happy BirthDay to my EXTRAORDINARY Mama

Today is Mama’s 71st birthday.  May I tell you what makes her such an incredible woman?

Mama grew up when seizures were fits and those who had them were lunatics. My grandparents were loving, but there was a negative stigma attached to epilepsy and they told her to keep it a secret. They meant well, but that decision led Mama to believe that having it was something to be ashamed of; she feared people finding out. As she got older, Epilepsy became more understood and her seizures well controlled-but the damage was done. Mama lacked self confidence and was constantly nervous.

For the first 12 years of Mama’s life, Pa was an alcoholic. He was much more a silly drunk than a mean one-but when he came staggering home, drunk as a skunk, MiMi fussed. She was 5 feet tall & 110 pounds of FEISTY..I get my petiteness and stubborn streak from her. It used to make me so sad to hear Mama talk about hiding behind a chair when Pa came home, not because she was afraid of him; but it upset her when he and Mimi would argue and she could barely stand to see him incapacitated or out of his mind.

I give you this glimpse into her childhood- to paint a picture of a Holy Spirit anointed girl who grew up to be a woman of GOD, mentor and source of strength and encouragement-not only to me -but everybody who’s ever known her.

When Mama was ten, she began walking to a church around the corner from their house. Someone discovered that she had the ability to play the piano and they coaxed her into providing their music on Sundays. She mastered two hymns, so they’d sing the same two every Sunday. I picture that little girl, struggling against her insecurities to serve the LORD. She talks of loving the feeling that washed over her at church..she wasn’t raised in a Christian home, but she knew as a child-she wanted to live for JESUS- even if nobody else in her family did.

Two years later, my grandparents finally agreed to come to church and hear her play and they both left that very day KNOWING JESUS. Pa never touched the bottle again and eventually became a Sunday School teacher and deacon. He and Mimi served the Lord for the remainder of their lives. Mama’s whole life CHANGED in one day!

That was the start of my Mother’s soul winning career that has spanned more than six decades.

When she married Daddy, they had nothing but a HOT PINK car, two head fulls of dreams and a GOD who had major plans for them. Daddy never finished seminary so his advancement in the ministry never came by way of a larger church and a bigger salary. They struggled financially, but my parents didn’t need a bigger church to become well known. God had them traveling all over the south-preaching and singing.  As each of us girls came along, we jumped in and found a harmony note. We never had a set fee, perhaps if we had, we could have stopped to eat more often when the singing was over-instead of waiting until we got home to eat a sandwich.  But, my parents are semi famous far and wide..not for social status or career successes..but as a man and woman who live for the LORD wholeheartedly!

My parents’ passion to proclaim the gospel outweighed material things that they wanted. One of the best compliments my Chipper and I hear is from people who say..Ya’ll remind me of Themos and Frances. We hope to make even half the impact my Mama & Daddy have made in their lifetime.

You wouldn’t know it today if you looked in her closet because Mama knows the meaning of stylin and profilin’-but I remember empty closets with just one or two dresses hanging in them. She’s always been pretty enough to go without a stitch of makeup, which was a good thing-because in her younger days, she rarely had money to buy it. When my Mimi came to visit, she’d bring a compact, lipstick and a cake of rouge to leave with Mama.

By the time she was thirty, she had four girls to take care of and no time to do anything but travel, preaching revivals and supporting Daddy while he was pastoring-sometimes two churches at once.

Mama didn’t go to college, but she’s earned her Master’s Degree. She had the potential to be a star-with her talent, personality and remarkable beauty-but, she was content with the life GOD called her to live. I’ll tell you this..she’s anything but an ORDINARY woman.

In 2003, Mama was diagnosed with breast cancer. When the oncologist explained to us how advanced and invasive cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, Mama journeyed through the shadow of the valley of death. I posted earlier how strong Daddy is, but this was a time when he all but fell apart. Mama’s remarkable courage and unshakable faith held us together during her life & death battle.

They say that there are a few life changing moments that define who you are and this was one of those times for me. I flew back from New Zealand to be with her for the first chemo treatment. We prayed that she wouldn’t lose her hair, but we ordered her a wig..JUST IN CASE.

Mama got her 1st treatment and two weeks  later, her hair was still there. Then one day, as we walked across a Walmart car park, I saw dark spots on her white sweater. By nightfall, her hair was falling out  in handfuls-that drastic-that fast.

As we sat in the den the next morning, me on the couch and her on the floor in front of me, I assessed the situation. It was a dreadful dilemma, but I made an executive decision. It’d look better all gone-than a strand here and there. I say we wash the rest of it out. Like a brave soldier, she followed me to the bathroom and obediently bent over the side of the tub while I lathered her head.

I wrote in my journal that night: It was a nauseating feeling as the last of her hair slipped through my fingers, I can’t comprehend how she must have felt staring down at the last of her hair clogging the drain.

