which was tricky in a room with one small closet, a pull-out couch, a velvet blue recliner and lamp, and, again, a Kia sized television.
We began hiding within the pull-out couch, often hiding 2 cousins on the bed and then folding it up and sitting on the couch to prove that Randall and CJ couldn’t possibly be hiding in there.
We spent our time jumping on Mimi’s personal trampoline, and using her assortment of mail ordered workout equipment. A thighmaster, handweights, a sit-ups assistant. It was like Christmas when we walked in to find an exercise bike, to be replaced years later by a rowing machine. We spent every Sunday “getting buff”.
On the rare occasion when we needed adult attention, we’d parade through the living room to make the adults laugh. We knew we needed a gimmick, they wouldn’t let us just sit there and listen as they updated each other about their weeks. Some days we’d organize a talent show.
My brother CJ would start it off with a full rendition of Ray Stevens “Mississippi Squirrel Revival”. Amy and Stephanie might follow shortly with an impersonation of Mimi, on a drive to Wal-Mart. My cousins Ben & Randall were always good for a funny skit, or a song on the piano. I once bought a joke book for my stand up act that would follow.
My oldest cousin, Jeff, figured it out early. He’d eat lunch and then “nap” under the piano bench. He was privy to so much more information than the rest of us, because when we’d get shooed outside, we were told to leave quietly, not to wake up poor Jeff.
When we WERE allowed in the living room with the adults, they would often switch to pig Latin to discuss private matters. “Hey Michael, did you see that dress that Ane-Ja Oe-Da was earing-wa at urch-cha oday-Ta? Who was she dressing up for, do ya think?”
We were a fast study and cracked their code in an hour. Even faster than when they would just spell the code words when we were younger.
My Mimi hosted every Christmas for years, even getting a Santa Claus to burst in through the mud room with a sack of gifts for us kids. She’d write us $15 checks on our birthdays. As our numbers grew, the checks got smaller, until Mimi’s gift was just a real good hug. 😂 She would hire me to clean her house (which mostly consisted of running a manual vacuum over the carpet and using lemon pledge on every wooden surface of her home. She rode motorcycles with PaBob to a prison ministry where she showed such loving kindness to the inmates there. I told kids at school that my grandma was a biker that went to prison every week...
She volunteered to lead a section of children at Tuesday night AWANA’s at her church. She quit smoking when she found her granddaughters “smoking” pencils and pretending to be Mimi. When we’d sleep at her house, we would be terrified when we got too loud and she’d burst into the room, without her dentures, wearing a silk nightgown, to tell us “Y’all settle down now, and I mean it!” We ate Corn Flakes and Special K at breakfast when we’d sleep at her house.
She slept on a waterbed. She owned a gun and showed us the high cabinet it was kept in and threatened our very lives if we ever got into that cabinet. She taught herself and then me, to knit and crochet and when her Alzheimer’s got worse, she began to crochet for hours at a time, stacking the blankets in a cabinet until Christmas when she would pass them out in big bundles by family member. She fell for every pyramid scheme at least once. She was determined to be technologically savvy up until her Alzheimer’s got bad enough that she couldn’t remember any of her login info. She taught me how to properly set a table and she always used cloth napkins with wooden napkin rings. When I was very young, I would sneak into her purse to find cherry chapstick and use every bit of it in one sitting. She never got mad at me. She smelled like Cherry Almond Jergen’s lotion. She loved having her feet rubbed. She ALWAYS saved room for dessert.
She was the most sparkling conversationalist. She always spoke with so much grace and understanding, that you couldn’t help but pour your thoughts and feelings out to her in a one-on-one conversation. She taught me the importance of good posture, writing things down, reading, speed walking, coffee with dessert, memorizing Scripture, and never using profanity, unless it enhanced the conversation, because it’s like over-salting food. Just a sprinkle when necessary.
She never once saw me without telling me how much I looked like her. She never once saw me without hugging me and telling me she missed me. She called people “Hon” and “Shug” and never once let you leave her house without saying “Well now, don’t run off. Why don’t y’all sit down and stay awhile?”
Before she was put in a nursing home, she was speaking to my Aunt Stacie over the phone. Somehow my name came up and my Mimi, puzzled, slowly asked...”now Mindi....she’s one of mine, right?” The fact that she thought I was one of her daughters nearly made my heart burst right open and I hope that she never ever thought otherwise until her last breath.
She was my last living biological grandparent, and she passed away on September 5, 2020.

