Intro. When I was a boy my Mama would make fudge. I would watch and as she poured the hot fudge from the kettle into the dish. I would say “I get to lick the spoon”. Trouble was there was usually a brother or sister around who also wanted to lick the spoon. But that was not a real problem. Mother would just get a second spoon and give each of us a spoon of the remains from the kettle. In licking that spoon we got a foretaste of the fudge that we would get to eat after it set up.
I have spent my life walking in the midst of the reality of things on earth and the foretaste of the glory divine that is to come. I grew up in church. Mother took me to church as a two week old babe in arms. I grew up singing gospel songs. I went to Sunday School. I heard about salvation. I heard about heaven and I knew you had to be saved to get heaven. I heard the Bible truths about what was right and what was wrong and how that we were supposed to live in the way that was right. I grew up hearing about missions and prayer and stewardship. I was told that I needed to listen to God and be obedient to whatever call God placed upon my life. I knew all of that because that is what my Mama and Daddy taught me.
I knew that whatever a person had here on earth was temporary. And whatever was laid up for us in heaven was permanent. My Mama believed that and indeed that is what the Bible teaches.
“For we know that if our temporary, earthly dwelling is destroyed, we have a house not made with hands, an eternal dwelling in the heavens” II Cor. 5:1
So while I have lived my life trying to accomplish and experience a lot of things here on earth and trying to get my share of earthly possessions, I have done so with the acknowledgement that none of those things would last forever. That might be a discouraging thought were it not for the foretaste I have been given of things above.
That is the way my Mama lived. That is the way my Mama taught me to live.
My Mother was an ambitious soul. She worked hard to fulfill the ambitions of her soul.
Mother did not grow up with much. She did not have wealth or stature or a wide experience of places and things. But she wanted those things and she worked hard to acquire them.
She desired an education. With a stroke of providence she got the opportunity. After high school she was working as a waitress at the little restaurant in the corner of a drug store in London. As the fall was approaching a school principle came into the store and told my mother that another student was getting married and was going to forfeit her scholarship to Sue Bennett College and asked mother if she wanted it. Two years later she graduated and took a teaching job in a one room country school with 52 kids in 8 grades.
The job did not pay much but it was more than she had ever made and with a little money in the bank she started buying things. She was still living with my grandparents so she bought them a new sofa. They had never had a phone. She had one put in. When Christmas came she proudly bought a present for every member of the family right down to the youngest niece and nephew.She liked teaching but she wanted a family. Then she met my dad. Mother said the first time she ever met Dad he was driving by on a Farmall H tractor. She said he waved at her. One day he drove by on the tractor, saw her, stopped, turned the tractor off, and right there, sitting on the tractor seat asked her for a date. That is the way my Mama tells the story. If truth be known she flagged him down.
Dad always said mother amended the details of that story. But however much the details of that story may have been amended the fact is that 5 months later they were married. By the time they had been married 5 years and 2 months four children had been born. And mother had what she wanted. Throughout all of her life what she was more proud of than anything else on earth were her four children.As bad as the Alzheimer’s eventually decimated her mind and body there was something in her soul that fought hard to hold on to a remnant of that pride. About three weeks after dad died I drove to Blacksburg to see her. I found her that day in a state of chatter. I spoke to her and though I knew I would not be successful I tried to interact with her. But she stared blankly ahead oblivious to my presence and chattered away.
So I sat down beside her and for about an hour I just listened. Most of what she said made no sense but every now and then she would string 6 or 8 words together in a sentence. As I listened it occurred to me that there was something like a reel to reel tape playing her mind of events that occurred 50 plus years ago. In her demented state she was interacting with those events. I listened closely and discovered that I was on the reel to reel tape that she was interacting with. She would say “You know I have these two kids”. I would have been one of those two kids and that would have dated the event around 54 or 55 years ago. Once a brief smile came across her face as she said to one of those kids “Look at you, you are so cute” (I am quite certain she was probably referring to me). I realized something about my mother that day that I guess I already knew – The melody of her life was her children. That day she gave me a gift of listening as she recited the melody. Alzheimer’s had robbed her mind of the verses her life had written, but she was maintaining a feeble grasp on the melody.
Yes, mother was an ambitious soul. She wanted to have something. She wanted to be somebody. She wanted to contribute something to the world. She wanted to be known for the contribution she made. Mother never wanted to be just ordinary. She did not want her children to settle for the ordinary. She determined to inspire us to live beyond the ordinary.
Mother wanted to be a teacher. But four children in four years had interrupted that dream. But at the age of 32 she enrolled in classes at the University of KY to complete her teaching degree. This meant she had to drive from Georgetown to Lexington each day to attend class. So Dad bought mother an old brown two-tone Plymouth. It was a big tank of a car. It had a rectangular steering wheel and push button gear shift. Every Sunday he would put a few bucks worth of gas in it and mother would drive it to class. Every day she would pack her lunch and put a dime in her pocket and when classes were over for the day she would take that dime and buy herself a coke as a reward for the days’ work. Two years later she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of KY.
