Last Friday would have been Mama’s ninety-eighth birthday and I was remembering two years ago when we had our final celebration with her. It had gotten harder over the preceding years because she seemed barely aware that we were having a birthday celebration; dementia had changed her so much. But at the last celebration she did enjoy the hugs from her grandkids and watching their kids playing all about the large living area at Parkview. It seemed to me that we did the party as much for ourselves as Mama– noting that we’d made it through another year, keeping our mother in as good of health as possible, working together for her well being.
Some of my fondest memories of her last years were of taking her to visit her brother, Joe and his wife, Ann. Those Saturdays were spent driving them to their hometown of Lillington where we shared meals together at Kentucky Fried Chicken. We always knew that was precious time because we didn’t take for granted that there would be a ‘next time.’ They were all in those latter years with multiple health problems but with tenacious spirits that wanted to be together.
On that last trip when I was able to take Mama, before it became impossible for me to transfer her from the car to her wheelchair, it was a beautiful fall day. She had lost most of her ability to carry on a conversation, only answering in short responses or pointing to something and saying a single word. She loved riding down the country road and it reminded me of how she never napped on a long road trip during our family vacations because she said, “I’m afraid I’ll miss something.”
We passed a billboard and I glanced at it enough to see a grouping of people, who were not well-dressed and of different races. I don’t know what the sign was advertising, what group had paid the fee to publicize its message.
But Mama evidently got some message from seeing the sign and said, as clearly as I’d heard her speak in a long time, “I’ll stand with the poor.”
I was surprised by her declaration and I had no way of looking at that billboard more closely to see what Mama might have been responding to. We were moving fast down Hwy 421 and I couldn’t turn around and drive past it a second time for some clue; we’d be late to Joe and Ann’s.
“You have always stood up for the poor, Mama” I said, trying to make conversation. “You knew what it was like to be without.”
Mama was one of eight children and we’d heard their stories of losing their farm, due to the poor soil quality, during the Great Depression. Fortunately, their family was able to move to the other grandparents’ farm and start over with land that was more fertile and a community with better schools. My aunts and uncles agreed that while they were poor in money, they never lacked for love or for the necessities of life.
Mama had always had a heart for feeding people– whether it was her family or friends, or strangers stopping by. She was quick to make something delicious to carry to those who were sick or bereaved. I more fully appreciated Mama’s generosity after a ‘chance’ conversation with one of the nursing assistants at Parkview.
That middle-aged black woman was getting Mama up to go to the dining room one day when I was visiting. The assistant asked me where Mama lived before she came to the nursing home. When I told her the location of our farm on Broadway Road, the woman stopped what she was doing and got a wistful look in her eyes.
“Oh, she’s that Mrs. Rosser,” she said. “When me and my sister were little girls, Mrs. Rosser and Miss Rosetta put on a summer day camp. We went down to your house and played and your Mama had the best food for us.” She smiled and put a pillow to Mama’s back in the wheelchair. “Those were some of the best times I remember.”
Mama had worked at the Lee County Extension Office during the seventies as a program aide– teaching families about nutrition and working with the summer camp. She was always a patient teacher and I’m sure she taught those kids a lot about how to gather vegetables from the garden and make them into healthy meals.
She was featured in the April 2, 1977 edition of the hometown newspaper–The Sanford Herald. In going through my boxes of photos and momentos during my move, I found the copy of that article.
Reading it now, I can hear her saying, “I just wish I had more time to work with people, especially the youngsters–helping them to learn the importance of good nutrition.”
I was delighted that the Herald had published some of her recipes that I’ve lost over the years– especially her light and delicious Angel Biscuits. The Magic Casserole was a mainstay of what she taught the 55 families she served– helping them to adapt with whatever groceries they had in stock to stretch their food dollars. Mama was all about stretching the dollar, being thrifty– her Scotch-Irish roots at play.
Another way I learned more about Mama’s generosity and care during her later years, was the day I organized her file cabinet. I dreaded the task because I’ve never liked going through paperwork. It was hard enough to go through my own, but to make sense of Mama’s files when she couldn’t help was quite another thing. Mama was never one to throw anything away–and that included getting rid of cancelled checks. The file was filled with them and they dated back to the sixties. I wished I could just shred them by the hand fulls but instead I had to check each piece of paper to be sure she didn’t have something important mixed in with the old checks. That dreaded task eventually became a time of knowing Mama better. When I got to the more recent years, I saw checks that had been written to organizations as well as individuals– many whom I didn’t know. They weren’t for large amounts but given some of the “Thank You” notes it seemed they were given to folks going through hard times– paying for essentials like medications, food, emergency needs. I was struck by how many checks there were given Mama’s limited finances.