mama's obituary

Geral "Jeri" Dean Funderburk

February 3, 1936 - September 5, 2020

Mama yellow sweatshirtGeral Dean "Jeri" Funderburk, age 84, of Mena, Arkansas, died Saturday, September 5, 2020, surrounded by family. She was born, February 3, 1936 to Philip Anderson and Elsie Lannie Keen Piearcy in Hugo, Oklahoma.

Jeri was a committed Christian who modeled a love for the Word of God, a life of prayer, an ease of laughter and a great sense of humor to her offspring. Throughout her years of declining health, she continued to model prayer as her default. Even as her words became twisted and incoherent this past year due to Alzheimer's, she continued to call out to God in prayer. Her family takes comfort knowing that the words that reached her Father in Heaven, were not twisted to His ears, rather perfectly sound.

The love for her family guided her life and filled it with happiness. In her younger days she enjoyed gardening, long walks, sewing, crocheting, motorcycling, prison ministry, traveling, and volunteering in Awana's, a ministry to disciple children and young people. Jeri was very proud of her family and cherished every moment she had with them. She will be dearly missed, especially by Bob - her husband whom she loved so dearly - and her children who were her pride and joy.

She is preceded in death by her parents; one daughter, Debbie Callahan; three brothers, Philip Piearcy, Bob Piearcy and David Piearcy, and one sister, Cleta Rose.

Jeri is survived by her loving husband, Bob Funderburk of Mena; four children and their spouses: Diane and Steve Schultz of West Fork, Arkansas, Michael and Lawana Callahan of Hatfield, Arkansas, Stacie and Jimmy Pineda of Boone, North Carolina and Valerie and Gordon Dykstra of Alberta, Canada; one brother, Jackie Piearcy of Ola, Arkansas, her identical twin and life-long best friend, Vernie "Jill" Smith of Mena; sixteen grandchildren; thirty three great grandchildren, many nieces and nephews and a host of other relatives and friends.

Due to vulnerable family members and a large family, the family regrets that Covid 19 restricts the service to family only. A graveside funeral service will be held on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, at 10:00 A.M. at Gann Cemetery in Potter, where she will lay beside her Darling Deborah Jean. Arrangements are entrusted to Bowser Family Funeral Home in Mena.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Grace Bible Church Awana Club, 1911 Highway 71 North, Mena, Arkansas 71953.

Pallbearers will be Jeff Shreve, Christopher Rose, Melody Pineda, Amy Hernandez, Elliott Shreve and Christian Shreve.

i'll miss her dearly

Mama red sweatshirtMy beautiful mom. I will miss her warmth, humour, and unconditional love. I believe in the “communion of the saints” and that we are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses.” In that way, she’ll be closer to me than ever before.
When Mama went into the nursing home, I was privileged to go through her most personal prayer journals and diaries. In those, she had written her deepest, darkest secrets. I was privy to her most saintly and least saintly thoughts. I learned of her greatest regrets (sins) and I learned of the serious sins that she wrestled with, and those that nearly snagged her.
When I was younger, knowing she fought those temptations would have sickened me. But now, more seasoned in understanding human nature and profoundly aware of the darkness in my own soul, it did nothing but make me respect her more. She fought the temptations and she beat them. Mama has gone to her reward. She fought the spiritual fight and won.
Her greatest gifts to me were a love for the word of God, a love for prayer (conversing with my Lord), and a great appreciation for laughter. I am blessed.

stephanie eulogizes mimi

This is by my oldest child, Stephanie.

