When you hear the news that one of the women that was such a huge influence on your life as a young teenage girl has passed away there is first a feeling of, “This can’t be possible”, then as it sinks in, the tears begin to flow….. After hearing of Ms. Debbie’s passing I called one of my best friends from my childhood. We talked about our childhood and the memories that we shared. I kept it together while on the phone with Jennifer as we were being “adults” and not the teenage girls we used to be, sitting cross-legged on our beds giggling about silly things, talking about boys and pondering our futures. We hung up as I had just sat down on my bed, cross-legged like the young teenage girl I once was years ago as my husband walked in our room, I told him the news. I was fine for a few minutes and then I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing… I began to tell him more of my childhood memories of Ms. Debbie and her husband, Roger, as well as their children. My husband and I have spoken of them often as they were such a huge part of my teen years. Roger was the pastor at the church I grew up in and his wife was the perfect wife and mother in my eyes. I remember going to her house and she would cut my hair as well as attending her bible study during the week with her daughter, Jaimee. They made countless visits to the hospital after I had my appendix removed, hospitalization from the flu, and then hospitalization after my first seizure. I remember the feelings of how I felt about myself after being diagnosed with epilepsy and the many hours they spent talking with me, encouraging me that my life was not over just on a different journey now. The more my husband and I talked the more I cried….
I was fortunate to have four women that poured their lives into my life as a young girl. I knew that I was able to go to any of these women with any problem at anytime of the day or night and they would guide me as I searched for answers and Ms. Debbie was one of them. She was the woman that would laugh at her husband’s “not so funny” jokes as the rest of us young teens would roll our eyes at him. She loved and adored her husband. Her smile was warm, the kind of smile that would make you want to hug her when you saw her. Her cooking and baking were amazing! I remember her taking her dining room chairs and changing out the fabric on them and being amazed! She was strong and yet so kind and loving. In addition, she was an amazing mother that loved her five children. Five children? I know, right? How did she do it all? Three girls and two boys filled her home and yet she gave of herself outside of her family to mentor others. Her daughter, Jaimee, and I raised money by washing cars, cleaning houses, and babysitting to earn money so we could fly from New Orleans, LA to Chattanooga, TN to attend a camp together. I remember my first airplane ride like it was yesterday. I was excited, as well as nervous while Jaimee was sitting there like a seasoned traveler. Sweet memories from trying to earn enough money for camp and our flights as well as many wonderful memories from camp.
Grace is another trait that Ms. Debbie had. One of her young sons died at a young age from a brain tumor and I watched her tirelessly care for him while he was very sick. When you watched her look into her young son’s eyes you knew that she loved him with all of her heart…. I was in awe of the care and attention she gave young Jeremy. When looking at Jeremy, his little body was failing yet his mother held him in her arms and her eyes only saw a perfect little boy. I believe that when I look at Samuel, I see perfection and I learned that from Ms. Debbie while watching her care for her precious son.
As my husband, our children and I prepare to leave for Illinois this week to attend the funeral and spend a few days with this wonderful family, I have been thinking about the importance of the role that women fulfill in this world. We are here to support each other and mentor the younger generation of girls. We need more strong women like Ms. Debbie to pour themselves into the lives of other women and girls. Something we all need to ponder as a woman… What are you focusing on? Who are you helping? Who can count on you? What are you chasing? And What is your legacy?