FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: MawMaw
This is her story, here in the Front-Porch Gospel.
Ninety-nine years she led a lovely, quiet example of what a good Christian woman and mother and wife looks like.
Then she left us this past week, leaving an empty place inside.
The first chance we got, I found a quiet place and contemplated the life of this special woman who has long been in my and the amazin’ blonde’s lives.
Many things mark a lovely person’s life: For MawMaw, first, there was the Lord. She filled her spot for almost all of those ninety-nine years at the Murphy Avenue Church of Christ, then, for a short time, in the new building on Roanoke Road. She was there when the writer whose whole life story you know well was born and raised, right here in LaGrange. MawMaw has always been there, ever since the day my mama brought me home from the LaGrange hospital.
Her life is marked by her children: Larry, Shirley, then her youngest son Mike, one whom – it is possible – you may already know. Then there were those children’s husbands and wives, later the grandbabies. In that way, I guess her life is like most others. The difference here, for me, is that those children are as much as part of my life as Georgia’s red clay, pine trees, and kudzu. The bass-singing Larry has always been the one I’ve always wanted to be like; Shirley, always good-spirited, like a big sister, has asked a hundred times, “When ya gonna move back home?;” and we’ve hung around that youngest son Mike a time or two, too, here and there.
I’m not sure MawMaw saw a great deal of difference between her children and their spouses: Larry married the world-class soprano singing Alice-Ann before she left us too early, Shirley has the very steady Oliver, the one Mike and I affectionally call “Whup.” And then Mike has our friend and tireless worker Gloria, whom you, also, may already know.
MawMaw’s life-story would not have been complete without telling about Mr. Ivy Thompson, dashing and handsome when he took Pearly as his bride. PawPaw left all of us on September 29, 2010. As with most couples, MawMaw and PawPaw were as different as sweet milk and a good ol’ glass of buttermilk. Paw Paw was the eternal optimist, always laughing, always with a joke and always looking around to see to whom he could tell it. He’d tell his latest within the first minute of seeing you, and Maw Maw would say, “Aw, Ivy, he don’t wanna hear all that,” but that wouldn’t slow Brother Ivy up at all.
But that’s how different two of the people who left such a lasting impression on me were. Paw Paw was the optimist, and MawMaw naturally leaned more toward the pessimism, naturally. MawMaw’s latter years were spent at the Florence Hand Home, and when we went to see her when we were home – and visiting MawMaw and having a little prayer together was always a highlight for our homecomings – we’d greet her with a hearty greeting and ask how she was doing,
“Aw, I ain’t doin’ much good,” she’d say, and I’d look over at her youngest son and smile. She’s been saying that my whole life. If she said, “I’m doin’ great!” we immediately would’ve been pushing the red button and summoning the nurse. That just wasn’t MawMaw. Once, on the way home from the visit, Mike said, “You know she’s the longest surviving cancer patient, because she had cancer fifty years ago,” and we both laughed.
The beautiful thing is, when MawMaw left us last week at ninety-nine years of age, she didn’t have cancer, she didn’t have heart trouble, and she really didn’t have much trouble with her mind. To me, that’s such a beautiful thing. She just went as long as she could and until she was just too tired to go on, then MawMaw laid her burdens down so she could go see PawPaw.
I’m sure he greeted her with a huge Ivy-Thompson smile and one of heaven’s best jokes.
We loved MawMaw, and she loved us, too, I know. She would sometimes tell people, “Stevie’s my boy, too, just like my own.” I think she took it on herself to be kind-of a mama to me when Mama left us way back in 1973.
For the “rest of the story,” I suppose I should tell you that the Mike I’ve been telling you about is the same Coca-Cola Mike you’ve all grown to know and love; and sweet Gloria is the ‘Glory’ of whom we write about often. You know, too, that he’s my best friend, even if I do have to tell some stretchers on him from time to time.
Now you know why my heart hurts so much. When Coca-Cola Mike lost his mama last week, I lost one, too.
Coach Steven Bowen, a long-time Red Oak teacher and coach, now enjoys his time as a full-time writer and preacher of the gospel. In addition to his evangelistic travels, he works and writes for the Church of Christ of Red Oak at Uhl Road and Ovilla. Their worship times are 10 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 pm. Wednesdays. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call or text 972-824-5197.