Tuesday, December 15, 2009


My precious mother in law went to be with the Lord Sunday, December 13. Today we celebrated her life at her funeral service where I delivered the eulogy. Several family members have requested I post it.

I asked for the privilege of presenting Mamaw’s eulogy because I wanted to honor her for the blessing she has been to me, personally, and to our entire family.

Many people make jokes about their mother in law. And, although Mamaw has given us all cause to laugh many times, I can honestly say that none of the bad "mother in law" jokes ever applied to MY mother in law because I have been blessed to have the best mother in law in the world.

From the moment I met her almost 40 years ago, she treated me with love and kindness. Although I will say that she never quite forgave me for taking away her "baby". Even as recent as just a few weeks ago, she introduced Larry to Amanda’s boyfriend as her "baby" and me as the one who stole him away. But I jokingly reminded HER that I had taken good care of him and she agreed. Tom, her favorite son in law, said the second thing she said to him after being introduced was "What can I get you?" So typical of her…always reaching out and wanting to do something for someone else.

She was always so good natured, able to take a joke and able to kid as well. Even as sick as she was just days before her home-going, she told a tall handsome doctor who asked her how old she was that she was probably just 5 years older than him (and he was only about 40!) She loved life to the fullest . Whether it was riding a roller coaster or tickling one of her grandchildren til they squealed with laughter…even if they were an adult….she had a way to make you smile.

She loved people not being able to guess her age. She had aged so beautifully no one ever knew how old she really was! Even at 95 she was always so concerned about her appearance. She worked hard to coordinate her outfit, her jewelry, her shoes and always wanted her hair fixed and her make up on. Last night as many came to pay their respects, we heard time and again how beautiful she was…how young she looked and how sweet she was.

As she grew older, of course, like all of us she had her aches and pains, and more so in the last few years. But she never lost her sense of humor. Oh the stories we all could tell!! And oh the stories she used to tell our kids about the "good old days". She would have them begging for more. She’d put on their hats and pose for the camera and make us laugh so hard the tears would roll.

She never met a stranger so could strike up a conversation with anyone. For many years she loved playing all the games on the radio. She would have several radios throughout her house so she could not miss an opportunity to make the call. She was on a first name basis with many of the disk jockeys, especially Andy and Debbie of Kix 106, because she wouldn’t just call and answer whatever trivia question they asked, she would have to talk to them a bit first, telling them in detail exactly what she’d been doing all day. And she won money and prizes, too, more times than I can count!

A few Christmases ago she asked Amanda if she had a boyfriend. Amanda said ‘no’. To which Mamaw replied, "Well you know…. a good man is hard to find" and then she broke out in song. She sang an old, old song about a good man being hard to find. It was a very popular song during her teenage years and she had not forgotten a single word!! We asked her a few weeks later while at our house one night to sing it again for our kids. She never batted an eye, but sang every word!!! My only regret is that I did not record it.

She loved wrestling and Memphis State basketball. She loved to sew and can and bake…especially for others. She was the hardest worker I’ve ever known. Even at 95 when most have taken to their rocking chair, Mamaw was still going strong….maybe a little slower, but she was still going. There was not a lazy bone in her body. Just 2 weeks ago she was raking leaves in her yard and early last week when she first became sick, I had dropped by to take her birthday gift that had been late arriving. She greeted me at the door, but soon told me how bad she felt and about her having been sick since the day before. Yet as we moved into the den, there was her ironing board and she was ironing curtains! And not just any curtains, mind you…these were the ruffled variety that were a pain to iron if you felt GOOD. But…she wasn’t just going to sit around doing nothing even if she was sick. She was going to accomplish something out of her day.

She was fiercely independent, one of the things I loved most about her. She still lived alone at 95 and was driving up until just a couple of years ago. I remember several years ago we were going to cook out at her house for someone’s birthday and it came a rainstorm that day. I talked to her early in the day and asked if she had been to the grocery yet. She said ‘no’ and I told her that I’d go for her so she wouldn’t have to drive in the rain. She said "Well, if it doesn’t stop…" So I called back about noon because it had still been raining pretty hard. She had already been to the store. She did not want anyone to do anything for her that she could do for herself. Not that she didn’t appreciate your help…she was always VERY appreciative of anything anyone did for her, but she preferred to do it herself whether it was getting her groceries, cleaning her house or driving.

Mamaw without a doubt had the gift of mercy. She was always doing for someone else. I truly believe the Lord allowed her to remain on this earth as long as He did because she was such a blessing to so many. I don’t know of anyone who enjoys visiting a nursing home, yet Mamaw could go and stay for hours, visiting first one and then another. It did not matter if she knew them or not. If they looked sad or lonely, she was going to pull up a chair and visit, and if they were lucky, she’d also leave them a loaf of banana nut bread.

Up until she had to give up driving, she was quite a regular at the nursing home as well as visiting the shut-ins. She was older than most of them, yet that did not matter to her. She wasn’t sitting at home waiting on someone to come to her. She was more interested in how she could bless someone else.

She was not rich by the world’s standards, but she was so rich in so many other ways. She was rich in kindness, compassion, gentleness and forgiveness. She was one of the few people I’ve ever known who did not ever hold a grudge or harbor bad feelings toward anyone. No matter what had been done to her…if her feelings had been hurt, she had been offended, she had been let down or even if she had been done wrong, Mamaw forgave. She did not have a mean bone in her body. She never saw the bad in anyone…which got her in trouble at times. She was so trusting and I can hear her now if we scolded her about it, saying " But…he was SO nice".

She recently had some work done on her house and the men who came to work on it stayed all day. She noticed that one of them had a lunch and the other one didn’t. Most of us would have said "too bad…hate it for ya". Not Mamaw. She fixed him lunch and after he tasted how good her jelly was, she ended up selling him a pint to take home!

