JUANITA GAMBRELL FLOYD:Serious conversations with mother stir thoughts of the value of legacy

On March 22, I was getting ready to go to church when the phone rang. Upon answering, my sister, Barbara, frantically said, “Valerie (my other sister) is rushing Momma to the hospital. Her entire leg from thigh to foot is swollen!”
Can you imagine the thoughts that ran through my mind? We spent seven nights and eight days at North Mississippi Medical Center dealing with the dangers associated with a blood clot. The care and treatment our 83 year-old mother, Bernice Gambrell, received from the doctors, nurses and aides on 3 West was phenomenal. She is now home recuperating well.
Each night as I sat with mother – we talked a lot about life. We mentioned a friend who had recently passed, Mrs. Mamie Lou Ruff, a wonderful woman who always blessed people with her laughter, wit and fashionable dressing (clothes and shoes).
As a child, I learned to differentiate between normal and serious talking from my mother. As she talked one night, I realized that it was a somber and serious thought-provoking conversation that I would hear. Mother talked about her own life, her 8th grade education, her struggles, disappointments, joyous occasions, accomplishments and how she had tried as a single mother (after our father died) to raise us to be productive citizens and to use the gifts that the Lord blessed us with. Mother’s comments reminded me of the words from Jacob Lawrence, “When my life ends, to know that I have added a little beauty, a little more perception and to know that I have improved the quality of life for one individual, then my living is not in vain.”
Then she did the unthinkable. She voiced the “D” words. She talked about death and dying, funeral arrangements, burial sites, etc. I whispered, “Momma, the doctors said the clot is dissolving and you should do fine.” She replied, “I know that; however I want to talk about this.” As tears softly ran down my eyes, I wanted to say, “Please, don’t talk about the hereafter. Now is not the time.”
Later, as she slept, I began to reflect on our conversation. I thought about how all of us must deal with the fragility of life; whether it’s our own death, a family member or a friend. I pondered on the question, “What have I done with my life?” A passage of scripture says, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required”.
I thought about an exercise that I had to perform in a success skills class. I had to close my eyes and imagine myself as ninety years old and focus on my life: The good, the bad and the ugly. The wise instructor asked, “Do you have any regrets such as: ‘If I had finished my education; if I had written that book; a closer walk with the lord; if I had been a better woman, mother, a better man or father; if I had helped my community; if I had volunteered more frequently; a better teacher, employee, employer, supervisor, boss, director, etc.; if I had made time for my family; if I had used my money to help others; if I had helped my fellowman regardless of color.’ I could have loved more; I had a chance to make a difference – but I didn’t try to make a difference. I want to do those things now, but I can’t change my past – I am ninety years old -I’ve come to the end of my journey in life, my work on earth is almost done. Time has run out!” The instructor stated, “You may open your eyes. Each of you right now has a chance to change those regrets that you thought about. Start right now.”
This Easter, I encourage you to seize every opportunity to inspire, to motivate, to influence, to instruct, to serve, to give and to love all people while you have a chance. In the short time we are given life, before it passes, we should ask ourselves: Have I utilized the gifts and talents given to me to help others? Have I improved the quality of life for someone? Have I made a difference? You be the judge.

Contact community columnist Juanita Gambrell Floyd by e-mail at juanita@createfoundation.com, or write to her in care of P.O. Box 1053, Tupelo, MS 38802.

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