Mom and stephIt has only been since becoming an adult that I’ve realized that my childhood wasn’t normal, that the role my grandmothers played in my life was extraordinary and few people have the privilege of having the experiences that are so precious to me.
It was a normal weekly occurrence that all my mom's siblings and ALL my cousins would pack my Mimi’s house. After church on Sunday was a given but it wasn’t uncommon to be over there other days of the week as well.
Walking into her house the air would be thick with haze from smoke off the large griddle in the kitchen where she was making her “signature” Mimi burgers. Tony Chachere and lots of pepper were the secret ingredients but I swear I’ve never been able to recreate so...I think she may have had a “secret” secret.
Regardless.....delicious! She had a cabinet devoted to yellow cake mix and chocolate frosting so that was our staple meal at Mimi's, Mimi burgers and yellow box cake with chocolate frosting.
I was staying with her when my grandpa died and I can remember finding out in a room full of people. Pabob didn’t know I was there when he came in and said my grandpa had died and Mimi rocked me the rest of the evening.
She loved her rocking chair.
Also, my love for coffee came straight out of that house. She always had coffee ready to offer anyone who may stop by. In fact the the gurgle and popping of the coffee percolator (always a percolator) was the soundtrack of her house. I love that sound!
Laughter, she laughed all the time. I have a terrible issue with laughing at inappropriate times. I’ve always blamed it on nerves...ha, but I’ve been thinking about Mimi and I actually think that’s all her. She could laugh at all times and when things felt awkward or someone was telling a story it didn’t matter what was happening there was always something to laugh about. I remember when I was pregnant with Roman, my first baby, she was telling me of the horrors of childbirth (I think we were specifically talking about her delivery of my aunt Stacie) and I guess I grimaced at a particular description and we laughed the rest of the day. Maybe save the horror stories for when someone isn’t pregnant with her first.
That leads me to babies, she LOVED babies! Each baby was always the best, the most beautiful, the most precious baby she had ever seen. Babies were treasures and she never met one she wasn’t instantly in love with. Also, they all looked like someone in her family. I believe it because those genes are strong ones.
Things got hard in our family for a while and talking about things was hard but we found our way and she became someone I confided in, I know those times were hard for her, but I found comfort there talking to her. Always at the end, when it would get quiet for a minute, she would always say, “I love you, Shug,” I always knew that!
The last visit I had with Mimi in the memory care unit, before Covid, I took Remington (2 at the time) and he was her pride. She told everyone he was hers. All the ladies loved him as he walked around and shared a bag of goldfish with everyone there. Every time I looked at Mimi she was beaming.
Remington gave Mimi his hat and she wore it proudly the rest of our visit.
Honor is taking care of those who have taken care of you. That’s what I feel. Honor and so privileged that she was here in my home. I’m sad that her time with us was so short, I expected weeks at least, but I also believe that she felt like she was home with people she loved and once her twin sister arrived she was ready and left us peacefully. I will be eternally grateful that she was here with us. That time, although short, was precious and I’m thankful for it. I’m thankful for Jesus and the hope we have in Him. I’m thankful that we have knowledge that this isn’t goodbye but see you later.
We’ll see you soon, Mimi.

misty eulogizes her mimi

Mama left a legacy. My niece Misty wrote about some of it:

Mom and mistyWhen I was a little girl, I would often ask my mom why we believed what we believed and what different parts of the Bible meant. I was always amazed at how she would walk me through Greek and Hebrew roots and the historical context as she walked me through it all. One day I asked her how she knew all of that and she told me that her mom helped her and always taught her to seek truth and understanding.
Today we celebrate that legacy as we mark my grandmother’s passing. Mimi’s house was an iconic feature of my childhood. My aunts and uncles would gather on the weekend and share life. It was there I learned the value of laughter, the joy of family, the power of a well-told story, and the importance of the Word of God. She took us to Awanas and paid our dues so we could learn the Bible. She taught us old time hymns when she realized our progressive church left us without that knowledge.
I conducted a series of interviews with her in college to understand how her identity was shaped in her youth. I grew proud as I listened to her share a journey that didn’t stagnate as she grew older. Even after her retirement, she engaged in a process of transformation. It was a source of pride that I always shared with my kids. One of the many legacies she gave us was her never-ending quest for personal growth and her search for truth.
As her mind deteriorated due to Alzheimer’s over the last ten years, she lost her short, then long-term memory. Sometimes when we visited it was clear that this lack of context naturally resulted in a level of fear. Even as her mental capacity failed her, she would quote the Bible and ask us to pray with her. Even as her mind and body declined, her spirit held strong. Of all of the legacies she gave us, that spiritual strength is the one I cherish most. I’m so grateful for her life, her love, her joy, her strength, and her faith.

