Momma was born in Scranton, Pa. in 1916. Ironically it was in the same house that her mother, brother, and two of her own children were born. She would say her youth was just normal, but I would say that there was never anything about Momma that was just normal. She could play the piano with a gift few others had and while playing for a gospel quartet she met a young preacher that she fell in love with. Her parents didn't like him, because they thought that he would never be able to support her and they disapproved of their courtship. So, one day on their lunch breaks they got married, went back to work, and then back home to their parents without telling anyone about their marriage. The funny thing was, they were both over 21! With the passing of time Momma told her parents who finally accepted my Dad to the family. They stayed married for over 50 years before my Dad's death in the 1980's.
Momma was always thinking of her family and others. We moved to Goshen, New York in the 1950's where she and Dad opened a restaurant. Later Dad got a job in New York City and the arrangement was made that she would run the restaurant until it could be sold, and he would stay in New York during weekdays. Momma never learned to drive, so when she closed the restaurant, she would pack up food for our supper and head out for the 5-mile walk home. We lived on the top of a steep hill that she had to climb every night. Often it would be covered with snow and ice, and Momma would fall bringing supper home to us. But she never complained, nor did her sweetness ever diminish.
Momma lived a life of giving to us, and to others. In Richmond, Virginia she worked for the Volunteers of America to help families in need. At night she taught cooking and sewing classes for underprivileged girls, and always coupled it with bible lessons that she hoped would change the hearts of the girls who took the time to attend. At Christmas time she and Dad would fix baskets of food for needy families and hold a Christmas party for them.
She always made Christmas a special time for us too. I still have vivid memories of Christmas's gone by, where she would make her famous boiled raisin cake. It was a rule that we could not open our presents until after breakfast, and so that was the very day Daddy would want her to cook something very time consuming!
In the 1960's the Viet Nam War was raging in the Far East, and America's sons were finding themselves fighting in a very unpopular war. I knew that if I did not enlist I would be drafted. Now it was my turn to leave home for Navy Boot Camp. I was to leave from Main Street Station in Richmond where friends and family gathered to say goodbye. As the train pulled away I pressed my head against the window until I couldn't see them anymore. And Momma, well she also stood waving until the train was out of sight, straining to get the last glimpse of me.
Daddy died leaving Momma alone for the first time in her life. I had moved to Florida so seeing Momma required a planned trip now. She looked so forward to our visits, and when it was time to leave we would meet in her kitchen, gather in a circle, and have prayer for a safe trip and for Momma's loneliness. As we would drive off she would stand on the side porch and wave until our car was out of sight, again straining to get the last glimpse of us.
One night last week I got a call that Momma had been admitted to the hospital. The doctors didn't know how serious it was yet and they were running test. Then the word came that Momma was not doing well and the doctors felt the family should come quickly. I raced from Florida driving as fast and as far as I could. I arrived the next day but when I got there Momma was not conscious. Now the doctors gave us the words that I had dreaded to hear, that Momma was not going to make it. Her body was shutting down and all they could do was keep her as comfortable as possible.
She knew I was coming and once called for me, and now I wanted her to at least know I was there with her. So with a lot of effort to get her attention Momma open her eyes. Earlier she had assured my sister that she was ready to meet Jesus, and again thinking of others, requesting that the family be sure of our standing with him, and especially the small grandchildren. Now for a moment we had Momma's attention. We asked if she was "ok" to squeeze our hand. To our surprise she was able to do that. We asked if she was in pain, and she signaled "no". Then I leaned over her and asked did she see me, and her eyes open wide and she squeezed our hand indicating yes! Though we tried to keep her with us, that was the last time her eyes fixed on my face. Now we stood there as her life slowly exited her body. I wished I could pick her up and carry her home with me, but I was helpless to do anything but pray. My mind ran back to so many things she had done for us. I saw her stumble on that Goshen hill bringing supper to me. My mind relived Christmas times of long ago. I wondered how many lives she had blessed by her actions and her sweetness. Then I was keenly aware that it was now me who was standing waving, and straining to see Momma as she left me. It was now my turn to stand at the station and waive goodbye. As the minutes came to a close, I looked around the room to see if I could see the angels that would carry Momma to glory. Momma had told us that when her mother died her eyes open wide and she whispered "Jesus". So with a tuned ear I listened for Momma to do the same. Then the last breath came, and we all said "Goodbye Momma", and she quietly departed this life. There were no words, no visual angels, just the departing of Momma.
After a few hours I was outside looking at the sky and the thought came to me that Momma would never fly on an airplane, and how funny it was that angels would have carried her through the skies to glory. Then I started to sing a song. Without realizing it I was singing out load. Then guilt came to me. How could I be singing a song when Momma just passed away! But the song was still there so strong that I started saying the words out loud. "It is joy unspeakable and full of glory, full of glory, full of glory. It is joy unspeakable and full of glory and the half has never been told." Oh, I know the mind is a strange thing. I know there are those who would say I was looking for anything to comfort me. But I would like to think that it was a message to me, that Momma was in the arms of Jesus and in her overwhelming happiness and joy, she thought of us once more and sent word she was OK.
At the funeral they sang Momma's favorite song "At the end of the road". As I drove off from the gravesite, I again looked back and watched as long as I could at Momma's casket. As I did the song came to my mind again "It is joy unspeakable "Momma has a new song now, one we really didn't sing that much, but one fixed in my heart and mind. So now I look forward, and wave to Momma and she whispers to me "It is joy unspeakable and full of glory and the half has never been told"!