My grandmother, Zola Spencer, went Home to be with Jesus last Friday morning after an almost 95 year journey on the planet. I wrote the following tribute about 10 years ago. It still fits…
My grandmother turned 85 years old last Friday. Now, when anybody makes it four score and five years, it’s a real reason for celebration. But when it’s your grandmother, it seems a little more special. For all of my years, she’s been a fixture in my world. Since you’ve never met my Mamma Zola, I’d like to tell you why her 85 years are so special to me.
You see, I’ve learned precious life lessons from my Mamma, most of which she has no clue she taught me. She was teaching me values by her words and life long before values were politically cool. She has taught me about the abiding things of life, things rich in character and meaning.
My Mamma Zola has taught me about courage. She raised two children alone as a single mom in a time when that was not nearly as common as it is today. She worked long hours and shouldered heavy burdens through tough times when lots of people would have quit or griped or grown bitter. She did none of that; rather, she simply persevered.
My Mamma has taught me about generosity. Yes, she has been faithful to give a tithe to the Lord through her church. But the generosity is more evident in her relationships. She gives of herself – her time, her care, her crocheted blankets, her chocolate pies with peanut butter crust, her hugs, the Christmas party mix in a Chex box, her smile, her listening ear. You always walk away from my Mamma with much more than when you came.
My Mamma has taught me about simplicity. She’s never been rich in the way the world measures – with lots of “things”. All of her worldly possessions fit nicely in a two-room apartment that has been basically the same for the past 25 years. She has refused the grasping, panting call of the world to get more and newer and shinier stuff. My grandmother has about her the rare quality of contentment. She has given herself to accumulating treasures of heaven instead.
My Mamma has taught me about the deepness of grace, especially in our family. Our family is spread out from Colorado to South Carolina to Tennessee to Kentucky to New York City. It’s hard for me and my cousins to get to the homeplace as much as we’d like, but whenever we do, Mamma is there with open arms and no guilt about how long it’s been. We are all so amazingly different in personality and how we handle life. Somehow, Mamma embraces all of us so that we feel her love.
My Mamma has taught me the value of words. She is not a woman of many words, so I am not talking about some public presentation. It is in the choice of what words come out of her lips that there is such power. I cannot recall my grandmother saying anything negative about anybody, anytime. I cannot recall her complaining about health, family, church, etc. There is power when words are carefully chosen. Her words reveal the content of her heart, and that negative sort of stuff is just not there.
But mostly, my Mamma Zola has taught me about faith. That’s really the source of the courage, generosity, simplicity, grace and the words she speaks. She loves Jesus and trusts her heavenly Father with a bedrock certainty that simply does not waver. A well-worn Bible always sits next to her recliner, so she feeds her soul with the living Word. There are the daily conversations with God in prayer, as well as the delight to worship and serve with her faith-family at church. Faith and hope in God cannot be separated from her personality. That defines who my grandmother is.
One of the things that I think has shaped my own life is a simple plaque that hangs on the wall in her home. On a white background inside a black frame are these simple words in block letters: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom. 5:6, KJV) The gospel of Jesus – His love, grace and hope — is the atmosphere of my grandmother’s life. And it has become mine, too.
Thanks, Ma-ma. I love you.