mother's day, from deborah

Like my previous post about Hannah, I want to share what Deborah wrote on Facebook for Mother's Day. Not only does this record allow me to cherish it over and over, it also reminds me, yet again, to not stop praying even when all looks lost. Deborah appeared to be a borderline-lost cause for nearly 10 years. Might those prayers have been the very way God brought her back to us? What if we had stopped praying? I will never cease to praise God for bringing these three girls back to us and to himself. 

I wrote briefly on my despairing feelings regarding mothering here on Mother's Day, 2012. To capture the difference between Deborah then and Deborah now, please read that post. My heart is full since reading this on Facebook:

Debs and vHappy Mother's Day to my beautiful, courageous, kind, loving, giving, mother. I am so, so, so thankful for you and I could not wish for a better mum. I remember when I was young and you would rock me and sing Amazing Grace and Love Lifted Me, and when I had nightmares you would come lay with me until I fell back asleep, and when you redecorated my room while I was away at camp and it was absolutely perfect, and how you made my birthday cakes and they were always amazing even though you doubted your skills, and when I didn't have many friends to come to my birthday party you gave me things to look forward to like extra gifts so that I wasn't too sad, and how you would bring chicken from Mary Browns to CASA on Wednesdays when I couldn't leave, and you would buy me gift cards for groceries when I was really struggling, and sooo much more.

You have been so supportive even though I know sometimes it isn't easy, because I don't always make the right choices. I admire you for so many things such as your empathy and ability to continue growing and loving and giving to others. You did so many things right, and I know that you really give it your all even when it gets tough.

You amaze me and I am so proud of you for your accomplishments and how you have grown so much in your faith and in yourself in the past few years. There are many things about you that I look up to and aspire to be. You are one of the kindest people I know, and I know you try very hard to love everyone with all of your heart. You are an amazing person and an incredible mother. And your smile warms my heart. We are all so lucky to know you and to love you and to be loved by you, and I don't know where me and Buddy would be without you. I love you so much mom. More than you could ever know. And it's all easy enough to write in a Facebook post, but I really do mean it with all of my heart. I think we have come so far together in our relationship and I am grateful for that beyond measure.

Happy Mothers Day  ❤❤❤ you are so beautiful and deserving of goodness.

During Rachael, Hannah, and Deborah's adolescent and teen years, I deleted my Facebook account because it was so very painful to read people's praises of their children. Every family looked like they had it together and mine was always in crisis. Seeing their happy faces and hearing their successes was like salt in an open wound. I'm very aware of how this post, and the one from Hannah, could hurt those who are still in that parenting valley. My heart feels your pain as I know it so very personally. Please read these two Mother's Day posts as coming from a humbled heart, not a gloating heart. I want to encourage moms, not pour salt in their wounds. 

Keep praying! Never stop praying!!

mother's day, from hannah

God answers prayers, sometimes more beautifully than we imagined. For a number of years, Mother's Day was a sad day for me. I felt like I'd given my life to raising upstanding children and the effort seemed to have been futile. I wrote about it here on Mother's Day, 2012. If you read it, I think you'll sense my despair.

Seven years later, I want to share the note I received from Hannah for Mother's Day. Although I'm very proud of the progress we've made, I share this to testify that our prayers are never in vain. God came through! May I never cease to pray, because God never ceases to answer prayer, albeit on his timetable, not mine. Take this note from Hannah as proof. (I will give an editorial note explaining the first four lines at the bottom.)

Hannah at rach weddingHannah wrote:

M R DUCKS.                        
M R NOT DUCKS!             
S A R, C M BD I'S?              
L I B, M R DUCKS!      

Mom, I love you so much and you bless my heart. You are truly one of the most generous people I know... You're always giving! I think you sincerely try to love people more than anyone else I know, too. Your deep love for humanity and for individuals, your empathy, and your spirit of intercessory prayer for those you care about really does astound me and I admire you greatly for being that way. I want to be like that some day!

