Our little country church lost another great lady this week. Lee Barksdale was one of the kindest, as well as most humble, women I have ever known. She wasn't gushy sweet, nor too touchy-feely-huggy, and she was never a "goody-two-shoes" type of woman. I think the word that best described her was "accepting."
She accepted - and loved - everyone, right where they were.
You never needed to put on a show or pretend with Miss Lee. (She was a widow lady, but we call all the ladies in our church "Miss". Miss Kay, Miss Ruby, Miss Rita. I don't know why. Some churches call their female members "Sister". We say Miss.)
And, oh, how she loved her precious Jesus. Every time I spoke with her, she was praising Him for one thing or another. I'm sure that the first thing she heard when she reached heaven, was "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
When I moved my membership back to this church, after about 15 years at the big church in town, I felt like I had come home. Part of the reason for that was the ladies like Miss Lee, who had known my parents, and many other members of my family. My mom had been gone for about nine years at that time, but suddenly, I had half a dozen mother substitutes. Truth be told, when I was younger, I simply thought of them as my parents' friends. But when I came back, they treated me like the prodigal daughter. I have never felt so welcome in any other place. I have no idea why they showered me with so much love, but I instantly loved them right back.
At Christmastime, we all exchange cards at our church. That first Christmas after I re-joined, Lee wrote in the card she gave to me, "I love seeing you in church on Sunday mornings. Your sweet smile brings me joy." Y'all. No one - not even my wonderful parents, not even my loving husband - had ever said I had a sweet smile. Or that my smile gave them joy.
After that, I made sure that I was more faithful in attendance, and that I smiled more often. (Those who know me may question that, since we abandon our home town to travel much of the year. And I don't know how much I actually smile. I just know that I try.) She was encouraging in that way. I didn't want to let her down.
She was also always one of the first to lend a hand when anyone needed help. I've heard stories from her children's friends about how she treated each and every one of them like family, feeding them, counseling them in her quiet way, and, well, just loving them.
She always seemed so strong to me. I thought she would go on forever, or at least another decade or two. Even when she became ill, I never doubted that she would beat it and come back to church, maybe not quite as good as new. But I thought she'd be back.
If you've been keeping up with this blog, you know that Tim and I (and Charlie Chihuahua) left home with our fifth wheel at the end of May, and we won't be back home until the middle of August. I hate that we aren't going to be there for her memorial service. I hate knowing that I will never see her sweet smile on this earth. I will miss her stories about my parents, and about her younger days, when she first joined our church, and about her kids, and grandkids, and great-grands. She loved them all so much.
I will miss her.