When I had her head wrapped in a towel and instructed her to sit at her vanity in front of the mirror, I pretended that I was in control, but inside I was trembling of fright. Are you ready? Her voice wobbled. Not really, but like the rest, I’ve got it to do-whether I’m ready for it or not. I lifted the towel and she stared at herself for thirty seconds before leaning towards the mirror, making an incredibly goofy face and proclaiming to the bald woman looking back at her..

You ugly!”

We laughed hysterically after inspecting her head closely and determining that it was shaped like SHELLEY‘S (her daddy). About the time we decided that going bald wasn’t an option, tears welled in Mama’s eyes. I can’t tell you how helpless I was or how great the loss of something to say was..but there were no words.

At that moment, our dear friend-Angie called from the hair salon to let us know know that UPS had delivered Mama’s wig earlier than expected and she’d drop it off on her way home. When I told Angie what had just happened, she changed her plans. I’m on my way. Within ONE hour of losing her hair, Mama had a head full of natural looking hair. When Angie arrived, Daddy sat and waited for Mama to model it for him.  😀

That night, while supper cooked, she and I went to her bedroom and removed the wig to familiarize ourselves with the instructions of keeping it clean and styled. She was making goofy bald faces again and had me in stitches. Daddy heard us hooping and hollering and walked to the bedroom to see what was going on.

Mama looked up in horror when her eyes met his. She put her hands on her head to cover it. Themos! I don’t want you to see me like this! Daddy tried to speak-but couldn’t get the words to co-operate. He backed out of the room, but not before he witnessed her frantically fighting to get the wig back on. Like a poignant scene from a movie that brings you to tears no matter how many times you’ve seen them, it always chokes me up to remember that.

Later, the three of us sat at the kitchen table, eating supper-trying so desperately to act like nothing was wrong. BUT something WAS wrong. Mama had hair-but it wasn’t hers. Underneath that wig was a bald headed-cancer patient.

Daddy dropped his fork. His lips quivered pitifully, but he managed to get broken words out. “Frances, I want you to listen to me. I’ve never thought about loving another woman since the day I first laid eyes on you. It don’t matter to me if you got that wig on or not cos I’m gonna love you if you’ve got hair or you don’t.”

It was a fiercely intimate moment between a man and woman who shared an abiding love so deep-I don’t think they realized its depth-until faced with the realization of it being taken away.

Mama is an eight year survivor, but there will come a day when she and I won’t be able to lie across her bed and just talk about nothing. We won’t sit on the back porch in our pajamas-drinking coffee and talking about how we love rainy mornings.

We won’t take trips to Pigeon Forge and look at Homes & Land and compare notes on cabins that we’ll never buy- or carry on a conversation with nothing but Andy Griffith dialogue.

There will be a last time that she, Daddy and I sing Living in Canaan Land. One day I’ll say I love you, Mama and she’ll say I love you, darling-for the last time.

I’m challenged by Mama’s intelligence & spirituality from religion to politics- her insight about all things proves how amazing-Sara Frances Thompson Cribb-truly is.

Lastly, I’ll treasure the greatest lesson Mama ever taught me about humbleness & serving other people over yourself.

When I was a six year old girl, an extremely poor lady in our country church gave Mama a Christmas present I could draw from memory..a homemade patchwork pocketbook made of various colors of scrap leather squares that she and her sickly husband collected. Most women would have carried that hideous purse but one place-the dump.

I was sitting by Mama when one of the church ladies whispered-Frances, what are you going to do with THAT thing Allie Mae gave you?

I’ll tell you what Mama did; she unknowingly shaped her impressionable young daughter’s character. Every time I saw her carrying that ugly pocketbook on her arm, she was teaching me that Miss Allie Mae’s feelings mattered much more than how she accessorized. Mama didn’t have to speak pearls of wisdom-her actions spoke them for her. Lisa, beauty is not so much about what we adorn ourselves with..but how we adored ourselves-WITHIN.

Happy Birthday, Mama..I love you.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. nicnic
    Jan 03, 2011 @ 23:54:37

    Lis, I am fighting back tears. I didn’t want to cry today, but it was worth it. ❤


  2. sare
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 05:38:38

    aw Lisa you made me cry! I am SO glad that you still have your mama with you – treasure each moment with your family. They are so precious.xx


    • dangerouslytransparent
      Jan 08, 2011 @ 12:03:00

      My precious SaRaH…I miss you so..and I am blessed to have my MAMA (made me smile that you said it the American way) with me still. I never look at the one photo of our family that you, Nic and Steph said looked like Days of our Lives people! LOL I’m also thankful that I’ve been fortunate to be “MAMA” to some of the best gals in the whole wide world. Mwahhh!


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