Thursday, May 9, 2013

My Tribute...The Greatest Of These Is Love

There is a special woman who lives on a busy corner in West Virginia with a wonderful man by her side. Once upon a time many years ago that corner wasn't so busy and there was a beautiful woman who would push her baby in a stroller around that corner. At least that's what I've been told. You see, I was the baby in the stroller and the special woman who lives in the little house on the corner would come to know the beautiful woman pushing me.

The story never gets old to me...the first time she saw my mother pushing me in my stroller. It's a connection between the two most important women in my life and me. One gave birth to me and loved me until the age of fifteen and the other who took over from there.

They came to be best friends. Her name is Wilma. My mom's name was Juanita, but they called each other "Sally." As the story is told to me, Wilma says, "I had never laid eyes on a more beautiful woman, and because I lived on a corner, I went from window to window watching her walk around the corner." Well, what daughter doesn't want to hear how beautiful her mother is? Wilma said she had to meet this beauty and discovered she lived close by. A friendship was born. They eventually began attending the same church and grew very close.

The Bible says a lot about love and friendship. Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay one's life down for one's friend." John 15:13 NIV Wilma is one of those people who doesn't like attention brought to herself...the mark of a humble servant of God. She answered the call in the deepest way a friend could possibly do, with a servant's heart.

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was five years old and my brother was only a baby. As close friends often do, Wilma was there for us. She cooked. She cleaned. She ironed my dad's shirts. She did whatever needed to be done...for ten years. Most friends would have wearied and fallen by the wayside, but she didn't. She was my mom's hands and feet when she couldn't care for her family. When my mom couldn't eat because of the horrible affects of chemotherapy, Wilma figured out what she could eat and made sure it was on the stove when she returned from her treatments. In the seventies, chemo wasn't readily available where we lived so she had to travel to Morgantown, West Virginia, which was four hours away. This caused an extra hardship for my dad who was already under a tremendous amount of stress. Her help was immeasurable.

Sadly, my mom lost her battle at 38 years of age, leaving behind a grieving husband, a 15 year old daughter and an 11 year old son.

My high school graduation
Wilma quietly stepped in to do whatever she could to help me. In the beginning, it was lunch at her house. I walked from my high school, one block, to the most scrumptious lunches, prepared by loving hands...every day. The commitment this took humbles me. She would slip money into my pocket, not much, just enough to get a Coke or a pair of hose for church. The most important thing she did was listen...and talk about my mom. She told me stories of their friendship, of their "Lucy and Ethel" moments. I got to know my mom as a woman. She was well and whole, not sick, in her stories. What a gift she gave me.

Andy, Wilma and Bailey at Mom's grave
Wilma has decorated her grave for 38 years

As that first Mother's Day approached...the first one I would live through as an orphan...for that is the way I have always viewed myself, I stood in a card shop weeping. Something caught my eye and I knew what I must do. The card read, "You're Like A Mother To Me"...and so since Mother's Day of 1975 I have honored this woman with a card, for she is worthy, and I know my mother would agree.

She has honored their friendship by doing what most people would only do for a couple of years but she has blessed me for 38 years. She and her equally wonderful husband have been there for me through all the stages of my life...graduation, marriage, babies, deaths, and everything in between. We have aged together. When I go home, it is to their home I return and they greet me with open arms. She even waited up for me when I was home last summer for my class reunion. Throughout the years, they have modeled for me and my family what marriage, faithfulness, contentment and a servant's heart are all about. There are no finer people, in my opinion, on any little corner, anywhere in the world.

They have a son, daughter-in-law, two grandsons and their wives, and two great-grandchildren that they adore and yet they've found room in their hearts for my children. I can't say enough good things about the love and respect their children, grandchildren, and the community have for them for they inspire greatness.

I'm so blessed she was looking out the window that day on her little corner. I can't imagine what my life would have been like without them in it.

Happy Mother's Day Wilma! I love you!

Blessings from My Little Corner to yours,

P.S. I have searched and searched for pictures of the "Sally's" together but I don't have any. My mom didn't like her picture made. She thought she wasn't pretty anymore because of the affects of the chemo, so there are very few pictures of her. Sad isn't it? Wilma has some of them at a younger age but because this is a surprise I couldn't get them. Maybe when I'm home again I'll borrow them and post later. Happy Mother's Day everyone!

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