Sunday mornings, my conversations with my mom are always pretty much the same. I’ll call her around 10 o’clock, as I’m on my way to a church somewhere in metro New Orleans, and she’ll tell me she’s dressed, sitting there waiting for her ride. My sister Patricia lives across the road and will be picking Mom up in a few minutes. Church starts at 11, but Mom likes to get there early to greet friends.
Invariably, Mom will say, “I don’t feel like going. Every bone in my body hurts.” This Sunday, it was her feet that were giving her trouble.
Also invariably, at church, people will come up and hug her and say, “You look so pretty. I hope I look that good when I get your age.” Pastor Mickey Crane will brag on her–she’s both the oldest member and the one with the longest continuous membership–and tell her what a reward she has waiting in Heaven.
Across the road from the church is the cemetery where Mom’s husband of nearly 74 years lies buried. Twenty feet away, her youngest son, Charlie, is buried.
I said to her Sunday, “Mom, back in the 1940’s, when you had six small children to deal with every day, if you had only gone to church when you felt like it, you would never have gone. But you learned to make yourself get up and get ready and go on. And look at the payoff.”
I said, “So, today, you’re just continuing to practice a habit you’ve kept all your life.”
What she ended up with is a family of church-going children, with two of her four sons being preachers with nearly 90 years of ministry combined.
Mom’s parents, Virge and Sarah Kilgore, joined the New Oak Grove Free Will Baptist Church outside Nauvoo, Alabama, sometime around 1903. They lived five miles away, and the trip by mule and wagon took an hour each way. But they went, every Sunday without fail.
That church is where my Mom and Dad met in 1930. She was 14 and attending a youth singing that night with her sisters; he was 18 and with his brother, looking for any place that might have some girls.
If it hadn’t been for that church, those six young’uns of theirs might not have ever been born. And without that church’s influence and presence in our lives, we might not have been born again.
Funny how a single decision can go on blessing future generations and setting the course for hundreds of descendants after you are gone. That’s what happened when my grandparents chose that church.
When young stressed-out mother Lois McKeever decided on a Saturday in the 1940s that the family would be in church the next morning, she called on Ronnie the oldest, to drag out the “number three washtub” and start the bath water. The children were readied for church on Saturday night, so that nothing was left for Sunday morning except breakfast and getting dressed.
Neighbors said we looked like little goslings, following our Mama on the way to church. It was a two-mile trek if you stayed on the road. By cutting across the woods and fields, you saved a mile. One of those fields now functions as the church cemetery.
Mom reminded me that when we moved to West Virginia in 1947, the very next Sunday she had all her brood in church. This time it was a Methodist Church (this was before they became “United”), and she says, “We didn’t know a soul there, but we went.”
She smiled and said, “Pretty soon, all the boys and girls in the neighborhood were going to that church. They saw you all going and they went, too.”
Lois McKeever turns 92 on July 14. If you’d like to send her a birthday note–just a handwritten note, it does not have to be a store-bought card–here’s her address: 191 County Road 101, Nauvoo, AL 35578.
She will enjoy your notes, keep them in a basket on the dining room table, and re-read them again and again.
Thanks for doing this. The day is approaching when I won’t be able to ask you to do this anymore.