I recently told a friend, whose mom had passed away, that he now had another date on his calendar that he would never forget.
That date that the first woman he ever loved went home to heaven. For me, today is that day, February 21st, my mother has been gone for seven years. In many ways it seems like she just left, in others it seems like a lifetime, the massive hole still rips my heart.
As I have every year since she passed, I post below the words I spoke at her funeral, followed by her home-going song.
Martha Joyce Bellamy Rumsey
January 21, 1932 ~ February 21, 2010
On behalf of Daddy, Sam, Donna, Chelsea, Zack and Aunt Beck, I want to thank you all for being here today.
Several years ago at the funeral of Coretta Scott King, men and women from around the world stood to talk about the legacy of Mrs. King. As the service was nearing an end Former President Bill Clinton stood and walked to the podium, he simply said. Let’s not forget there is a woman in that box and today I want to talk about the woman.
Well, today I want to talk about this woman, Martha Joyce Bellamy Rumsey. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, grand-mother, teacher, role model, lady, friend and Christian.
Most of the people in this room know her simply as Mama, a tough, dedicated woman who fought through more tragedies and struggles than most of us will ever know. Through it all she never lost her zest for life, her passion, she never gave up and she never complained. Up until the day she died mama fought to live, even in her last breaths she was fighting to live.
In a household full of men, mama was a total lady. A southern lady. Supper was on the table every night, meat, two vegetables, biscuits and gravy. Sweet tea was always in the refrigerator, or as mama called it the Frigidaire. Mama ruled with grace, but she also ruled with an iron hand. She was the real boss of the house, she knew it, and we all knew it. The last thing you ever wanted to do was disappoint mama, and in the Rumsey house, we worked hard not to disappoint mama.
She taught us manners and respect. All questions were answered with yes ma’am, no ma’am, yes sir, no sir, we cleaned off the table after every meal and you never walked away from the kitchen without an “I enjoyed it.”
In our house there was one rule. Daddy tattooed it onto our brains….. don’t do anything to embarrass your mama, ever. Think about it…. Don’t do anything to embarrass your mama; it’s a pretty good rule to live by. I don’t think Sam or I ever embarrassed mama…… and that is a badge of honor I will carry forever.
Mama was a role model to my brothers and me…. and to hundreds of students who passed through her classroom doors. Ironically in a household of men, some of mama’s primary life influences were women. Four women shaped my mama through life and helped make her the woman she was.
Mama’s sister Aunt Beck, her big sister, her friend. Aunt Beck has been a major influence in all our lives; she taught mama about life as they grew up and she was the one mama chose to help her make her journey into heaven. Aunt Beck we love you and will always be thankful that you are a vital part of our lives.
When mama and daddy moved to South Georgia, she met Gracie Hudson….no words can describe Gracie other than, she was a character. Gracie was boisterous; she could make mama laugh harder than anyone else could. Gracie became a second sister to mama and for Sam and me a second mother. Gracie died a few years ago and I know she and mama are sitting on the banks of a catfish pond today, cane pole in hand, laughing, loving and remembering their times here on earth.
When we moved to Clayton mama met her best friend, Sara Singleton. Mama and Mrs. Singleton had lives that intertwined. Teachers, Coaches Wives, mothers of boys and coffee lovers. COFFEE LOVERS. For as long as I can remember mama and Mrs. Singleton would meet daily for coffee. 1:30 in the afternoon would find the two of them at the Singleton’s, the Rumsey’s or in later years McDonalds. Mrs. Singleton is my mama’s longest lasting friendship, her best friend; the two of them shared a bond like no other relationship in my mama’s life. Mrs. Singleton, my mama loved you and I know you loved her…. Thank you for always being there for mama.
