Fourteen years ago today, my brother Jerry and I stood with my nieces at my sister Lynda’s bedside as she took her last breath. She was only 58 years old and died from Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. (Yes, the same cancer that took Mike’s life two years later) She left behind two daughters, two grandchildren, and a host of friends and family. She loved the Lord and I remember her saying, “I win either way this cancer goes. If I die, I go Home to Heaven. If I stay, that’ll be wonderful too. Either way, I win.”
I have so many fond memories of her. She and I shared a bedroom and even though she was 8 1/2 years older, we were close. She was a bit like a second mom but also a good friend. One of my favorite memories is of her banging out songs on our old piano. That wood frame farm-house would shake on it’s foundation as she played. AND she could really play. As a little girl I’d stand on the piano stool beside her and belt out tunes she’d taught me. I didn’t know I couldn’t carry a tune. One of the songs I sang over and over was “Let The Sonshine In.” She made it such fun. She also gave me my love for Elvis because she played all of his songs on the piano from Jail House Rock to Love Me Tender. And there are many other memories. There’s the evening when I was in the eighth or ninth grade that she spent the night with us and questioned me about the facts of life. She suspected I didn’t know much. She was right. It was her that educated me, because I still thought women got pregnant from too much kissing. (I know, I know…I was naive) You can bet I’d never kissed a boy!
She also was always telling me jokes when I was little. I still remember one of them. “Pete and Repeat were walking along a bridge and Pete fell in and who was left?” Of course the answer is “Repeat”. She regretted telling me that one. Her boyfriend came to visit and I couldn’t wait to tell it to him. I mixed up the words though and my version was “Pete and Peter-reat were walking along a bridge. Pete fell in and who was left?” The young man didn’t answer so I told it again, continuing to get the word wrong. : ) She tried to shush me unsuccessfully, as I’m sure her face grew red. That wasn’t the last time I embarrassed her with a boyfriend either. When we got our first telephone, a boy called her. I told him she couldn’t come to the phone because she was busy peeling her bologna. I must have been a pain, but she was good natured about it.
We grew up on the farm and worked hard but she seemed to always take time for fun. I remember a picnic in the woods with iced tea in a mason jar and peanut butter sandwiches. I remember tagging along with her as she raided the crab apple tree down in the hollow in front of our farm-house. She sprinkled salt on the sour fruit and ate it right from the tree. I also remember her telling me if I’d take that same salt and sprinkle it on the tail of a bird, I could catch it! I believed her. I remember her climbing the fig tree in the back yard and picking the figs. She loved figs. The limb broke and she crashed to the ground. She barely missed landing on me.(She wasn’t hurt thankfully.) I also remember once when she trimmed my bangs. She used a razor and as she swiped downward, she cut the tip of my nose. I cried out, “Is it bad?” She answered, “Let me put it like this. You’ll forever be known as scar nose!”
She was the one who I always decorated the Christmas tree with. She taught me to whip Ivory Flakes for snow. And I remember a Christmas as a little girl that I longed for a bride doll. My parents couldn’t afford it but Lynda found a beautiful doll. It had movable joints but one joint was broken so they were able to purchase it for a bargain. She made that doll a bridal dress complete with a veil. I still have that doll today. Another Christmas, after she was married, she gave me a store-bought wool skirt with a matching grey sweater. My clothes were all homemade and I remember being so excited to have that store-bought outfit. I’m sure she did without something herself to afford to buy that for me.
When we’d get together in later years, there was always a lot of laughter. There’s the Christmas her family was visiting us in Oklahoma. She and I stayed up late cooking goodies and at about 2 AM, as she and I stood laughing and giggling in the kitchen, I flossed a crown right out of my mouth. It zoomed past her head and just about hit her. We laughed about that for years.
