It was one of Mama’s favorite refrains. One that she used less than some but much more than others.
“Y’all are gonna miss me when I’m gone.” She’d nod her head slightly and wink. “You just wait and see if you don’t.”
This usually popped up when Mama had nothing else to say or she was feeling underappreciated.
“No one realizes what all I do for this family. Not a one.” Then she’d smile somewhat wickedly. “But when I’m gone, every last one of you will feel the pain. Mark my words.”
Usually, I’d roll my eyes or say, “Oh Mama, let’s not start that now.” Sometimes I’d roll my eyes AND say that.
The truth has become obvious in the 13 years since Jesus called her. And it didn’t take long to figure it out. We do miss her very much.
We grieve the Thursday nights when she called and said, “I’m makin’ breakfast for supper, so anyone who wants to can come and eat.”
There wasn’t a one of us who didn’t pile in there. The biscuits were rising fragrantly in the oven, cheese grits popping to a boil, scrambled eggs, sausage and crisp bacon were on the kitchen table and there stood Mama, stirring gravy in a cast iron skillet on the stove.
For certain we all miss that.
We reminisce about her constant recitation of obituaries, because Mama read every one and easily memorized them. In the days before online, there was “On Mama.” She was a 24-hour information station.
“What time is Idelle Gooch’s funeral?”
“The paper said 2 p.m.” She always made sure she noted where her information came from, lest it was wrong. One time she gave me the wrong viewing time for someone else’s visitation. We got there and the room was empty except for the corpse, who didn’t care if we were there or not.
She jutted her chin. “It’s a shame,” she said, “when a family don’t know when to show up to grieve the dead.”
I cut my eyes at her. “Don’t you look at me, little girl, like it’s my fault because it ain’t.”
Back home, she went to the pantry, dug through the trash to find the newspaper with the obituary. She read it, nodded her head then set it on the counter. There under a tiny piece of egg shell was the time. She was right.
“Don’t doubt me,” she boasted. “Especially when it comes to obituaries!”
For different reasons, we’ve missed her. Nicole lost a cheerful, regular babysitter. Louise lost her alterations lady and among the many things I lost was an always-ready-easy-to-schedule sitter for Dixie Dew.
To this day, many years later, I think often of how blessed I was. She was dependable and always happy to help.
“I was able to make a good living,” I often tell Tink. “If someone called and asked for a speaking engagement, I’d say ‘yes’ immediately. I always had a sitter.”
Mama didn’t just dog sit for me. She did more. If I needed a dress hemmed but didn’t have the time, I dropped it in her lap. If a friend’s father died, she baked a “from scratch cake” for me.
While I didn’t take credit for the cake, I did always say, “I had Mama to make her special chocolate cake for you.”
Somewhere in there, I managed to get some credit.
Within six months of Mama dying, Louise, Nicole and I were all lamenting our great loss. It began with the love, the prayers, the wisdom and the encouragement she gave us then segued to the enormous amounts of aggravation she caused that turned into memorable stories and, lastly, all the services she provided.
“I hate to admit this but Mama was right,” I said softly.
“We didn’t appreciate her enough when we had her,” Nicole said.
Absolutely correct. Mark my words.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “What Southern Women Know About Faith.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column publishes weekly.