The fourth woman of influence came along late in Mama’s life. Sam brought her home one day, shy, quiet, reserved. Donna. It took me a while to warm up to Donna, but she knew exactly how to get to mama’s heart. From day one Donna was able to connect with mama. For many years our house had a dark cloud over it, we mourned Tom and as hard as we tried that cloud remained over us….. until Donna came along. Donna gave us a new dimension in our family, a girl…..we didn’t know anything about having a girl in the family but mama thrived on it. Donna made mama happy, she was much more than a daughter in law, as mama told Donna last Thursday, she was the best thing to ever happen to the Rumsey family. And as much as I believe I was the best thing to ever happen to the Rumsey family, if I am honest I have to agree with mama. Donna thank you for bringing joy back to our household.
Sam and I are mama’s boys. In our minds mama was as close to perfect as anyone the good Lord ever created. While truth be told, she wasn’t perfect, she was in our eyes. Mama cooked, cleaned, kept house, taught school, and still had time to spend with us both.
Mama taught us simple lessons….simply. Christmas is for family, Sundays are for Church, Family is the most important thing there is. Mama’s family was her greatest pride and joy. She nurtured us, she made every holiday special, she would call just to say hello, and she made sure that the simple things in a day were important.
As lucky as Sam and I were to have mama, two people were even luckier. They got to have her as a grandmother. Chelsea and Zack; mama’s angels. While being the son of Martha Rumsey had a lot of benefits, imagine what it was like to have her as a grandmother. Mother’s have to say no sometimes, grandmothers don’t. Chelsea and Zack, your dada loved you more than you will ever know. She celebrated every moment of joy you had and hurt when you hurt. Know that your dada will now be your angel, she will watch over you from heaven, just always remember don’t do anything to embarrass your dada and you will be fine.
Over 60 years ago Mama met the man that she would marry and she chose well. Daddy words will never be enough to thank you for what you have done for mama over the years. Life wasn’t always perfect, but you both fought to make it the best it could be. In mama’s final years, daddy was her caretaker; he cooked, he cleaned, he made sure she never missed a medication; he catered to mama’s every need. I honor what my daddy did for mama and hope that I can prove to be half the man he has been through the years.
Not a single day will go by that I won’t miss mama. She lived on her own terms, but she also died on her terms. She had everything planned; she made it easy for us. Last Tuesday mama sat Sam, Daddy and I down to tell us what she wanted for today, I guess you could call it her final lesson plan. Every detail was planned and I pray that we have executed it to her satisfaction.
As hard as death is, the last week has been a wonderful blessing. As a family we have all been together, we have laughed, we have cried, and we have talked about everything. I can safely say that we all had the chance to say everything that needed to be said. Every I love you was more intentional, hand holds meant more and simple touches will be forever cherished.
I hope for each of you, when the day comes to say good bye to the most important person in your life that you will be as fortunate as we have been with mama’s passing. The Lord blessed us as a family by letting us have Martha Rumsey in our lives, and he blessed us again by taking her without pain, knowing she was loved by us and we were loved by her.
I attend a multi-cultural Church in West Palm Beach, Florida. We have over 60 nationalities represented in our Church. Several years ago one of our members died, a lady from Jamaica who had fought cancer for several years.
I made a comment to a friend from Kenya about how sad it was that she had died. My Kenyan friend said something that I will never forget and today it has more meaning to me than it ever has before.
My Kenyan friend said….. no Kendall, Deborah had not died, she has been promoted to glory.
Promoted to Glory…… promoted to glory!
What a beautiful way to view the passing of a loved one. So today, my mother is not dead, she is Promoted to Glory. On Sunday morning she crossed over to her glorious after life, no longer in pain, with lungs that would never need the help of an artificial device to breathe again.
Mama ran into heaven and into the arms of Tommy. She now sits with the Lord in a huge celebration of a life well lived, enjoying her time with ma-ma, gramps, Pa and me-ma, Uncle Larry, Lloyd, Bubby, Aunt Tenie, Bridget, Vickie and Gracie.
A celebration worthy of a promotion…. A promotion to glory!