I received a lot of good comments on my last post about Mema. In fact, it has had more reads that just about any other article I have ever written. I just feel like there were so many things that I left unsaid. I really wanted to do true justice to the life and legacy of this truly amazing lady, but I am not sure that is possible. I wish so much that I could have accompanied Julia to TN for the funeral, as I feel like she was my grandmother too. I just hope that though my words, you might see what she meant to me and everyone else she ever came in contact with.
I would be remiss not to mention her faithfulness and love for her husband of 66 years, Gene Carman. They were as different as oil and water, and many times had differences of opinion and sometimes just flat out rubbed each other the wrong way, but they made it work for 66 years! I guess the old adage, “opposites attract” holds true, at least in this love story.
There are two things that I saw in their lives that I believe was the key to their 66 years together. First of all, they respected each other. I can’t tell you how many times that I heard the two of them brag on each other. There may have been some picking on each other mixed into the stories that they told, but when it came right down to it, they wanted the world to know how great the other one was. Mema reverenced Pa the way she reverenced her Savior. Not many people understand respect and reverence like Mema did. The second thing I noticed is that they loved each other more than anything else in this world. Now I am not talking about some cheap version of love that more resembles lust than love, I am talking about a love that even when they didn’t really “like” each other, you still knew that they still “loved” each other. I can’t imagine what it would be like to say goodbye to your wife of 66 years. We all need to pray for Pa as he begins a new chapter of life without his beloved wife.
The other thing that I really wanted to make sure that I conveyed is how Mema was perceived by those around her, both those close to her and those that she had only casual contact with. I have heard many times, that “perception is reality”, and I think that it is true. It is amazing how Mema understood this concept and tried to influence people’s perception. Several times Mema and Pa invited us out to Sunday dinner with them. We always enjoyed it, because, for one, they would never let us pay, but also because it was on these occasions that we learned very valuable life lessons from them. When we would arrive at the restaurant, (It didn’t matter which one) we would always be escorted to the front of the line and seated pretty much immediately, the waitress always called them by name, (usually Mema and Pa) and the waitress always waited on them hand and foot. I never asked why, but I figured it out pretty quickly. Mema would always rant and rave over the waitress’ hair, ask about her family, tell her how much she appreciated her, etc, etc, etc. Usually at some point, she would also ask them about church and their relationship to Christ as well. Then, at the end of the meal, Pa would leave the biggest tip you have ever seen. Mema (and Pa) treated people the way they wanted to be treated.
Seems like every time I looked, she was loving on someone. At Christmas time, Mema would home bake some muffins or bread and have Julia take them to the neighbors. Every time someone in the family had a birthday, she would call them and sing them Happy Birthday over the phone. When my mother moved to TN, and was away from her family in MI, Mema invited her to come over to her house every Tuesday with us for dinner and also invited her for all the Holidays. She simply went out of her way to make sure that a person felt special. It is one of the biggest areas in my life that I needed work in. I am not a compassionate person by nature. I have been striving for the past several years to improve this area of my life and have tried to incorporate that into our current ministry in the Dominican Republic. We want the people here to know that we care for them and value them as people. The verse we claim for our mission work is Jude 22 “And of some have compassion, making a difference.” Mema was the embodiment of that verse, and the way we are trying to accomplish that mission here in the DR is the same way Mema taught us to do it.
I think the best way for me to try to express who Mema was is by letting the people that she influenced tell you. Here are some of the comments that have been written by some of the people that knew her. Some are family, some friends, and some simple acquaintances.
Debbie Price Arnold “She was a wonderful Christian lady…a true blessing to everyone who knew her”
Amanda Mendez “She was a very sweet woman, I will never forget those couple of hours I spent with her!
Donny Martin “What a Lady! Kind, gracious, loving, patient, serving, GIVING – Christ-like through and through.”
Traci Fuqua Smith “Like hundreds others, I have those special memories of just stopping in and there always being a table of food filled to abundance”
Susan Camp Hines “She was one of the kindest sweetest women I have known! I’m so sorry she is gone. I know that she is in the presence of the One who has loved her with an everlasting love.”
Freida Cornwell “We should all strive to be just a little bit like this wonderful lady! She will be missed.”
Carolyn Ellis Kennedy “She made such a positive contribution to enrich the lives of people that were blessed to know her.”
Carrie Carman Green “There never was nor will be a woman like Mema”
Mickey Armstrong “I have learned too many things from her to list.”
Rebecca Andrews “So proud to have her as my grandma!”
There are so many more that I could use, the outpouring of love for this woman has been truly amazing! I have a hard time believing that anyone not on a public, state, or national stage has been able to touch and impact as many lives as Mema. May God continue to raise up more women like her for the younger generation to follow and model their lives after. I know my life was greatly impacted by her, and if you knew her, yours was too. Even if you didn’t have the privilege to know her, maybe through my pitiful attempt to expose and summarize her life through words, you will be able to know her enough that her will impact yours too.
Mema will be buried today and life without her physical body on this earth will begin. May we all continue to live with the remembrance of her and the testimony of true Godliness that she embodied.
Mema would be embarrassed and maybe even a little upset if she knew I had written all this about her, but there is one thing I know she would want me to say. She would want me to tell everyone that she wants to see you again and she wants to have one more dinner with you. She would want everyone to join her at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb that will take place in Heaven someday. She would want me to invite you; she would want me to tell you that anyone can come; she would want me to give you directions on how to get there.
The only way that you can meet her and share that dinner with her is to personally accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. This is something Mema did early in life, and she lived out her faith until the day she died. The Bible says in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” I am so glad Mema accepted that gift, and I am so glad I will get to see her again some day. Friend, will you consider giving your life to Jesus today and accepting that gift? If you already have done that, would you share the gift with someone else today? If you need to know more, please contact me so I can help you understand more about the gift or eternal life.