Precious Memories, How They Linger

Thankful for a loving mother and father...

Every morning in the dead of winter, Papa slogged to the woodpile, brought in two or three armloads of wood and made a blazing fire in the open-hearth fireplace. The old farmhouse had cracks that let the cold in, and you could scrape enough frost off the window sills for a snowball fight before the warmth of the fire melted it.

The house had two sides with a dogtrot running through the middle. The sleeping rooms were on one side; and in the winter at night the howling wind would sing you to sleep. My grandmother piled on quilts—quilts she had made, forbidding much movement during the night. If you had to go to the bathroom—well, the slopjar in the cold hallway between the bedrooms would have to suffice until morning.

The front room and kitchen were on the other side of the dogtrot. That's where Papa made the fire. One cold, wintry morning, my mother left the warmth of her bed and trekked across the dogtrot without my grandmother. She ventured too close to place a stick of kindling on a fire that was already roaring through the chimney. Just like Papa. Her long flannel gown caught fire, and she was alone. Mama and the older girls were still on the other side of the dogtrot making beds and folding quilts before starting breakfast. Papa and the boys were at the barn, feeding the mules and cows. My mother froze, standing there with the little gown flaming around her stomach and legs, screaming for Mama. My grandmother rushed to her, yelling for the girls to get Papa. She smothered the flames with a quilt and began to work on my mother. Her gown had disintegrated, and she lay in a little heap, her body already beginning to char. They packed on frost and drizzled icy water on her burns while trying to keep her warm, praying she would not go into shock until Papa could go for the doctor.

God spared my mother when she was a tot four years old. She had third degree burns from the top of her stomach to well below her knees, and she had to learn to walk again when she could stand on her feet. Years later I realized why she didn't die from those burns. A long line of us would need the love and tenderness only she could give. The scars remained, and the first time I noticed them, I was probably about the age she was when it happened. She explained it to me, and I remember touching the scars years later to vicariously live the moment, but I could not. We were not to worry about it. The pain left her as the burns healed, and that was that.


Peter wrote this to me from the cemetery in New Albany, Mississippi, where my parents are buried side by side with one headstone that reads, Blessed Assurance.

Cemeteries are strange places. I know the vessel is in the ground, and the souls of those I've come to honor are an eternity away. Yet here I sit, because somehow I'm closer. We are so 'fearfully and wonderfully made.' The stone reads, 'Blessed Assurance,' and it is a joy to know they had it, kept it close to their hearts, shared it, and left a legacy of men and women who love the Lord. What more could you ask? The longer I'm alive (and poor), the more I realize that the briefest of moments flashes and a lifetime is gone. Who and how we love is so much sturdier than all the dollars in between.

From House Not Made With Hands


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