Mother recognized a teachable moment and was not about to waste it. She never wanted us to miss school for anything. But that day she was not going to allow school to get in the way of our education. She took us out of school dressed us up in our best Sunday - go to meeting clothes. I had on a white sport coat and a black tie. All that was missing was a pink carnation. Dad took all four us, 5th grade, 4th grade, 3rd grade, and 1st grade to mother’s graduation in memorial coliseum. We sat high up in the balcony through a long graduation and watched my mother receive her degree. I never saw my dad more proud or more patient than he was that day. My mother and Dad had both paid a heavy price for that accomplishment. Afterwards we stood in the parking lot and mother still wearing her cap and gown gathered her four children around her and Dad took the Brownie Hawkeye camera and took a picture.My Mama knew exactly what she was doing that day. She was using that moment to inspire her children to be more than ordinary. She was inspiring us to be somebody and to make a contribution to the world.
Mother always told us to get an education. She said that was something that no one could take away from us. She was wrong about that. Alzheimer’s can take away your education. Education is just as temporary as anything else on this earth. The best we can do is leave a legacy and build a foundation that others can build upon. I think my mother determined was through the children that she bore and reared and the students who were entrusted to her.
Mother lived in a lot of houses. Her home was important to her. Some of the houses she lived in were pretty simple but she was proud of them. The first house I remember living in was the Helvetia School house on Chaney Ridge Road in Laurel County KY. Dad and mother bought the old School house and converted it into a home. They got the first floor finished and ran out of money. Later dad finished two rooms upstairs. But they never did get enough money to remodel the outside. Mother was proud of that house but always felt like she had to apologize about the outside of it. She would say: “The outside does not look to good but “It is fixed up nice inside”.
We moved to Georgetown and left that house and some of our belongings in it and about a year later it burned down to the ground. And mother locked herself in the bedroom and cried. One of her dreams was destroyed that day. But there would be other houses. Some were fixer uppers and some were modern and the last one was new. When she moved from that place she left against her will. She did not want to go and she made sure we knew of her displeasure. I don’t blame her for being upset. I didn’t like it either. But the Alzheimer’s was already doing its dirty work in her mind and she needed help. She went to another house but she was never was at home again.
The Apostle gives us a picture that you and I are far too familiar with. He says “Indeed we groan in this body, desiring to put on our dwelling from heaven, since we are clothed, we will not be found naked. Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. (II Cor. 5:2-4 – HCSB)
I have watched my mother do a lot of groaning as everything she worked to acquire here on this earth was slowly taken away. Her houses gone. Her education vanished. Her dignity and glory vaporized. Her body reduced to a shell.
If that is all there is then life is a cruel joke.
But my Mama lived in this world but in faith she longed for the world beyond. She dwelt here. But she lived for God. Her hope was in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the Spirit of God had given her a foretaste of glory divine in the world to come.
Everything on this earth is temporary and everything in heaven is permanent. Paul said “For we know that if our temporary, earthly dwelling is destroyed, we have a house not made with hands, an eternal dwelling in the heavens” II Cor. 5:1
I am a little sad today. But forgive me if my tears are few. Because seeing what I have seen and knowing what I know I don’t want to cry but I want to shout “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, what a savior”.
If mother were here she would try to help us put this day in perspective. And I know just how she would do it. She would write us a poem. But since she cannot write a poem I decided to write one for her. I tried to wrap my mind around her life. I tried to understand who she was and who she became and who she is now. I loaned her my mind and my pen. Here is the perspective that I think she might convey to us today.
I Can Remember
By C. Brent Cloyd
Once I could recall every birthday
To places I had been I knew the way
From memory I could sing gospel songs
I knew each verse, not a word would be wrong
I taught children to say the alphabet
A basic in life they must not forget
I helped them learn to add and to subtract
To multiply, divide, and be exact
I could organize a holiday meal
Entertain family and friends with zeal
Clean house, set the table, and decorate
Cook all the fixins and never be late
But then I would forget and be confused
From activities I myself excused
Alzheimer’s stole my dignity and glory
My life began a different story
My soul filled with pain, denial, and tears
As the disease tarnished my golden years
My heart beat but I could not remember
Nothing was left but a dying ember
You visited me but I never knew
My moments of understanding were few
The world became small, I rarely cracked a smile
Lonely, I lingered, through this earthly trial
Then God’s angel came in death and in love
We made the trip to the promised place above
I met Jesus, I worshipped and adored
He gave me a house I could not afford
I’ve met the neighbors, I know them by name
Seen old friends, now some new ones I can claim
I’ve not been here long but it feels like home
I know where I am, not afraid to roam
So don’t cry for me, but laugh and rejoice
I am singing hymns with new mind and voice
Of the heavenly choir I’m a member
And every song I can remember