Gold Star Stickers
I have so many memories of my grandparents. My Mimi and Papa were a huge part of my life. At many of the most difficult times in my life, they were there. Mimi was there in the less difficult times too, teaching me, encouraging me, believing in me. When I was a little kid I loved to spend the night at her house. When I spent the night at her house she would make me a pallet beside her and Papa’s bed and hold my hand until I fell asleep. In the morning she would cook my favorite breakfast, I almost always wanted Malt-o-meal and toast. Their house was an oasis for me, my sister, and my cousins because it was full of encouragement and let’s be honest ( I say this with a smile - freedom from responsibility). Their home was always a safe place to let go of some of the responsibility of growing up and really focus on exploring the world as a kid. The refuge they created by their love for God, for each other, and for me and my family is a force that has always drawn us to them. As many of you know our Mimi just passed away and so like many have and many will I am exploring the beauty, pain, emptiness, joy, tears, and laughter of the thing we call grief.
My Papa’s passing two years ago and my Mimi’s passing last month brought with them a flood of emotions and memories that have been resting in my mind until now. It has been odd for me to become so emotional about one of them in particular. I don’t understand why one particular image from my childhood would come to mind so vivid. I feel the pull on my chin and tears in my eyes right now typing these words: Gold Star Stickers.
I woke from the sleep of toddlerhood in the 5th and Oak Church of Christ in Dumas, Texas. That is where my family went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday night and every night when there was a gospel meeting. I stopped by the old building when I was in town, now an Iglesia Batista, and as soon as I put the car in park I was five years old again. So many memories: dinner at the preacher's house - the parsonage - that was right next to the main building, the big cedar tree we used to hide behind and play after service, the place on the sidewalk where my cousin fell and lost her two front teeth. Memories of conflict, division, splits, and dwindling participation: all of that came back to mind. But the memory that was most vivid, the memory that kept coming to mind was Gold Star Stickers.
From the parking lot it was up three concrete steps, through the metal-framed glass front doors, sprinting passed the 20 mossy green padded pews, turning right at the Table and through the door, just to the right of the wooden attendance/offering placard which led to the baptistry. Behind all that was another door that opened into colored pictures, love, warmth, light, safety, pipe cleaners, glue sticks, encouragement, Mimi, Noah, Moses, Jonah, Sampson, David, Jesus, and a poster with gold stars. Mimi made that poster for us that kept track of our memory verses. She didn't just put our names there on our row she was too creative to just do that. She gave each of us a special phrase that included our name. Mine was On Your Mark. I imagined she thought of me on the race track, in the blocks, ready to run - and win! I thought about that a lot. Each time we learned and recited a new memory verse she gave us a new gold star, a sense of pride of accomplishing something important, and a loving smile full of joy with those gold star stickers and a lot of love Mimi introduced me to the One that continues to be that place of color, love, warmth, light, safety, and encouragement each day and He introduced me to the one in this world that continues to be a place of color, love, warmth, light, safety, and encouragement each day here on earth for me now. Thank you, Mimi, for opening my eyes to all the wonder back then which has allowed me to experience all of that wonder now!
Even as I realize and grieve the loss of this precious relationship I am even more aware and grateful for the ones that remain. I can feel the truth in these words…
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.
Thank you to everyone for supporting me during this time. I have seen the love of Christ in you as you helped me get there, picked up my responsibilities, hugged me, prayed with me and for me, remembered us back then and laughed. Remembered Mimi together and cried with me. Drove hundreds of miles to be with me. The love of Christ is in you and I am blessed to be your husband, father, son, brother, nephew, cousin, uncle, brother-in-Christ, and grandson!