Dana and I wanted to share some things about you that have had a great impact on us. We are grateful for...
- Your courage to face the unknown with a look to the future that God has in store for you.
(One of my favorite stories about you is the train trip you made by yourself from Monroe, Louisiana to Orlando, Florida. You left your mom and dad at home, and you boarded a troop train loaded with rowdy soldiers right in the middle of WW II. You traveled to another state, planned a wedding and married your fiancee without a parent to stand with you on the special day. You and Dad have always made a great team, and the 66 years of marriage that you have shared is a treasure to us all.)
- Your support that you have shown to your husband. You have been an example to us of a wife who knows what it means to love in sickness and in health.
(I will never forget the way you ministered to Dad during his two year battle for life after his emergency surgery in 1975. You endured the relentless round of surgeries, and prolonged recovery with a gentle grace under fire. Since 1997 you have been the tireless care giver who organizes the endless doctor visits and keeps him on track with the right medications. You are an inspiration to us at this time in our lives. )
- Your extended family that you have shared with us.
(You have so many sons and daughters in the ministry, and we have always been proud to introduce our friends and church families to you. They all end up calling you Momma. I'm not sure I am in the will, but I am confident that a few of them are. This might be an awkward time to mention it, but we need to talk about that power of attorney thing later today.)
- Your love that you have expressed to your children that has allowed God to take them on different paths, but has always provided an open door that has let them come back home.
(I know you have said over the years that you loved us all the same, but I still think that you loved Joy the best. I can't help but bring up that painful issue about moving Joy to Baylor. You influenced our workaholic Dad to make a two week trip out of it. He loaded the VW van, and pulled a U-Haul trailer filled with girly type stuff to Waco. For days you set up her room on the sixth floor of Collins Hall with carpet, curtains and comforter. It was a revelation to me that the love for a daughter was different than a mother's love for a son. Three years earlier, I had left New York in my 1966 Renault to head to Waco. I remember you waving from the porch as I pulled out the driveway. The pain still lingers, but even my therapist says I have to move on.)
- Your gift of writing.
(Mom, you may not believe this but you are a great communicator, and your letters are a treasure. I always loved getting a letter from you. Whether I was at college, overseas or on assignment in a faraway state, your letters were always a tremendous encouragement. You have the ability to make great scriptural application, and current events read like an action novel. Thank you for shedding the light when we were in some pretty dark places.)
- Your adventurous spirit.
(I remember driving you and Dad across the Serengeti plains in a Land Rover. There were no roads that we could recognize and the terrain had been torn up by migrating herds of antelope. It was rough! I found out later that you had undergone gall bladder surgery just a few days before you left the States. That was when surgery was done with a knife and not a scope. You were determined to go to East Africa, and not let a "little" pain get in your way. When the dictionary prints the term "steel magnolia" your picture is right by the definition.)
- Your sanctified sanity that keeps a gentle rein on the divine designs of the men of this family.
(Mom, you have always buzzed around a conversation between Dad and I and acted like you weren't eavesdropping. The worst kept secret in our family is the fact that you can hear a mouse burp in the next room. Nothing ever gets by you. I remember Dad and I talking one day about getting a piece of land on a mountain in Vermont, and either building a cabin or refurbishing an older home. We thought it would make a great home place for the family. You were doing what you always do in the kitchen while we were talking at the table, kinda moving around. In one smooth move you glided by the table and injected these words of wisdom with your soft Mississippi drawl, "God called me this far north, and I was obedient to His call. He never said anything about wintering in Vermont. This is as far north as I go unless God speaks to me about it." I don't think Dad and I have used the word Vermont in a sentence in 35 years. The older I get the happier I am that we are wintering in Fort Worth this year. Thanks Mom!)
- Your refusal to yield to the temptation to retire.
(You and Dad keep reinventing yourselves by reinvesting in people. I am so grateful for the example that you have given us that a genuine a ministry is focused on the love of God, and it will always express itself in a love for people. This kind of ministry does not have an expiration date on it, and is not carried out by clock watchers. You have a way of finding people who are in need of a dose of Jesus, and you always carry in your bag just what the doctor ordered.)
Dana and I love you so much, and are so happy to be able to wish you a very Happy Birthday. We are bringing our fire department gear to the lighting of the candles. Let's Party!
From your Favorite Son and the Wife He didn't deserve,
Gary and Dana