I don't know many people who will leave a legacy (in the truest sense of the word), but as I have said before, I believe you have one in the number of lives you have impacted by your humble conviction in the Church and in your faith.

Love you, miss you. Can't wait to see you again. Happy Mother's Day!

Can you see why I feel so blessed? God be praised for the great work he is doing in our lives.

Now about those first four lines that Hannah wrote:

M R DUCKS.                        
M R NOT DUCKS!             
S A R, C M BD I'S?              

It's a real country way of saying:

Them are ducks.                        
    Them are not ducks!             
Yes, they are. See them beady eyes?              
    Well, I'll be, them are ducks!    

Our family humor can be a bit quirky and this is one of the quirky things from my Arkansas roots that lives on in my children. It's something I taught the girls when they were little, and obviously, Hannah remembered it. 




mothers' day blues

I sit on Stacie's porch and enjoy the quiet and beautiful North Carolina nature show. I will sorely miss this quiet-time spot when I go home in a few days. This is a foretaste of heaven. I'm so thankful for the reprieve from real life.

It's Mothers' Day. I'm thankful for all the mothers who have positively influenced the way I mother. Mama! I'm thankful for the hurdles she overcame and/or at least wrestled, to bring us up with values, conviction, humor, work ethic, warmth and smiles. She taught us manners which I didn't really appreciate until more recently. She modeled prayer and Bible reading and it was a powerful model and I'm grateful. Now I'm ear deep in raising teenagers and appreciate Mama's efforts more.

Mama reading to us
Mama reading to us, 1971 or '72

I am so disillusioned with motherhood. I want my kids to know my deep love for them. Gordon has told me a number of times that they don't feel I love/like them. It's a preposterous notion. I hope it's his idea and not theirs. My kids have all taught me special things and I adore each one in a different way. They're all so different and bless me in different ways. I'm thankful for the variety.

Stephanie's birth shocked my "old man" to death and brought forth the bones of this "new man," new creation. I'll ever marvel and be grateful for the profound spiritual awakening God brought to me through her warm, pink little body.

Full bodied and quite upset after the birth ordeal, Christopher was precious and sweet. I was shocked yet again by the intensity of this love called motherhood! I was a great mom to Christopher those first four years and when I saw him over the years after that. But as I only realized in the past six or seven years, he felt abandoned by me when I lost custody of him. Will this pain, his or mine, ever subside? Probably not in this life. Something about fallen man, sin nature, imperfect world . . . I get it. I just wish it were different. I wish he could know the intensity of my love. It's still there.

I'm thankful God let me be a mom. I tried so hard, put my heart and soul into it and it seems I've failed on every front. Deborah is an absolute mess. Rachael and Hannah have thrown all our values away. I feel like an incredible failure as a mom and I'm so puzzled why it went so wrong. I sought hard after God. I read parenting books, took parenting courses; prayed, taught them Scripture and applied the principles therein, homeschooled. Why is it all so f----- up? I don't understand and it hurts so, so badly. I expected to be so proud of my girls' choices at this time in life. I expected them to be pure, making good choices, etc. 

Mothers' Day. I know this will pass. But today all I'm thinking is how all my mothering seems to have gone awry and I'm confused and disillusioned. Maybe someday it will all make better sense. Today is not that day.

before i was a mom, a poem

Mama May

Happy Mothers' Day to Mama and May, Gordon's mom. They are both good mothers and I'm grateful.


Before I was a Mom;
I made and ate hot meals,
I had unstained clothing,
I brushed my hair every day,
I had quiet conversations on the phone,
I slept as late as I wanted and I slept all night long.

Before I was a Mom;
I cleaned my house each day,
I never tripped over toys or forgot lullabies,
I didn't worry whether or not my plants were poisonous,
I had never been puked on, pooped on, spit on, chewed on, peed on, or pinched by tiny fingers.
Before I was a Mom;
I never thought about immunizations,
I never held a screaming child so the doctors could give shots,
I never looked into teary eyes and cried,
I never felt my heart break into pieces when I couldn't stop the hurt,
I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.

