a funny thing happened on the way to my life….

Cows, Corn, Choruses and Mary

maryAn amazing, creative, kind, talented, colorful, generous, godly woman (who was hands down the best grandma EVER) is no longer with us.  She was a dear, sweet friend…and today my heart hurts.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mary four years ago.  She had a great laugh and a wonderful southern accent, a beautiful singing voice and an infectious (sometimes ornery) smile.  Mary possessed a super sharp wit and not only was she fun–she was funny, too.  One of the things that immediately caught my eye was her sense of style.  She had a pair of shoes in every color imaginable and for every occasion.  I had never seen a grown woman wear bright sunflower yellow shoes and yet she pulled it off with ease!  She had all the sensibility of a refined, southern woman with just the right amount of whimsy and fun.  This was Mary.

The more I learned about her, the more I liked her.  Her passion for God, her family, music and the church were contagious.  I loved to hear her take on a scripture and the  joy she found in discovering just the right hymn for Sunday morning.  Always thoughtful in her role as worship leader, she fought hard for every verse (especially in the long hymns) and I’d never met anyone who loved Epiphany more than her (…will those three kings ever get here?)  She was such a gifted musician whose leadership and presence will be dearly missed throughout the music ministries at our church.  A music teacher for nearly two decades, so many have come forward with their stories about Mary both in the classroom and out.  I loved to hear about her adventures (and misadventures) at school and imagine that she would have easily been a favorite teacher among her students.

Mary’s love for her family was at the forefront of all she did.  And as far as I’m concerned, she truly earned the Best Grandma EVER award.  The time, energy and love she put into Ari, Aidan and Braxton is beyond words.  She absolutely adored those children with all that she had!  I knew that she was instrumental in exposing them to music and theatre, but imagine my surprise to see her at a dusty ball field on a hot summer night cheering on her grandson, planted on uncomfortable bleacher seats during basketball season and sitting through never-ending student talent shows.  Young at heart, she found time to nurture those kiddos in every way and we always looked forward to seeing the boys in church on Sunday mornings.  She extended her “Nana qualities” to my children as well…affectionately referring to my son as a “sapsucker” and looking out for them as if they were her own.  We all looked forward to hanging out at Ms. Mary’s house, Nerf gun wars, perler beads, swimming and enjoying lemonade poolside.  It wasn’t long before my son claimed her as his own “Augusta grandma.”  And how she loved Harris and the boys!  Speaking so fondly of her wedding and sharing cute stories of her own children growing up.  Always with such affection she referred to her little Harris and Robbie.  It makes me smile when I think of these two grown men whose mother’s eyes lit up whenever she talked about them.  So fun-loving and playful, Mary was a wonderful storyteller and had some truly wonderful life experiences…and I’m so glad she shared.

I know I’ll miss the way she could convey a message with a simple raised eyebrow or smirk.    My heart hurts to think that we won’t be exchanging text messages in the school parking lot while waiting to pick up the kids.  I will miss our days as teammates in the never-ending Nerf battles with the boys (for your information she was a great shot, often pegging the kids with little effort.  The best part was the apron she wore during these battles.  It had a large pocket that she used to load up with ammo.  She looked all “granny,” but was totally “Rambo”–it was quite the sight!)  I will miss watching her play the piano at church and what a natural she was as she portrayed various characters during Vacation Bible School. She was always good for the “whether” report on Wednesday nights, too.  It was that time between KIDS choir and Worship on Wednesday when she would tell me “whether or not” she was leaving me with a feisty, ornery group of kids or a team of cooperative angels!   I will miss her silly ringtones and how she carefully matched each tone with her loved ones (Harris’ tone was the absolute BEST.) And how I enjoyed Super Bowl parties at her home and the way she would cut up during meetings at church.  That was Mary.

Differences-Hymns-ChorusesWhen I think about Mary there’s one story that always comes to mind.  She often clipped out cute little anecdotes, comics and quips about church and church life.  She offered these up during our weekly worship design team meetings.  One of the first ones she ever shared with my husband and I was about traditional hymns versus praise songs.  It had us rolling with laughter and she pulled it out on more than one occasion.  It always comes to mind as we drive through rural areas because it comically compares cows and cornfields with the “thees” and “thous” of traditional hymns.  Mary got quite the kick out of it!  I can still hear her reading this story. The way she drawled out the words “Martha, Martha, Martha…” through laughter.   While I’m sure Mary had her preferences between hymns and praise songs, she knew that honoring God wasn’t about one style over another.  It wasn’t about your way or my way, it was and IS about praising God…a key part of a life well lived.  This was the way she carried herself both inside and outside of the church:  joyfully and purposefully, both cows and cornfields as well as “thees” and “thous.”  I will always appreciate her humor and the way she balanced her faith journey with fun and joy all the while holding on to the traditions that mattered most.  That was so Mary.

Like so many in our small town, my life was touched by her life.  I thank her for honoring the Lord by sharing some of her life lessons with me.  I love her for modeling a good, Christian woman for myself and many others.  I’m blessed by her generosity and willingness to serve our church.  And I’m happy to have called her a friend.  The cows, corn and choruses will never be the same.

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.  –Voltaire

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4 Comments on “Cows, Corn, Choruses and Mary”

  1. Karen Spencer says:

    What a beautiful tribute to an exceptional woman. You have captured the essence of Mary in your lovely tribute which resonates with all of those who knew and loved her. Thank you for putting into words what so many of us felt.

  2. Steve Seckman says:

    My sympathy goes out to Mary’s family. I didn’t have the privilege to know her personally but I never saw her but what she was smiling.
    She will be missed but Heaven has a new resident.

  3. Bryant Ralston says:

    Well growing up my brother and I spent A LOT of time with the “little Harris and Robbie” you refer to in this touching tribute. Being born with more than my fair-share of ornery, I had more of it than Robbie (although he was close), Patrick, and my lifelong friend, “little Harris”. While Mary was certainly annoyed by constant mischief (and even more so by bringing her sons into I’m sure) she always managed to deal with it by being fair, firm, and caring. I used to love to try to get her to laugh because he laugh was so infectious. Plus she had trouble punishing us for our youthful cut-ups if she was laughing. She will be missed. Our family’s deepest sympathies and prayers are with our dear, dear friends the Chandlers. Heaven got a good one with Mary and I can’t wait to hear her sing again someday (assuming they let me in).

  4. Shawn Blue says:

    So beautifully written and so true a description of an amazing lady. She will live on in the hearts of any and all that knew her.


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