I want to tell a story on my Mama. It happened back when I was a young boy going to church in that building right over there. The preacher was preaching, and I was sitting in my spot on the front row listening. But in the middle of the message, I discovered that I had to go to the bathroom. My plan was to slip through the center aisle and scoot to the back, then make my way to the men’s restroom without much of a fuss. That was the plan. Unfortunately, my school/church shoes that I was wearing had seen better days. So, the preacher was preaching, but when I was halfway back up the aisle, he stopped. The soles on my shoes had come loose, so I was flapping. It sounded like I was wearing swim fins. When the preacher stopped preaching, everybody started looking at me, then everybody looked at Mama. She turned bright red with embarrassment. My Mama took raising us five children personally and seriously. You had better believe that the next Sunday I had a brand new pair of church shoes on!
There was another incident that took place back in the seventies, and it was not comical. We were home at our place down the road next to the chicken houses. Mom got a call on the phone. She went to the wall and picked the phone up, because that’s what you did back then. She calmly listened, hung up the phone, and then said to my Dad “Come on Buck, Gary’s been in a wreck.” Mom and Dad were out of the house in an instant, and the rest of us kids could do nothing but bawl our eyes out and pray.
My brother Gary was sixteen. I remember the day of Gary’s funeral. I was looking for Mama, but it was hard to find her because there were so many good people like y’all loving on her and paying attention to her. When the crowd broke, I saw her. I remember thinking “Why does Mom look so different?” I had never seen her old before. The years were not kind to her. She had to bury four of us. That’s not right.
When fate hands you that kind of a life, you have a choice to make. My Mama chose not to close up, or wallow in self-pity or escape into self-destruction. That was not her way. Instead, she chose to pour herself into us. She invested herself in us.
Mama gave me life twice. She gave birth to me, and raised me, but she also invested in my spiritual life. She gave me my first Bible, and my second Bible. She sent me to Christian conferences and camps. She encouraged me to join clubs where I could learn about public speaking. She didn’t send me to church, she brought me to church. When I started preaching, she was always in the audience. And when I wanted to go to college, she and Dad sacrificed to send me. You can’t repay something like that, and Mom never asked me to. To her, it was just being Mama.
Now, all I have is memories of her. But I cherish those memories. She was – and will remain a blessing to me. And some day soon our Lord Jesus Christ is going to return, and the first thing on his list will be raising his dead. I’m going to get my Mama back. So I don’t have to grieve like those who have no hope. No, the appropriate response is a prayer of gratitude.
FATHER GOD, giver of every good and perfect gift – thank you that Irene Vann loved us, and gave of herself for 88 years to demonstrate that love. She followed the pattern set by your Son, who came into this world not to be served but to serve. Thank you for the gift of Irene Vann.
(For anyone interested in the photo memorial that was presented at the reception after Mom’s funeral, it is available here).