Before I was a Mom;
I never held a sleeping baby just because I didn't want to put it down,
I never sat up late hours of the night watching a baby sleep,
I never got up in the middle of the night to make sure everything was okay,
I didn't know how special it could feel to feed a hungry baby.

Before I was a Mom;
I had complete control of my mind, my thoughts and my body,
I didn't know the feeling of having my heart outside of my body,
I didn't know that having something so small could make me feel so
I had never known the warmth, the joy, the love, the heartache,
the wonderment, or the satisfaction of being a mom.

Before I was a Mom;
I never knew that something so small could effect my life so much,
I never knew that I could love someone so much,
I never knew I would love being a Mom,
I didn't know the bond between a Mother and her child,
I didn't know I was capable of feeling so much.Hippo mama and baby

Happy Mothers' Day to all the mommies out there that I love. 

thoughts from mother's day

003_3 (2)(Mama and my cousin Kenneth, early 50's)
Since Mother's Day, I've been meditating on mothers who influenced the way I approach mothering. It's been eye-opening. Have I never thought about this before?

Of course my own mom influenced me the most. She had a no-nonsense approach to mothering. On Saturday mornings, she donned Daddy's brown leather belt around her neck and when she wore that particular accessory, we knew to walk the line. Mama intended the house to get clean and her neck adornment kept us acutely aware of the task at hand.

Now on Saturday mornings, I hear myself barking orders like my mom did. And often enough, I see my girls roll their eyes like I did 30 years ago. Occasionally, I'll even hear myself ask that horribly insane question, "Do you want me to spank you?" (That question surely tops the pile on stupid questions. Do we imagine our kids saying, "Yes, I think that a spanking is in order. I haven't been listening like I should Mom. You sit down and rest while I go find a good strong paddle.")?

Regularly I hear myself say all those strange cliches and expressions I grew up with and I say them just like my mom did. "What in the cotton-pickin' Sam Hill is goin' on in here?" "Well, forever more." Yes, my mom heavily influenced my mothering style.
(Mama, me and the girls, 1999)
Scan20040 Gay Heath was the pastor's wife in the church I grew up. From six-years-old, I observed her style of mothering. She had a more no-nonsense approach to mothering than my own mom. She was a big-time disciplinarian. It wasn't a bit unusual for her to shake, spank, rebuke whatever child (her child or grandchild usually) was near her. Toddlers were expected to sit quietly in church and when she was in charge, they did, or else they left the sanctuary for toddler reckoning. From her I saw that spankings work very well to accomplish needed adjustments in one's behavior. Back then, it wasn't even on the radar that "kids will be kids" or that spankings were wrong. I grew up with a fine repertoire of Bible verses that taught physical discipline.

When I was in grade 8, I left Hatfield School and joined the ranks at Noonday Christian Academy. There I came into relationship with women who mothered in ways that were foreign to me. So as not to slander anyone, I will call this woman, let's say, Doris. For the most part, I didn't like nor respect Doris. Matter of fact, my face is contorting in anguish as I think about her right at this moment.

If there was anything fun going on, you could bet she would be against it. She was so dreadfully serious about everything, that I equated her with about the same esteem as hemorrhoids. I was quite adept at laughing, but in her presence laughing seemed about as appropriate as premarital sex. I could write volumes about her being a wet blanket. (Several years ago I had a writing assignment where I had to write a letter - unmailed of course - to an antagonist in my life. I chose Doris. I'm getting terribly distracted here. This is supposed to be about mothers, not prudes. However there's a prude article dying to leave my fingertips as I type this.)

Back to mothers: From Doris, I learned how to create mountains out of mole hills. As much as I disliked her, she taught me that everything was an opportunity to lecture on something. Lord, how I abhorred those lectures and so badly wanted to encourage her to go poop out the broom stick lodged up her derriere. (Oh my, did I say that? Man, I think I have unresolved issues coming to the fore.) Back to mothering: If there was a child looking at a flower, Doris would join the poor child and begin to teach a lesson. She would pick the flower and dissect it, lecturing all the time about how God created the flower with such intelligent design. "See this is the pistil, where the seeds are born. Not unlike the human ovaries."

