|EVA LOUISE HALBROOK|
|February 17, 1920 - April 9, 2002|
|"Precious mem'ries, unseen angels,
Sent from somewhere to my soul;
How they linger, ever near me,
And the sacred past unfold.
Precious mem'ries, how they linger,
How they ever flood my soul,
In the stillness of the midnight,
Precious, sacred scenes unfold."
|Momma about 1940|
Given by Daughter Marinelle
strong and pure men and women, is a creator second only to God".
This quote by Helen Hunt Jackson describes Mama Louise.
We were blessed with a wonderful mother. She taught us how to act, she taught us how to sing, she taught us how to laugh and have fun. She gave us books that made us want to read, she taught us how to cook and sew and work. She taught us how to be strong and how to be tender. She taught us by the way she lived her life.
And she loved us every day of our lives.
We always knew who we were and where we belonged.
We were all close to Mother. We all have special memories and we know we were always her pride and joy. She loved us, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren and we love her.
We want to thank you for your tributes to Mother; for your presence today, for the beautiful flowers she loved so much and for your comments about how she touched your lives.
We want to thank Aunt Reva Dale for all the time she was able to spend with Mom and Dad in the evenings.
We also want to say "thank you" to Starla Mackey, who has helped care for Mom this last year with such skill and a loving heart.
And we want to thank Daddy for all he has done. Mother's health brought changes to their life but one thing never changed. As long as Daddy was there, Mama was satisfied. And Daddy was always there.
He kept her feeling safe and he was the one she wanted. Mother loved Daddy and Daddy loved Mother. Daddy, we love you and we thank you for taking such good care of her.
We will miss Mama's presence; we will miss her voice and her smile but we will always have her love.
Dear Marinelle, Jimmy, Jeanne, Brenda, Sherrye, and John,
I am sure that somewhere Emily Post, or her successors, have written that a sympathy note by e-mail is really at the height of being gauche. But, I also suspect that Ms. Post will never have to travel that road to hell that I have worked so hard to pave with good intentions. In fact, I have this great fear that if, and when, I reach the Pearly Gates, St. Peter will respond, "Tom, we have a place for you, but please complete this list of uncompleted tasks from your days on earth!" So, perhaps your desire that I eventually make it to heaven will enable you to overlook this faux pas.
It is strange to say how wonderful a funeral is. I know from my experience when my father died, that despite all of the hugs, kudos, statements of sorrow or appreciation, and even shared tears, there was a part of me that looked upon anyone that was smiling during this particular time and asked, "why are you so happy, can't you tell my heart is breaking?" I also know that all of the support that comes in the immediate period after a death fades away far too quickly, and somehow is not quite there days, weeks, or months later, when something out of the ordinary suddenly reduces you to tears for no explicable reason. In my case it was the smells of a breezy fall evening, and I was quite concerned as to whether this reaction was inappropriate, until I remembered a night in the sixth grade when I was performing at a talent show at school, an open door caused the music to blow off the piano and fill the room with that same breezy smell, and just about the time I was afraid I would not remember the rest of the piece, my father's hand came from no where, picked up the music, and held it on the stand until I could finish the recital. Now when I have one of those moments, I almost rejoice because in trying to realize just what triggered the reaction, I get to visit with Dad once again, and to enjoy all that was the best about him.
As I listened to the four of you singing, I tried to accomplish two things. First, I stood in the middle of the porch with the hopes that Marinelle would at least see that I was there, because Mother and I were afraid that we would not get a chance to visit later. (Sherri, you seemed to recognize me first, so I was banking on your help if Marinelle never looked up). But, more importantly I was trying to imagine how many times this quartet had performed in this church over the last half century. Was it always the same song? Perhaps We Three Kings, or The Church in the Wildwood (with Jimmy, unfortunately, having to do the entire bass part ["Oh, come, come, come, come, come, come . . ." ]); or, Amazing Grace, or even my favorite "Baptist" hymn in a Cokesbury Hymnal, Beulah Land. I listened to the past as the voices got stronger, and sweeter, perhaps for Jimmy's to crack a bit as he got older but not quite old enough, and all the time for this one voice in song to share one love of one tremendous family.
