With its red digital message, the hotel clock shouted my wake-up call that Saturday morning. It was 5:30 AM. Not until later in the day did I realize the timing that only our Heavenly Father could arrange. My second mother, Ruth “Tootsie” Blige, began her eternal reward that morning – she died at 5:30 AM.
Tootsie worked for my family just shy of fifty years. I can still see the large yellow Buick with my mother’s silhouette behind the wheel and next to her sat Tootsie. River Road was their highway to heavenly places such as Piggly Wiggly and, in Tootsie’s words, the drug sto’.
Friends called them all kinds of names: Maude and Florida, smoke and fire, Bert and Ernie, or Lucy and Ethel. However one chose to call the duo, Momma and Tootsie were an amazing team. I have seen those two beat wayward lizards to death, leap on the kitchen table and perform a “I saw a mouse in the house!” dance, and put out fires with aprons. I’ve seen Tootsie drop to her knees laughing after my mother said something funny and I’ve seen them in tearful embraces.
Momma, Tootsie, and I were a super-glue trio until I had to start first grade. I thought my heart was going to explode when I sat at the wooden desk that reminded me of a cage. All I could think of is how much fun I was missing. No more watching “I love Lucy” with Tootsie at 10 AM. No more running around the house as Momma and Tootsie tried to brush my honey-colored ringlets that Momma called knots. No more flour fights with Tootsie as she made her delicious biscuits and our pretend clothes-line tents would now be white sheets hanging lifelessly on a wire.
Just hours before her stroke, Tootsie called to give me a good tongue lashing. I had fallen off a ladder and torn a ligament in my foot. Her language was always poetic. She spoke in pure, low country Gullah, “Girl, I done tole you not to git yo’self up on no ladder! Dat is men’s work.” exclaimed Tootsie. Then Momma grabbed the phone and added, “How many times have I told you if you climb a ladder your uterus will fall on the floor?” Since having the stroke, Tootsie lived in a nursing home.
After the funeral, I decided to stop by Walker Funeral Home and give a contribution towards her funeral expenses.
Using my GPS on my cell phone to locate the funeral home, I wound down the two-lane highway through massive, moss-covered oaks and hairpin turns to my destination. When I arrived, I noticed there were several cars in the parking lot. I mused about how busy they appeared to be, but as I entered the building, musings turned to reality for the office was crowded with several families planning funerals. I decided to wait in the hall out of respect for the family members who were making arrangements.
The son of the funeral home owner greeted me in the hallway and politely escorted me into another section of the building. “Do you mind sitting in this room until my father can speak with you?” asked the young man. “Not at all,” I replied. Thinking nothing of his request, I took a seat in the dimly lit room.
As soon as I sat down, the fluorescent lights overhead flickered on making the room brighter. I suddenly realized why the young man asked if I minded waiting in this particular room. I was sitting between two bodies. Since I am a humorist, my first reaction was, “This is a bad sign. It must a really long wait.”
Suddenly my cell phone, which was in my back pocket, announced in that typical monotone voice, “You have reached your final destination.” I had forgotten to disable the GPS. Once my pounding heart calmed down, I had a good laugh.
Hmmmm….there was a profound amount of truth in that statement. If this is the final destination, I hope the ride was wonderful.
I knew Momma and Tootsie were looking down from heaven laughing and reminding me of the power of a merry heart. Their message to me is to serve the Lord, laugh and enjoy the ride to the final destination.