2016-01-13 / Editorials

Don Lively


(Rededicated to Mama who went to

Heaven six years ago this week.)

It was a quiet conversation, whispered because of where we were. The talk was bittersweet, but the words were sincere and necessary, at least for me.

The exchange was really no exchange at all. The talk was very one sided.

I spoke softly to my granddaughter, the youngest, the newest life in our little sub-clan who lay sleeping peacefully in my arms, oblivious to what was happening. Down the hall her great grandmother, the one I call Mama, was also sleeping, mostly peacefully.

The baby’s mother, my middle child, and my two other kids were with other members of the family surrounding Mama, telling her that they loved her and how thankful they were to have her in their lives. I got to stay with The Princess. No children were allowed on the hall where Mama lay, hopefully hearing those words of adoration from her extended brood, hopefully feeling the gentle touches, the kisses to her forehead.

Children were not allowed where Mama lay dying.

So I got to hold the sweet baby girl for a while, just us two.

I told her all about Mama.

Of course she won’t remember our little talk. She’s only a year old, but there will be other talks, stories, remembrances. She won’t have any memory of Mama but she will know her, know who she was, what she meant to our family.

She’ll know. I’ll make certain of that.

She’ll hear how Mama draped me, already fully grown at 14 years old, over her shoulder and half carried me in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices as I recovered from a ruptured appendix, she herself not yet healed from her own major surgery.

She’ll know that Mama once made the best biscuits ever baked anywhere in the universe, two full pans every morning, right up until the day she discovered the instant canned ones.

I’ll tell her the story about Mama killing a nasty old rat and how she then paid homage to it with her tears.

My granddaughter will know that Mama patched up and salved and bandaged a million of my scrapes and bruises when I was a child and did her best to help me mend a broken heart or two along the way.

She’ll see a precious picture taken during her first year of life and Mama’s last, sitting with the three other great-grands, all girls, with Mama in the middle.

I'd have taken a lot more pictures if I’d known there’d be no more opportunities.

But it’s okay because in our world, words are just as important as photographs and that’s what I will give my grandbaby and any others that come after her.

Words about Mama.

In our family, nobody is ever really and truly gone as long as there are stories to tell and re-tell.

Two days after my first talk with the little one about her great grandmother, Mama died.

In the twinkling of an eye she traveled from the rural roads of Dixieland to a street of gold in Beulah Land.

So we’re orphans now, Sherry Lou, Willie, Urb and me since Mama flew away. But we’re only orphans in the earthly sense because she and Daddy taught us from our births to their deaths how to be His children. They staked us to a legacy on both sides of our Southern lineage rooted deeply in the belief that this life is simply a stepping stone to the next, much greater one.

In her twilight years Mama didn’t talk much, mostly she just sat and listened. I often couldn’t tell whether she had any idea what was being said around her or if she even knew who some of us were.

But then, during a Wednesday or Sunday night church service, she would be called on to pray. The clarity instantly returned and there was no doubt that she knew exactly Who she was talking to.

She knew what was really important and, hopefully, she gave a bit of that knowledge to me.

That day at the hospital as I gazed at my sleeping granddaughter, I wondered aloud.

“What will you do, who will you become, what will you accomplish in the next eight decades till you’re as old as Mama?”

Of course there’s no way to know the answer to that but what I am certain of is that she’s been gifted with a great start, a magnificent legacy, in large part because of who her greatgrandmother was, and is.

Thank you Mama. From the Princess. From me.

From all of us.

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