Now, remembering Mama’s birthday, it occurs to me that she has left behind a legacy of caring. We three daughters witnessed her example of “Standing with the Poor,” whether it was poor in spirit or poor in finances–she was always more aware of another’s need than her own. I’m so grateful that she was my mother and I was the recipient of her love and care.
13 thoughts on “I’ll Stand With the Poor”
What a wonderful remembrance of mama’s caring spirit. So thankful you kept the article and pictures of her during that time. Hard to believe that was April before daddy passed in December. Love how God opened the door for the conversation with the CNA at Parkview. I’m sure that blessed her as she remembered those good old days. Also I’ve always known mama was truly one of the most generous people I knew. She might not have had a lot but she shared whatever she had and God blessed her for her faithfulness in her giving. My prayer is to live from her example of caring and giving as I know that is what brings lasting joy.
Thanks for writing such a wonderful tribute to her. Loved it and you.
Thanks so much, Little Sister,
Yes– I was happy to find that article and those recipes I’d lost. In the article it said Mama enjoyed bowling. Did you know that? I didn’t! LOL!
Yes, that conversation with the nursing assistant was a moment I’ll never forget.
I’ve never been as generous as Mama, but maybe as I move forward I can follow her example more.
I’m glad that you liked my tribute because you can truly judge its accuracy.
I love you, too,
Big Sister, Connie
Well, another layer of your life that keeps us coming back to learn more. You have a massive burden in trying to keep it going. You need not worry about your status, as you reveal all that you have within you. I have learned much about myself in what write. One day it would be nice to sit and discuss each others’ lives. Love and be yourself to allow us the readers know the real Connie.
Love and Blessings to you.
Thanks for faithfully reading and commenting on another post.
Yes, sometimes it does feel like a burden to keep this blog going. Today was hard because my computer kept freezing up and my photos weren’t loading. It was not a restful Sunday morning! LOL!
But—– it is what I feel called to do, my way of offering something that I hope brings value into the lives of my readers.
I do hope that you learn more about yourself as you read my posts– because ‘it’s not all about me.’ If it can’t be internalized and bring you to some new question, or challenge, or epiphany– then what is its purpose?
Best to you in the week ahead.
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Enjoyed the read Connie. It made me think of all the young classmates & their mother’s kindness. Us “village kids” were always visiting somebody’s house to play whatever ballgame was in season. A lot of times their mother would break out the refreshments of homemade cookies & kool-aid! Thanks for the memories. Hope all is well with you and you’re getting some good responses on your online searching! Have a Great Week Connie! Mike
Thanks so much for reading– I’m glad you enjoyed this post. I bet you all did enjoy those snacks by the village moms who were quite the cooks and wanted to take care of the neighborhood kids. We did drink a lot of kool-aid back in our day! LOL!
I’m doing pretty well and glad to be meeting guys in person at the dances–since I know they’re real! Hope you’re doing well and managing the Indiana heat. Love your early morning pictures of the beautiful land and wild life around you.
Oh Connie, what a beautiful story. You really brought your sweet Mama to life for us. Like you, I was blessed to grow up with a mother who was kind, generous and gentle. I feel lucky to have been brought up by her as you were by your Mom. My mother was such a lady in her demeanour and behavior and looking at the pictures of your mama reminds me of her so much.
Your mother sounds wonderful–like such a dear and sweet presence. I bet our mothers would have been great friends if they’d lived in the same community. Or perhaps they were really cousins–since they likely shared the same heritage years ago.
We were so fortunate to have their example set for us, showing us how to make the world a better, more gracious place.
Thanks for reading and sharing your mother with me, Marie.
Best to you,
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Thanks so much for mentioning my story, Marie. We all need women in our lives who show us how to respond to others with love and grace. That’s what Mama did for me.
Best to everyone,
It’s a precious thing to be able to look back on your parents and revere who they were, what they accomplished, and the imprint they left on us. Not everyone is so blessed. Makes me think of my folks, including their warts, but there’s a park and a gazebo in my hometown that wouldn’t be there today were it not for Dad’s civic-minded devotion. Sam and Sweeny were co-Citizens of the Year as they neared retirement. This exquisite piece about your Mum brings back fond memories. Thanks, Connie.
Sorry for my late response. This week got away from me! LOL!
Thanks for reading and for your response. I’m glad you have a legacy of rich memories of your parents. It’s wonderful that you and your hometown have a tangible reminder of what your dad contributed.
I’m glad my post brought back fond memories for you.
Thanks so much for reading and for sharing about your parents. It’s great that you have a tangible representation of your parents in your hometown– a reminder to your family and to the community of your dad’s lasting good works. Glad what I wrote brought back fond memories.
Best to you,