In going through her address book Sunday night to be sure we had contacted everyone, I found an address label on one of the pages. Beneath it she wrote "This is the address of a friend I’d never seen before and she ate lunch at my house and then sent me a real sweet card in a few days and I want to remember this." I had to smile when I read it because that was CLASSIC MAMAW. A friend she’d never met. I later learned that the woman had come to visit with a mutual friend and ended up having lunch with Mamaw. They had such a delightful time that Mamaw did not want to forget her new "friend".

She was a natural born saleswoman. She sold her wares at the Fair on the Square from the very first one til just a few years ago…32 years! She was well known for her banana nut bread, her fried pies and her canned goods. And everywhere she went she managed to tell whomever she was with about them and usually made a sale. After all, who could resist that sweet white-haired angel with the beautiful smile and sparkling blue eyes?

Yet for all the joy she brought to others and all the fun she could be, she had not lived 95 years without her share of heartache and sorrow. She lost a brother when she was younger and saw her family home burn. She lost parents and all of her siblings but one. She endured still crueler pain in losing her husband, a son and a grandson. As the years have gone by, she has lost friend after friend after friend. Still her own personal pain never stopped her from giving of herself to others nor did it ever make her bitter.

She has opened her home to many over the years. She has tenderly cared for sisters and brothers, children and grandchildren. And even if she couldn’t care for you personally, she called and sent cards, but she was always displaying her gift of mercy

She loved her family with every fiber of her being. Every single one of them. And she would be quick to tell you that she did not love one more than the other. And she didn’t. She loved each one and talked favorably about each one. They were all special to her from her oldest son to her youngest great-grandbaby….they were ALL precious in her sight. The love of her family was reciprocated to her this week, as grandchild after grandchild and great-grands as well, gathered around her hospital bed.

And that is what endeared her to me the most…her love of family. Oh how she loved each of us!! Not only was she a wonderful, caring, loving mother, but she was an awesome grandmother! After all she made home-made cookies and play dough!! She always made time for her grandchildren…whether little or older.

I will never forget how she used to come over almost every time one of our kids would return to college just to tell them good bye and bring them some cookies to take back to school. And she always wanted me to call her and let her know that they had made it back to school safely. She attended ball games, piano recitals and church programs. She not only loved her grandchildren, she enjoyed them.

But my favorite memory of all was when Curt was little. No one loved digging in the dirt more than Curt…he still does! Mamaw would give him an old spoon to dig with and I can hear her now saying "Son…I don’t care how deep a hole you dig, just fill it up when you are done." She wasn’t worried about him messing up something. She just let him be a little boy and enjoy himself. A couple of years ago, our granddaughte,r Kyleigh, was over at her house and she was following us around in the backyard. Next thing I know, here comes Mamaw with a spoon and little bucket so Kyleigh could dig under her tree. The dirt was hard and Kyleigh was having a hard time. So Mamaw stopped what she was doing, came over and got down on the ground with Kyleigh and got a hole started for her, showing her how to dig.

This week in the hospital her room has been filled with family and friends. She was affectionately known as Momma, Aunt Ruby, Mamaw, or Miss Ruby because all who knew her loved her. There will be a huge hole in all of our lives without her, but oh how much richer and sweeter our lives have been because of her. This Christmas will be especially hard without her yet I want to share with you what I think she would say about that if she could….

I’m spending my first Christmas in Heaven
A glorious, wonderful day!
I’ll stand with saints of the ages,
Who found Christ the Truth and the Way.

I’ll sing with the Heavenly choir.
Just think! I, who longed so to sing!
And oh, what celestial music
We’ll bring to our Savior and King!

We’ll sing the glad songs of redemption,
How Jesus to Bethlehem came,
And how they had called His Name Jesus,
That all might be saved through His Name.

We’ll sing once again with the angels,
The song that they sang that blest morn,
When shepherds first heard the glad story
That Jesus, the Savior, was born.

O, how I wish you could be here.
No Christmas on earth could compare
With all the rapture and glory
We’ll witness in Heaven so fair.

You know how I loved Christmas.
It seemed such a Wonderful Day,
With all of my loved ones around me,
The children so happy and gay.

Yes, now I can see why I loved it.
And oh, what a joy it will be
When you and my loved ones are with me
To share in the glories I see.

So Dear Ones on earth, here's my greeting:
Look up till the day dawn appears,
And oh, what a Christmas awaits us,
Beyond all our partings and tears!

Yes, Mamaw loved the Lord. She had walked with him for most of her life. Her witness was a quiet one, lived out day by day. She prayed faithfully for her loved ones and any who needed prayer. She would often say when we complained about the weather "Well that is the Lord’s work. We can’t complain about that." After I am finished speaking you will hear her favorite song "He Touched Me". I hope that you will listen carefully to the words, for it is Mamaw’s testimony. It speaks of one whose life has been changed by the touch of the Master’s hand upon their life. She is in Heaven today because Jesus touched her and changed HER life and I know that she wants to see each of you there some day as well. She did not get to heaven by being a good person, although she was one of the best. She did not get there by doing lots of good works, though she was known for them. She did not get there by being a faithful church member, although she was one. No…. she is in Heaven today because as the words of this song attest, one day the hand of Jesus touched her and she was no longer the same. I urge you to listen to each word of the song that follows and if you do not know Mamaw’s Jesus, I pray that you will give your heart to Him today.

Yes, my mother in law was priceless…a one of a kind…a rare jewel.

I think Proverbs says it best :

"Who can find a virtuous woman for her price is far above rubies,…..strength and honor are her clothing and she shall rejoice in time to come….in her mouth is the law of kindness. She looks well to the ways of her household and eats not the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed…………Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou [RUBY THOMAS] excel them all!"

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