I have a lot of wonderful Christmas memories from my childhood. One of those memories surfaced recently. That Christmas Eve I was told that I should be on the lookout because Santa was delivering a big gift overnight and it would be on the front porch in the morning. Imagine that feeling. A kid in the age of doubt about the whole Santa process was just told the time and location of the Santa Claus delivery. I took this information as a tremendous opportunity to discover some of the mystery of life. From my cot by the window I could see most of the front porch. A yellow streetlight cast shadows across the front lawn while specs of frost glinted on the grass. I watched constantly for throughout the night, hoping to catch a glimpse of the gift or the man delivering it. I was primed to see a sleigh, some elves, a huge present… something.
Night came and went. At some point my eyes were too heavy and I fell asleep. I woke up while dawn was breaking and peeked over the window sill to survey the porch one last time before slogging to the living room to see if Santa had left anything at all. He had showered us with the usual living room decoration but the large mystery gift I was looking for was not around. “Did you look on the porch?”, my mother asked. “I didn’t see anything from my room.”
I walked to the front door and opened it wide. Beside the pillar of the porch was a large box leaned against the column. It was just the perfect size and placement to be undetectable from my bedroom window. I dragged the box in the house and opened it to find a large telescope. Later that night we used the telescope to look at the Moon and Venus and some random stars. We could see things that our eyes weren’t made to see and it was awesome. Years later, in college physics, optics and focal length was relevant because I was terrible at finding things in the telescope and I figured out why.
Last week I was holding a telescope in Kohls when the memory came back to me. I had since learned that Santa was actually Mama C, my godmother. She loved computers and technology and the wonders of space.
She was the first person to introduce me to the internet. She had a series of numbers and decimals written on a piece of paper and when we typed them into the computer a NASA message board would load up line by line. She was also my teacher in high school for Computer Programming. She started as a math teacher and I have to assume was the first to volunteer to tackle a new subject concerning technology. We learned FORTRAN and C+. It was arduous to understand how computers work and the step-by-step logic behind it but I can’t count the times that it was helpful. The logic is beautiful and learning to think things through each and every step is good for an engineer.
I woke up a few days ago to the news that Mama C had passed away suddenly the night before. In seven short hours, she went from a normal day of running errands to gone from the world. She was resolute in her faith and her family was informed of her medical wishes so when the situation went from bad to worse, she was able to left on her own terms; on the eve of her late husband’s birthday she went to meet him.
She lived her life in the same way. She always had great love and purpose. Compassion beyond measure. She had no time for foolishness though. I remember one of the first days in computer class when a girl whispered to me that she heard Mrs. Davis was stern and that I should behave because she didn’t mess around. I didn’t tell her that I knew her as Mama C and that I knew better already.
I remember her and Daddy Ron smuggling Blue Bell ice cream from Texas in an RV. I knew whenever they went to visit Aunt Mia that we would have an ice cream party when they returned. A bowl of Blue Bell Vanilla Bean and a little whole milk chopped into a slush is still one of my favorite treats.
There are many other memories and people who hold those memories close. Her grandson wrote a heartfelt tribute that I’ve included it below:
“For the 29 years you devoted to making me who I am, I owe you my life.
Math is described as the abstract science of numbers, quantity, and space. It is often referred to as the universal language as it can be shared by all people regardless of race, culture, religion, or gender. There is something inherently beautiful about the ability to bridge divides and calculate the unknown in the ways that mathematics does. The irony here being that, though you can always provide a formula to find the answers you seek, you cannot quantify the impact on the lives that Mama C has touched.
She believed in leading by example, no matter how much dedication and sacrifice the situation required. She never turned away those in need, her contagious smile always worn for all to see. She would choose to put herself in the middle of narratives that others would scoff at, or simply not be brave enough to take on, all while making it clear she was doing all things in Christ. The beautiful home that would make Southern Living jealous could have just as easily become a Salvation Army Outpost or a Natural Disaster Recovery shelter on any given day. There always seemed to be room still left in the Inn, no matter the circumstances.
Mama C taught me to believe in my dreams, no matter how big or small. I remember the heartbreak I felt when I told her I no longer wanted to be a police officer because they had to endure being pepper sprayed during their training process. What was a 6 year old boy to do now that his dreams of being a sworn protector were now dashed? “Well, we’ll just have to find you something else then, won’t we?” she said. The next day, I set my sights on becoming the best race car driver in the world! Still waiting on how that one pans out.
Her and Daddy Ron also showed me what limitless, unconditional love was. Through the years, the bond between the two grew stronger, the flame evermore engulfing the two pillars that set the foundation of what I knew true love should be. The stories and life lessons they were able to share shaped the way [my wife]and I approached our marriage. Apparently, anytime you look at your best friend and life long partner and exclaim “You’re boring”, the next logical step is to do something spontaneous – like get your pilot’s license or go road racing at Daytona. This is known as problem solving.
Without her, I wouldn’t know what it’s like to play guitar at a 2nd grade level, understand that the Power Rangers made taekwondo look super easy, or be able to use the ultimate trump card a la “Mama C said so.”
Without her, I wouldn’t know what it was like to be chosen by God himself to do great things beyond what the world told me was possible. I wouldn’t be able to have the courage to face new challenges down a career path I never knew I loved. We wouldn’t be making the impact we are in a culture that is hurting by promoting constant growth and change for the better. We wouldn’t be able to have the faith that God has a bigger plan in place and to trust the doors that He has opened and the ones He has not.
I am the product of the endless love and faith Mama C had for those around her. I have her fingerprints all over me as she helped shape me into the man you see before you today. I can only hope to continue her legacy with the same fiery passion and wisdom that she so effortlessly displayed.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22 – 23”
If you had a Mama C in your life, this post is for you.