Altar Call – 0pelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

May 8, 2011


It sure is a beautiful day!

            Today I am sharing in this space a tribute to her mother written by my wife, Dean Albritton. What follows is the text of a talk she made Friday night at a Mother-Daughter Banquet in Heritage United Methodist Church in Enterprise, Alabama. Our son Matt is the pastor there. Matt and his wife Tammy hosted the banquet.  

            We all understand the significance of influence. Influence is a power that indirectly affects a person or a course of events. Every human being is constantly being affected, positively or negatively, by the influence of others. Every person has the power to influence others. So never underestimate the power of a mother or a grandmother to influence their children or grandchildren.  Paul observed that Timothy’s sincere faith had been passed on to him by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. They had influenced Timothy to become a Christian.

            My father had some influence in my life but for only a few years. He died when I was seven. My grandmother Emma influenced my life for an even shorter period of time. I was deeply touched by the family story of her conversion in 1878 at the age of ten in a Methodist brush arbor revival preached by an Itinerant Methodist preacher.  She lived long enough to hold me in her arms and pray over me, but I did not get to know her. My mother gave birth to me when she was 32 years old and she lived another 67 years.  She influenced my life greatly until her death at age 99.

            The last words my mother spoke to me were words that summed up her life. A few days before she died she said, “It sure is a beautiful day.”  Today I am profoundly thankful that my mother left me a long list of wise words that have shaped my life for good.

            As we were driving away from the cemetery after burying my father, she said to me and my sister, “With God’s help we will make it.  He will make a way for us.  God is faithful.” It wasn’t until years later that I read in Isaiah 25 these words, “O Lord, you are my God.  You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.  The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces.”

            During the first months after daddy died we lived in a big old house. We were filled with loneliness, sadness and fear.  One night we heard footsteps outside.  The three of us were huddled together in one bed.  In the corner of the room stood my father’s World War I rifle, an axe and a hammer.  Now what we thought we would do with those weapons, I don’t know.  With fear and trembling we eased to the window and peeped out. What we saw plodding around the house was a very large mule! . The relief that came was like the lifting of a great weight.  Mother said, “God has not given us a spirit of fear.  We cannot live in fear.  I learned later that this was what Paul said to Timothy. (II Tim. 1:3)

            The sadness I felt from missing my daddy was overwhelming.  Our house was heated with coal and there was a coal bin outside the kitchen.  This was the perfect place for me to crawl into to hide so that I could cry without anyone seeing me.   One day I was in the coal bin when mother kept calling for me. She opened the door to the coal bin and saw me sitting in the corner.  She pulled me out looking at me with a surprised look.  I will never forget her words.  She said, “You need to be out in the beautiful sunshine, not in a coal bin.” 

            I realized later that mother was determined to help me experience the awe of life.  She believed that idle hands were the devil’s workshop so she gave me plenty of chores to do. My sister went to work at a beauty shop washing hair.  That left me to help mother can food from the garden she had planted.  I churned the milk that came from the cow that we had in a barn in the back of the house.  I went around the neighborhood delivering the butter that mother sold. I cut the grass with a push mower.  When I forgot to put on my shoes mother yelled, “If you cut off your toes, don’t come running to me for help.” 

            Mother left me one day to clean the kitchen while she went to town.  I thought this would be a good time for me to read a book.  Before I knew it I heard mother coming up the steps.  I ran to the kitchen just in time to see mother standing there with her hand on her hip and her blue eyes shooting fire.  “I thought I told you to clean the kitchen.”  I sheepishly replied,  “Mother, I meant to.”  Then came mother’s priceless comment, “Meant to don’t pick no cotton.”  We both fell out laughing.

            Then mother started her marching program.  She marched me to Margaret Ruffin’s house to sign me up for piano lessons.  She marched me to Margaret Hogan’s office to sign me up for “Expression” lessons.  Then she marched me down the street to the home of Florence Gholson Bateman to ask her to teach me how to sing.

            My final marching orders came when she enrolled me in Girl Scouts.  I have never been athletic, but I liked the uniform.  On the day of the first meeting, in marched Imogene Duffey.  Right away she said to the troupe, “Girls we are going to march to Bald Knob.”  It is the highest hill around Wetumpka.  I thought, “You have got to be kidding?” 

            The next Saturday we all gathered at the foot of Bald Knob.  “Girls this is how we will march,” she said.  “Shoulders back!  Stand tall!  Get ready!  This is our marching song, ‘I left, I left, I left my wife and forty-eight children in starving condition, without any Ginger Bread, think I did right, a right, a right, a right to my country by jingle, I had a good job and I left, I left.’”  Before we knew it we had arrived on the top of Bald Knob.

            Did all this teaching pay off?  I am not so sure, but this much I know, I came out into the sunshine of God’s beautiful world – through the steady influence of my mother and the grace of a merciful heavenly Father.

            My mother kept her dry wit until the end.  One day when I was ironing she came and sat down by the ironing board.  She handed me her comb and hair spray.  Mother had long hair and wanted it put up in a French twist.  I did the best that I could do and then sprayed her hair with hairspray.  As she patted her hair, she said, “You know this feels a little funny.”  Then I realized what I had done.  I had sprayed her hair with spray starch! “Oh Mother, I am so sorry,” I cried.  With a twinkle in her eyes mother said, “Well, you know it seems to be holding rather well.  I think I might start using spray starch.”

            Mother lived almost a century.  When the first cars came to her county, she started driving at age 14.  She drove for 75 years without an accident.  She saw the first airplane land in her county and lived to fly in jet planes when her nephew, who worked for Eastern Airlines, paid for her travel.  She could wring the neck of a chicken in one twist and bait a hook with a worm without batting an eye when she wanted to fish.  She could milk a cow. She worked in her many gardens and grew beautiful flowers.  She passed the Civil Service exam with flying colors and worked until she was 65.  She later said, “If I had known I was going to live so long I would have worked another ten years.”  She prepaid the expense of her funeral and bought a very plain casket, and she threatened to come back to haunt us if we changed to a more expensive casket.   

            I conclude with a story that happened when mother was 80 years old.  On a bright spring day I drove my mother, my 54 year-old-sister, who had just had radical breast surgery because of cancer, and my two-year-old granddaughter to Oak Park in Montgomery for a picnic.  I told them to enjoy the park while I put our food on the table.  When I was ready I went looking for them.  What I saw that day will stay in my mind for as long as I Iive.   The three of them were each swinging in a swing, going as high as they could go and laughing with great joy.  I think I heard the angels singing that day saying, “It sure is a beautiful day!”  And for me, it truly was a beautiful day!  + + +