Well, guess what. As much as I hated the lectures, I admired that she knew all that stuff and could recall it at will. Now I find myself making learning opportunities out of daily experiences. I sure hope I don't turn kids off like Doris did me. Clearly she was an influence in mothering too.

In this new school environment, I also encountered Phyllis Murphy, Gwen Wright, and Ann Hatley. They were committed, nurturing mothers that I greatly admired. I wanted to be like them. Back then I didn't call any of them by their first names, but for simplicity I will now. Gwen had a belly laugh that I loved and she was so nurturing and gentle with her girls. Phyllis and Ann approached mothering with intelligence, seriousness, nurture, gentleness, and smiles. All these women stressed healthful lifestyles. They were my first exposure to health food, balanced diets, millet and lentils. They more than influenced me in mothering, they modeled the marriage of mothering and spirituality. In ways, I was awed by them. I am thankful for all their influences.

Lastly, my sisters Diane and Stacie mentored me too. They modeled "reading the experts." From them I learned about James Dobson, Gary Smalley, and other writers that taught on parenting. Those books I read were priceless in teaching me parenting principles and child rearing skills. I'm very thankful Diane and Stacie imparted that to me.

All these women played a role in who I am today, particularly as a mother.

the day i saw mama naked

(Michael, Diane, me, and Stacie in front of the green Matador. 1971)
007_7 (4) 
I was raised in a modest home, and my home now is a modest one. My children don’t typically see me naked;I am quite comfortable with that choice and I am confident they are too.

My mother was of the modest persuasion herself. I saw her in her bra and panties on occasion, but never naked - except once.

My mom had severe ear infections as a little girl. Her hearing was permanently damaged. She continually struggled with whirling noises in her ears and an inability to recognize where sounds was coming from.

One sweaty summer day after gardening, my mom took a bath. As she sat in the bathtub, she began to hear a whishing rumble. Terrified that the 1000-gallon butane tank underneath the bathroom window was about to explode and kill all of her children, she hurdled out of the bathtub and ran through the house collecting her children. Seeing our wet, naked mom run through the house hollering “Hurry, hurry,” made us acutely aware of the impending danger.
  (Mama in the 50's)
Mama herded us like a panicking hen, clucking, “Hurry, hurry, the house is about to blow up.” But since her teeth were in the little blue Polident cup in the bathroom, it sounded more like, ”Hurry, hurry, de houth is abouth to bow up.”

Wide eyed, we ran outside. My 8-year-old sister Stacie cried, “Oooohhh, are we gonna die? Are we gonna die?” We scrambled like obedient chicks under our mother’s outstretched arms to safety in the old green Matador. There, we waited for the destruction.

Diane was 14. She was in the driver’s seat. Mom, her hair and body dripping with bath water, stood bravely beside the car pondering our options. I was the youngest; I was 6. I perched on the edge of the front seat, hands on the dashboard, straining to get a good view. We girls were quiet and motionless. Michael, my 10-year-old brother who was assuredly uncomfortable with the situation, particularly our naked mom standing beside the car, looked anxiously up and down the dusty country road. He was far more concerned about a car coming than the house blowing up. He whimpered, “Are you sure it’s gonna blow?” Mama didn’t answer.

Stacie, sitting up straight and pensive, ventured, “I don’t hear anything.” Again, Mama didn’t respond.

I trusted my mom; if she said she heard the silver tank in our backyard about to blow up, I believed her.

After several minutes of no kaboom, Mama went to the barb-wired fence between the car and the house and valiantly lumbered over. Diane let out a guttural groan, “Ughhhhh,” as she slunk down behind the steering wheel.

Stacie, sure an explosion was imminent, and so adoring of Mama, hung her body out the window, and in her typical worried fashion, sang woefully, “Ooohhh, Maaamaaaa, huuurrrryyy.”

Michael got more anxious as the moments wore on. “I don’t think she knows what she’s talking about,” he confided, as he looked first right then left, still on the lookout for unlikely traffic.

Mama courageously went to the threatening butane tank, and pressed her head down to the valves. Stacie, her lanky body still hanging out the window, yelled, “Maamaaa, noooo!”

