Oh, she’s not really missin’. We know where she is. It’s just that she’s not walkin’ along the shore or eatin’ supper like the rest of us.
And, to be sure, she’s still around. I know that ‘cause I can feel her presence and sense her inspiration and her love in the priceless upbringin’ she so selflessly imparted right in the core of my heart. I carry her with me every moment of every day.
You see, Frances was called home about three years ago – as many of my ol’ Down Yonder cousins might say. She passed from this tepid earthly existence just as sweetly and tenderly – and resolutely – as she had lived her life; absolutely confident of the next phase of her journey and full of faith that God meant what he said.
I know many folks are thinkin’ these days about moms who are also no longer walkin’ the shore or eatin’ supper like the rest of us. Many others are celebratin’ being a mom for the first time and they are joyful, as they should be.
But for those of us wakin’ up on Mother’s Day this year and realizing there is no card to be sent, no flowers to buy, no special gift to say, “thanks,” it is bitter-sweat.
She was called Frances Harriet Cobb Hart, born a fourth generation Floridian to a citrus growing farmer, cattle rancher and businessman and his lovely and intelligent teacher wife. She was cracker princess, to be sure; horses she loved and her good country upbringin’.
She would, quite naturally, later become a queen both at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina and absolutely in the hearts of James, her husband of nearly 60 years and her two sons and their children.
James was a Methodist preacher and Frances became the consummate preacher’s wife, as that role was defined in her day; always ready to serve, always ready to lend a hand. Blessed with a fine voice, she was a permanent fixture in the choir and often sang solo. When the need arose she even donned face paint and started a clown ministry.
She was also the one who prayed the most, especially when her family needed it the most.
She was a fine but quiet artist, as well, not only lending her skills and talents to her elder son’s neophyte political ventures in high school and college (“You gotta have Hart!”) but painting, candle-making, knitting, stained glass were all in her portfolio.
That good ol’ Florida cracker spirit always lurked just below the surface and she could be a prankster when she wanted. One memorable April Fools Day found her sons not quite sure of the evening meal. It looked like hamburger and mashed potatoes but the potatoes tasted like flour and I’m STILL not sure about that hamburger. The opened and empty can of dog food placed meticulously on the counter next to the kitchen table lent a decided air of uncertainty to the whole affair.
She was the rock of the family; there when needed, arms to cry into, pat on the back when necessary and beaming proud – despite her sons’ short-comings.
And, sure, we’re missing those arms and that gentle and loving patience. But she left us with something deep inside ourselves that no one can touch: a centered and calm core, a loving heart and her witness to all the world of the power of unconditional love for each other, for ourselves and for the rest of humankind.
Hers was a life of unequaled generosity. She was a gift and through her life she passed that gift on to everyone she met.
“Thanks,” is not enough. Living as she did, understanding as she did, compassion as she unfolded it, loving as she showed is the only way to repay her.