My Sweet Little Mama

Judy Wright Lott

I am the youngest of 7 children of J T and Tamsie Peterson Wright. My father died in 1972; my mother died January 7, 1998. I have one older brother and three older sisters whom I love and whom love me. I have a husband and two children. Yet without my sweet little Mama, I feel alone, abandoned, orphaned. I am a 45 year old orphan.

My mother, whom we called "Mama" or "Ma" or my personal favorite, "My sweet little Mama" would have been 90 years old on May 31. I am so grateful that she did live for a long time so that I had her at least as long as I did. But there is no age at which it is "okay" to lose your mother. I find myself being "envious" of my brother (the oldest) and my sisters because they all had Mama longer than I did. Yes, that is irrational, but grief is not a rational process.

We held her funeral service in the church just about 400 feet away from the farm, where she had lived since she was 42 years old. The service was conducted by three ministers, just some of the many that she had known and loved during those years. One of the ministers told how he and his family felt about "Mrs. Tamsie", how she had befriended them, made them welcome, fed them more times than he could remember, and loved them. He went on to say that she was the kind of person who loved everybody and didn't have an enemy in the world. Further he said that if Mrs. Tamsie did have an enemy, he was sure that it wasn't her fault.

He was so right. My sweet little Mama was loving, open, honest, humble, fun-loving, and had a great sense of humor. She had worked hard her entire life, without grumbling or becoming bitter. One of Mama's more recent accomplishments was that she had just completed reading her Bible all the way through for the seventh time.

Mama loved her family, her home, her flowers, especially her roses, her church, her friends, her country, and her God. She worked endlessly growing roses. At one point she had over 75 rose bushes--and she could tell you the name and where she got it each one. Many, many weddings at Springfield Baptist Church included roses from Mama's rose beds. Many floral arrangements for the church included roses from Mama's flower beds. Many sick people or shut-ins had their day brightened by a bouquet of roses from Mrs. Tamsie's garden.

She also loved to cook and to feed people. Many people in the community would get a phone call from my Mama, just out of the blue, and she would tell them to come by her house, she had something for them. Mama was famous for her cakes and she would bake a particular kind for specific people--a coconut layer cake for Larry, a maple-nut for Renfro, etc. When the church had a fellowship meal, Mama's offerings were always highly sought after---she never took anything home.

Since I had moved away from where Mama still lived in the farmhouse, my sisters and I phoned her several times a week, sent cards, gifts, baskets, and flowers to her often. I always tucked a little spending money in so she and her best friend could go out to eat. She always appreciated that and always reported to me what she had done with the money.

This month is especially hard for us all, because May was officially designated as Mama's "month". With her birthday and Mother's day in May, we went to great lengths to make the whole month special for her. Also in May was the annual Peterson Family Reunion, and one of us would always go with her. Mama had taken on the task of raising her younger siblings when her mother died when she was 12. All her siblings loved my Mama and we know they are missing her too. Also the women in Mama's Sunday school Class---the Alpha Class are missing her, too. They have been in the same class for over 40 years.

Some things that we have done to try to get through this may be useful to others. We planned Mama's funeral service so that it was a celebration of her life, rather than just dwelling on her death. We put together photograph albums with pictures of Mama throughout her life---not just the tiny little woman she had become. I used one of my favorite red scarves to accent Mama's suit for burial. In her casket we placed her well-worn and beloved Bible, with the pen she had gotten from Church. Mama had one basic fashion philosophy---if it was red, she loved it. For Mama's service, all the women in her immediate family wore red, the men wore red ties, and we provided small red bows for all members of the church. We also had small corsages made for each of the other members of her Sunday school class. On her birthday, which is a Sunday, we have ordered a huge bouquet of roses for the altar and rose corsages for her Sunday school class in her memory.

I still struggle daily with my grief for my sweet little Mama, but I know that my sweet little Mama is now in Heaven with my two brothers and my father. I am glad to know that she is there and is not suffering anymore. But I miss her so much that it is hard for me to be at peace about her death. Other people tell me that the grief and emptiness fade with time. Only time will tell.

Judy Wright Lott

You can send email to Judy Wright at: [email protected]
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anniversary date 01-07-98
date of post 05-22-98

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW