I attended a funeral this week. It was my mothers’. In February, my mom turned 101. At her death she was 101 and a quarter. In the latter years of her life, she was always worried that her friends who are in Heaven are probably thinking that she didn’t make it. Well, last week she did! And I’m pretty sure they all knew it when she arrived. I’m sure that she went straight to the main office to see if they needed a cake.
My mother always bordered on the line of strange and wonderful, sometimes going a bit far into each side. When I was a kid she would sometimes try to keep me from doing the things that I was wanting to do by showing the frightening side of those things.
“Hey mom. I’m going swimming with some friends at the lake.”
“A heard about a little boy who went swimming with his friends at a lake last week and he drowned.”
“Hey mom. I’m going bike riding with the guys.”
“I heard about a little boy who who went bike riding with guys last week and he was crushed by a truck.”
“Hey mom. I’m going with the gang to Dairy Queen for a Coke.”
“ I heard about a little boy who went to Dairy Queen with a gang last week and choked to death on a straw.”
With all the little boys dying in the area, I’m surprised there were any children left to go to school with. I guess, in her way, she was trying to protect me and my brother from tragedies in life, and on some level, I appreciate that, more now than then.
She was most often sweet and kind, but on occasion, a stubborn streak showed up. In latter years, she needed a cane to walk with. Her hips were worn a bit, but she didn’t want to use a cane because she was afraid it would make her look old. (She was 96! The look was already there!) On a senior trip to the Ozarks, she refused each day to use her cane. On a shopping day in Eureka Springs, the sidewalks were wet from rain and the pavement was very steep making it hard for my mom to navigate from store to store. My friend Brain, who was a young chaperone on that trip, noticed the problem and tried to get her to buy a cane to help her get around with a little more ease. Brian found a store with a cane for $60 and recommended that she buy it. She said that was a ridiculous price for a cane and besides she had a cane back in the room. Brian then found another cane at a shop for $25 and told mother about it. She stated that absolutely, in no way would she buy a cane for $25, especially since she had one back at the room. Brian then went to the shop owner with the $25 cane and paid him $22 for it. He told him that a lady would be coming in a little while and asked if he would sell her the cane for the remaining $3. He agreed. Brian then went to my mother and said he had found her a cane for $3. Would she be interested? She thought $3 was a good price and she bought the cane and got around pretty well for the rest of the day. Brian told this story at her funeral and I gave him back his $22.
Mother baked cakes for the public all of my life. And they were the best cakes I’ve ever eaten. Each recipe started off with, ”Take one pound of Crisco and 4 sticks of butter.” There was always cake around the house. If mother made the wrong size cake, we got it. If she misspelled the name on the cake, we got it. I’ve celebrated the birthdays of hundreds of people I’ve never met. She loved to make cupcakes. They were all the same size and if you had to toss a few for spelling errors, it wasn’t a great loss. The worst spanking I ever got was over a cupcake. A few years ago the phrase, “What would Jesus do,” became popular. People had it on necklaces and bracelets and bumper stickers. But my mother was using that line long before anyone else. If I or my brother did anything wrong, with condemnation, she would stare us straight in the eyes and ask the burning question, “What would Jesus do?” We hated that, and I think Jesus was probably not too excited about it either. One Sunday, we got home from church after just hearing a hell fire and brimstone message about sharing. All of the sermons back then were about hell fire and brimstone, this one had a little extra in it about sharing your good fortune with others. It was kind of like putting a little sugar on a spicy hot tamale. Apparently my brother and I weren’t listening that morning. When we got home, we noticed simultaneously that there was one cupcake left in the pan. We raced to it and all hell fire and brimstone broke out . The cup cake itself must have been made for the birthday of a guy named Sammy, but mom had written Mammy on it, thus the family got a cupcake. My brother got the biggest part. It said “Mam,” while I ended up with only the “my.” When mother saw the fight, she jumped in the middle of it. We started running but you know the law of the jungle; “slowest one gets eaten first.” She caught me in mid air and slammed me down on the kitchen counter. “Did you even listen to the sermon this morning?” she asked. Her eyes flared at me and I knew what was coming. With a loud booming voice she asked, “WHAT WOULD JESUS DO!?” The whole situation was not good, but I think this is where it took a really bad turn. I said, “He’d make more cupcakes.” I don’t remember much of my childhood after that. And, I do get a slight shiver when I’m around a small cake. My mother never attended a funeral at Main Street Baptist Church that she didn’t bring a cake for the family of the deceased. We called it the “Death Cake.” It was the same style cake every time. Rectangular cake, white icing, rosettes with the scripture, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,”.. Philippians 4:13. I’m not for sure how that particular scripture pertained to a funeral, but we never asked burning questions like that back then. When we came home as children if mother was writing scripture on a white cake we looked at each other and said in unison, “Who died?” This week at her funeral, we placed a cake on the casket instead of flowers. We didn’t want her to attend her last funeral without bringing a cake. She would have laughed.
With all the crazy things I can say about my mother, let me close with this. She was the first person to tell me about Jesus. She took me to church, she read the bible to me and she taught me about worship. I am who I am in many ways today, because of my mom. I love her and will miss her for the rest of my life. She had 101 years on this earth. That’s a pretty good run. We are sad for us and thrilled for her.
My sons, Joshua and Caleb ministered at mother’s funeral. Joshua took us to the Word and Caleb sang us to the throne. It was a great homegoing. Mother would have loved every moment of it. The boys are back at their homes in Pennsylvania and Colorado and Betty has gone to Josh’s to see the Grandboys. I have a little time by my self, so I think I’ll go get a cake and recall some memories. I’m thinking about going to Dairy Queen to get one of those ice cream cakes, but don’t worry mom, I’ll stay clear of the straws.