Our buxom mom started walking toward us. Her fearful expression gave way to one of self-consciousness. She gave us a gummy grin and shrugged her shoulders. Her toothless smile assured us there wasn’t going to be an explosion.

(Diane, 1st grade)
017_17 (4) “Can we get out?” Diane asked.

Mama squirmed. She had more body parts she wanted to cover, than she had arms.

Finally Mama meekly said, “You can geth outh of the car. I donth think de houth is going to bow up.”

Relieved, we went in the house to find a flooded kitchen. Water was gushing out the hot water tank, making a whishing-rumble sound, - at least to our hearing impaired mom that’s what it sounded like.

Mama squatted to push the awry pipe back into place. This proved more difficult than she thought. She grunted, pushed, and jerked, her full figure jiggling and bouncing, without much success. In a sudden flash of awareness, she sheepishly said to Diane, “Here, you hold thith while I go geth some coths on.”

Diane retorted, “I wish you would.”

The image of my mom walking around naked is indelibly seared into my mind. Now that I’m a mom, I understand the kind of love that would be willing to do that. However, I never go into the bath or shower without a robe an arm’s length away. I can thank my mom for that.

happy birthday mama

(This is my Mom with Bear, one of her great-grandchildren. December 2005.)

Today is my Mom's 70th birthday. I just spoke with her and when asked how it felt to be 70, she said, "There is a lot of wisdom in this head and the weight of it all is weighing me down."

One of my personal traditions is to pray special prayers for birthday boys and girls. That's not to say I don't pray for them at other times, I just pray more on their birthdays.

This week I've been meditating on my mom's legacy to me. I've thought of these things over the years, and I appreciate them more the older I get. I hear with increasing regularity how I'm like my mother. The kids and Gordon quickly point out, "You sound just like your mother," when I'm laughing hard.

(Mama, mid 1950's)

015_15 (2)Mama's greatest gifts to me have brought much joy into my life. I'm very glad these gift were passed on to me.

Firstly, Mama modeled prayer and Bible reading to me. Many a morning I went into my childhood living room to find my mom freshly bathed, sitting in her favorite chair in nothing but her bra and panties. She sat serenely reading her Bible. If you're wondering why she only had on underwear, well, so am I.

All Mama's kids are lovers of God and I know it's Mama's prayers that laid that foundation.

The second greatest gift she gave me is the ability to laugh. And laugh we do. We laugh uncontrollably and manage to see the ludicrous in the mundane. I hope to give the same gift to my kids.

Having lived in Canada for 13 years, I've come to appreciate the descriptive and picturesque speech of Southerners. Mama gives me my regular dose of Southernisms. In 2004, the girls and I visited the south for a month. At Mama's house, Stephanie and Christopher joined us. That meant I shared a bedroom with five kids. As one might guess, that bedroom was anything but tidy and organized. There were mounds of clothes, suitcases, gifts, things I'd bought, and school books everywhere. It was first-class chaos.

(Mama and Rachael, 1995)

025_25One day I went to the bedroom to have a nap. With such a mess there was nowhere to move the junk on the bed. It was mostly clothes, so I just climbed under it all. Not long afterward, Mama came to tell me I had a visitor. I was still awake so I saw her, but because of the mess, she couldn't see me. She stood in the door and her jaw hung down in shock at our deplorable living condition. Her eyes slowly scanned the room. In slow dramatic flow she spoke, "Lord have mercy, gosh-a-mighty-derns." I still laugh when I recall her facial expression and her curious phrase.

Recently as we spoke on the phone, she told me that Dixie, her beagle, was "down in her get-along." That's Mama-talk for Dixie has arthritis in her hips. I never recognized her colorful speech when I lived there, but I sure notice it now and I smile.

Today, my prayer for my mom goes something like this. "Dear God, I'm thankful for my mom. Thank You for making her one of Your own and giving her the desire to live for You. Thank you for giving her 70 years of health and safety. Please protect her and give her a really wonderful year. Bless her and please give her the desires of her heart. Thank you for my mom."

Happy Birthday Mom. I love you.