Most everyone that knows me knows that when I was 7 years old, my mother passed away. She was 41 years old. I have outlived her by 2 years now and am beginning to see many unfinished circles complete. My own daughter has a best friend that I am delighted to have in my home, and Amanda, who is a blessing to my daughter, is also a blessing to me. I have granted her “Honorary Daughter” status. By the same token, even at my age, I have recently been granted “Honorary Daughter” status once again. This is the most wonderful gift that women give each other. One of the unfinished circles I have the pleasure to experience has been my opportunity to pass this gift along.
Although I had to survive the excruciating pain and fear of the blind-siding loss of my mom, God has granted me abundant grace in love from other women over the years. No one can ever replace my own mother, but I have been ever so blessed by the many wonderful women brought into my life. One such woman was Gullinore Campbell, who became for me “M.O.Y.” during my 7th grade year. I had decided that she was not just “Mother of the Year” but “Mother of ALL Years” for the simple fact that she listened attentively to me. She asked me about my problems, offered comfort, advice and support. She was exactly the kind of nurturing spirit a pre-teen needed. MOY taught me how to attend to the sniveling drivel of a twelve-year-old. (Not that my own daughter snivels or drivels, but Clarke definitely benefits these thirty-one years later from the gift of attending I learned from MOY.)
In my young adulthood, I had the pleasure to work with a lady named Loree Charles. Loree taught me humility and Christianity by the way she lived her life. When I met her, she had recently returned to work after caring for her mother and step-father, both of whom had Alzheimer’s Disease. She dealt with moving her step father and mother to nursing homes, renting her parent’s home, and churning through a very demanding job. Through dead-beat renters, running back and forth to King’s Mountain as her stepfather’s health declined, and quietly enduring the pain of her mother mistaking her for someone else at every visit, she still managed to smile. She trusted me enough to share her pain and worries with me and unselfishly helped me through mine. The people she has worked loyally and diligently for in the last 16 years have (for the most part) not been worthy to stand in her tiny shadow. Loree’s willingness to share her struggles and talk openly to me about her prayer life showed me that just because life is difficult doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t love you.
Shortly before I met Loree, I was given the gift of a mother-in-law beyond any new wife’s best dreams. Carol Armstrong is the woman who I am privileged to call Mom these days. From the very start my relationship with her son, my mother-in-law has given us her uncompromising support. She helped me plan the wedding, she and her friends threw me wedding and baby showers and she was present for the birth of our daughter. She even helped me wall-paper the miniscule bathroom in our first house and I could not have enjoyed the task more. Had it been left to Frank and myself, one of us would not have left that bathroom alive. Not once in 18 years of marriage has Mom been anything but a great friend and adviser. She and her husband of over 40 years raised my best friend. She is a strong and supremely classy individual and I want to be just like her when I grow up! “Evil mother-in-law?” I think not! (Eat your hearts out ladies.)
As if I have not been blessed enough, just last year I was adopted by my friend Cheryl’s mom, Judy Bridges. Judy was my original mother’s name, so I’ve come full circle. Judy is a cancer survivor who inspires me with the seeming ease with which she takes each person as they are, and graciously offers them acceptance. Not only has she not forgotten how to have fun, she has in the past had to remind me to have fun, too. I have the distinct impression that the two Judies would have been great friends. I can easily imagine Cheryl and I headed to the theater with our moms and having an absolute blast.
God makes no mistakes. As a matter of fact, He scored BIG on this one. It is as if every time I cried out to Him, begging him to tell me “Why” when I was growing up, He nodded indulgently, knowing how much love and joy He had for me in response. It has been a gift beyond all telling. Thank you Lord. Thank you, Ladies!