I remember her marrying young and struggling for the next several years to finish her education. She eventually graduated with a Business Degree and then later obtained her Master’s and taught school up until six months before she died. And let me brag a little here…she was really smart. One summer when she was in school at Ole Miss, her husband over heard some students complaining (in a math or chemistry class) about that blond that set the curve so high. It was her. I’m so glad she hung in there and got her education because she touched many students through the years. I admire her and miss her so much. She was a talented and beautiful lady who loved her family and friends.
I’ve attempted to write a story about her that is true. It really happened this way and I wanted to get it down on paper for memories sake. It’s bit hard to follow, I know. Basically this is it…Lynda lived in Alabama and came to Oklahoma for a visit one summer. While she was there, I asked my dear friend, Brenda, to come by and meet her. As they visited, they found out that Brenda had once taught at the same school where Lynda now taught. In fact, they had both served with the same superintendent, Mr. Blocker. This story below occurs the next spring as Mrs. Blocker came to speak at Lynda’s school. This is the ‘rest of the story‘ as told to me by Lynda. I love to remember it. Hope you can follow it. It was hard to figure out how to write it but too good not to record. It’s such a God blessing!
A Memorial Moment
As Mrs. Blocker shakily stood to speak, she dropped her notes and they scattered haphazardly to the floor. Since her husband’s death years earlier, she’d presented a scholarship in his memory each year at this time. He’d served as superintendent in the district for a few decades but these students had no memory of him. To most of them, she was just some gray-headed old lady they didn’t know and weren’t interested in hearing. They snickered and laughed as she struggled to pick up her notes and regain her composure.
My sister, Lynda, a teacher at their school, was also on stage that morning. While someone helped Mrs. Blocker get her notes in order, I’m told Lynda quickly walked to the microphone.
“Students, I want to share something about Mrs. Blocker. I want you to know her fame has spread far and wide. In fact, I was in Oklahoma last summer visiting my sister(Pam). While there, I met one of my sister’s friends, Brenda, who is also a teacher. As we shared about our careers, Brenda said she started teaching thirty years earlier in a little school in Alabama called Moody.”
“Brenda was astounded when I said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but that’s where I teach now.’”
“The next question Brenda asked me was, ‘Did you by any chance know Mr. Blocker? He’s the superintendent who hired me.’”
“I told her that Mr. Blocker retired a few years after I came but I’d talked with him several times and heard wonderful things about him. I also told her that Mrs. Blocker started a scholarship in his memory after his death and still presents it each year at our awards ceremony.”
“Brenda asked me,” ‘Mrs. Blocker,’ “that I give you her love and say thank you for all you did those many years ago for her. She told me a few of those things and I want to share them with the students.”
“Brenda said that not only was it her first teaching job but she’d also gotten married that summer and was a new bride. In the middle of her school preparations, her in-laws decided to come for their first visit the week before classes started. Brenda said her mother-in-law was a fabulous cook but as a young bride, she could barely boil water. She had no idea what she’d cook for them and was stressed about it.”
“Students, I want you to know that this lady (she pointed affectionately to Mrs. Blocker) surprised her and brought enough home cooked food to last their entire visit. Then later, that same weekend Mr. Blocker heard that some boys had messed up Brenda’s classroom after she’d spent all week getting it ready. He personally went up and waxed away all the skid marks the boys had made sliding on her freshly cleaned floors. ”
“So students welcome this special lady who has given much to Moody through the years.”
I’m told that when Lynda finished, the kids were listening intently and as Mrs. Blocker came forward to speak, they clapped in her honor. They again clapped when she finished as she went directly to my sister. She threw her arms around her and hugged her tightly as she said with tears in her eyes, “You don’t know what your words have meant to me today. Thank you, thank you so much.”
I think that was one of Mrs. Blockers last years to present the scholarship and Lynda died a few years later. Today I still ponder this story. I wonder what were the odds that Lynda and my friend would meet and share about the Blockers, and that Lynda would have an opportunity to minister on that Spring day to her. It is so like God to orchestrate something so beautiful and like Lynda to be a part of ministering to another’s heart.