She taught me how to live, and how to die
When Mom was born on a bitter winter’s day in 1935, the doctor gave her no chance to live. She was two and a half months premature and weighed barely 5 pounds, but her mother waved him off. “Oh, yes she will,” she told the inebriated physician who had come to the house from a Christmas party. Nana wrapped Mom tight in swaddling clothes and laid her in a basket. Borrowing from the iron will of her mother, and leaning into the grace of a merciful God, Tommye Blakley lived.
Tommye and Ed were classmates for twelve years at Old Town School. Every year, every class. In 1954 the cheerleader and the center on the basketball team graduated, and a few months later, they got married, and raised three sons.
Dad taught us how to work hard, to be a man of integrity, and to greet everyone you meet. Dad would talk to anyone. Mom taught us how to love people. She demonstrated how important words of affirmation are. She encouraged us to be the men God created us to be. She also taught us how to tell a good story, and how to laugh and enjoy each moment.
Since 2006, when my dad died, Mom has taught me how to suffer. Since 2016, when her oldest son died, and since 2018 when her youngest son died, Mom has taught me how to take care of her. Even though she could be fiercely independent, she needed me to step in where my older brother had served. I cherish every phone call, every Tuesday visit with Chick Fil-A in hand, every hug, every opportunity to love my sweet Mom.
For the past 15 years, Mom has shown all who knew her how to live with a single purpose. I read these words of Jesus on the morning of Mom’s funeral, and they made me smile. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” The harvest is always plentiful. The Lord is always able. But people who are willing to work the fields? They can be hard to find. Mom worked the fields. Everywhere she went, she talked about Jesus. Nearly everyone she met was asked, “Do you have a church home?” If they said they did not, she followed with, “Would you come to my church this Sunday and sit with me?” Many did. It didn’t stop there. She found out what their needs were and tried to help. Every time she heard from a friend, a family member, or a fellow church member who needed something, Mom was there. She loved and she served, and all who knew Mom are better people because of it.
Since November 17, Mom has taught me how to die well. She fell that day, and during surgery to repair her hip, Mom had a stroke. It was in the neuro-ICU that Mom told me, “Mark, I am ready to go home. Please don’t worry about me. I am going to heaven, and it doesn’t get any better than that.” Every person who visited her in the hospital would testify that Mom was only concerned with one thing–how they were doing. I am going to die one day. We all are. Mom showed me the best way to do that. She died just as she lived, putting love for the Lord and for others first.
Every Monday for years I would call mom and she would answer with, “Hey, sweet boy!” And I would answer with “Hey sweet Mama! How are you today?”
Hey, sweet mama. I know how you are today. Better than you have ever been. Better than we could ever imagine. I miss you. See you soon.