These remarks were given at Sweetwater Baptist Church on Thursday, August 10, 2017.
Turn your Bibles to chapter 12 of…
just kidding. 🙂
We knew this day would come but it has so many times slipped ever forward as though the angel came to escort her to heaven was met with something like trying to catch the end of an over pressured water hose. I think she’d like that way of describing her ordeal.
How does one capture the essence of something as combustible as a Southern Grandma?
Several things stand out to me as I think about Mary’s life and what ours would be but for her influence.
1.) She was a strong lady. Ahead of her time in a lot of ways.
Some people think of a lady as something fragile or too refined… out of date. A negative label in a modern world. The opposite is true of her. She was a steel magnolia – strong and refined, faithful and sweet. She had a fantastic career and work ethic. Maybe a little controlling. 🙂
She motivated people around her to try to meet a standard that she herself felt driven toward, like the woman described in Titus chapter 2.
Mary lived almost 96 years. In that time she witnessed her house burn down around her as a young girl and her daddy come back in to save her. That happened right on this Murrah road over here. She lived when banks failed and the Great Depression changed everything. She saw her father convicted of breaking prohibition laws with his moonshine. Wonder how that went over in this church?
Then she fell in love with my Grandfather on Broadstreet in Augusta, married him, and sent him off to WWII not knowing if he’d ever come home. Later, when her husband came home drunk she wrapped the sheet around him and beat’em with a frying pan. He promised God he’d never do it again if he survived the experience.
She underwent brain surgery to remove a lemon-sized tumor in a time when surgeries of that kind were not often successful. Somewhere in there, she got bit by a black widow spider.
Someone told her she couldn’t get a job at Savannah River Plant so she applied before
she knew how to drive. And then she learned to drive so she could go to work. Mary was one of the first women to supervise people at the Savannah River Plant helping to win the Cold War and keep workers safe. She managed one of the first racially integrated teams with accomplishment. Talk about a woman in technology. She mentored so many other women on their path to success in the workplace and here at Sweetwater.
Whatever she did.. it was going to be right. She never stopped learning although I don’t remember her with a lot of books. She loved magazines especially ones that had new stuff for her to try. Nobody was going to tell her she couldn’t do something. She had braces in her 50s because of a trampoline accident. Was also involved in a go-cart accident with her own mailbox. Always trying new things.
On a cruise with friends in her late 80s she once had a beach-side pina colada with a big ole umbrella fruity top. She declared that the resulting afternoon nap was the best she’d had in years. None of us brought ourselves to tell her the drink had alcohol in it, but we all snickered at dinner when she chided a friend for having a glass of wine.
Her parents hoped to make her into more of a quote lady by taking her saddle away. Instead, She rode her favorite horse bareback in defiance of the standard mold. No, Mary was resourceful and practical consistent and always trying new things.
If you ever went shopping with her or out to dinner you understand that she saw the world as a happy place and all the possibilities need only to be coaxed out of wherever they were hiding.
2.) she loved people and had the gift of hospitality
I remember how completely she loved my Grandfather. Once we’re on vacation in a pool and I saw them kissing and I thought to myself … that is not a grandma and grandpa kind of a kiss. I love how they joked so together. It was so hard for her when he died.
They loved their friends too. Grandma told me once “son if somebody comes to the front door do not answer it till I get there. All our friends use the back door. I see a lot of you here today. My grandmother was all about home and making it inviting and warm. Our world could use more of that connection today.
I’ve heard many stories of how she opened her home to other folks and service members from Fort Gordon. Lots of folks over the years. Heard one last night about how she and her children carried Christmas to folks. There were lots of these things. I remember my grandparents taking food from the garden to folks all over this area.
They served for years doing the kind of relational ministry that is such a focus right
now. they did it naturally as a team – what is telling too many is how their children followed in that path as well.It would pain her to disappoint somebody.
Now, Mary wasn’t always successful when it comes to animals. One time our hamsters were making noise at night. She put them outside so they could “run that wheel as hard as they want to”…. and so she could sleep… and accidentally froze em to death. Another time she accidentally ran over our cat with her car. She hid it under the house to spare us the frustration. How that occurred was a secret for 20 years.
She encouraged our marriage. When Laurie and I married the letters changed from just to me … to Jason and Laurie and she was sure to put in comments like “Rozie liked your new hair do… or I’m so glad you got to be at Susan’s graduation”
Another thing about here I remember..
3.) She never gave up on herself or anybody else
You knew my Grandmother to be a powerful competitor and loved sports, for sure if you got the chance to sit next to her. Often On Sunday nights, I’d call her up and we would mostly talk about Atlanta Braves baseball. Even as she slowly lost herself with Alzheimer’s it was amazing how much of her, was still below the surface.
It was just in her to believe in people and to help out. I remember being here on a Sunday morning or two as a youth and being surprised at all the kids who’d come by and talk with Grandma and grandpa. That is rare and something special here at this church. I do hope y’all appreciate that.
I mean a lot of folks get to a certain age and stop living. Not her. In fact, I never remember her saying I can’t. Which makes Alzheimer’s that much more frightening a disease.
For me personally, this was a big deal. I failed 4th-grade math in one of the worst elementary schools in South Carolina. My parents were told, “this child can’t learn.” It was decided that I would go to summer school in North Augusta and live with my Grandparents for the summer, getting tutored also by a beloved friend and neighbor.” It was one of the biggest turning points in my life made possible by Grandma here.
You see… when people influence your life to a certain level you are imprinted by their character and influence – whether we realize, want to, or not. They do. We all can say that of her, can’t we?
When I see a cold glass of sweet tea, I mean in an actual glass that has the sweat on the outside….or experience the smell of sliced peaches I think of her. The 13th Birthday dinner at The Green Jacket – Oh so many priceless memories. My earliest memory is having an ice pop on her back porch with my cousins. You have these memories also and let us celebrate them together here today. They are gifts from God.
We were blessed to have her as mom, grandma, great grandma, friend, and neighbor. Let us remember all that she did and means to us as we also look toward the Savior in whose arms she now rests.