What is amazing to me about your Mother is that even though I met her only a couple of times, there was not a single comment made during the service that surprised me. I wish that I had asked about some of them long before I ever married and had children. I have not managed to discipline without raising my voice. And, somehow, I have not managed to have singing a part of my house. But, I have recognized and appreciated how your Mother and Father not only encouraged your talents, but excited your minds. A few years ago, David McCullough won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography, Truman. The section that deals with Harry Truman growing up in Independence, Missouri, points out that many nights and weekends were spent with books from the local town library that, among other things, enabled him to travel to countries far away, and to experience adventures that others fail to dream. How a houseful of six kids every got quiet enough for someone else to read is beyond me, but I have to believe that her enthusiasm helped all of you to become living examples of Frank Capra's George Bailey, who combined a desire for adventure from National Geographic with just basic human decency in order to remind the rest of us that regardless of what happens, things are going to be okay.
The minister mentioned that your Mother experienced some great tragedies and hardships in her life, and yet she moved on. There is a scripture passage seldom used during funerals, but which I believe is really one of the most appropriate. For those of you who do not know me well, promise only that as you read this next paragraph, if you are offended, you will ask Marinelle to interpret since she has the best understanding of my sense of humor.
The scene is King David's temple. He is in sackcloth and ashes because his first born son with Bathsheba is ill. He has rended his garments, adorned himself with sackcloth and ashes, and is fasting in the traditional Jewish tradition. The child dies, and the guards near the King are afraid to tell him. They keep passing the buck from one to the other because they are sure that the bearer of bad news will be executed. Hearing the mumbling, David looks up "Is the child dead? " (II Samuel 12:19). When told that he is, David gets up and bathes, dresses, and asks for a big dinner. Well, everyone stands around in amazement while he is eating (it had been seven days), and seeing the look on their faces David says the Biblical times equivalent of "what? What is it?" The guards tell him that they are amazed, and David states it plainly, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, 'Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?' But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me." (II Samuel 12:22-23). He then finishes his meal, goes to Bathsheba, and they create a new life.
The interesting thing to me about this story is that even though the first child was stricken because of David's sin against Uriah, there is no indication that God wished for David to spend his life ruing his past sin, or paying for it, or being depressed about something that had occurred. David knew that he must go on, and that was what was expected of him. Even in the sadness I felt when my father died, and the loss I still feel periodically when I cannot discuss some problem or event with him, I find some comfort in this passage.
Of course, the real comfort is perhaps that David could go on. In other words, that despite any mistakes or problems in his past, he had the foundation that permitted him to rise up and continue forward. And, it is this gift from your Mother and Father that I believe all of you have in abundance. It is obvious to everyone who knows any of you that your lives are so full because your love is so complete. And, I suppose, that is why I want to write this note to you even though I know that your Mother has helped form the conclusion that you are going to be okay.
Some of you know that I used to do death penalty defense work. One of my clients - Paul Ruiz - finally reached the end of all legal appeals, and in that time before his execution he asked me to come and visit him. It was interesting that he asked because he had cut me off from all communication for several years. Well, I went. It was odd for both of us to see the gray in what had been dark hair, and the paunches that come with too much food and too little exercise. But after just a few moments we started sharing various ideas and issues as if we had not stopped talking years before. At one point, I broached questions about his soul, and he eventually commented that Christians have it all wrong. I used the passage from The Gospel of St. John about "In my Father's house there are many rooms," and used that to illustrate my belief that there is no one way to salvation except to follow a simple commandment: To love God and to love your neighbor. I then made the comment about the many rooms and I felt that there were a lot of ways to reach that mansion.
Paul said that he would not want to be in one of those rooms. But, he would like to be a janitor so he could take care of the grounds, and then go from room to room to see inside and find out what the people were like. (It did not dawn upon me until sometime later that he was looking upon the "many rooms" as prison cells).
Anyway, at one point Paul looked at me and said, "you Christians have it all wrong. You live, and then you go to heaven for eternity. What can you learn in 50 or 60 stinking years on this earth that can possibly last you for eternity?" Of course, the answer is "love." And, the most wonderful lesson you have been taught by your Mother, which is so evident in each of you, is that you have so completely learned and demonstrated the correctness of that answer.
I will close with one last thought. I do not believe it is happenstance that the first person to realize the resurrection was Mary - a woman - who came to the garden early on Easter morning. When she returns with Peter and the others, she is weeping and Jesus, whom she does not recognize, says "Woman, why are you weeping?" (John 20:13). This word "woman" to some commentators is very formal, and it illustrates a separation between Jesus as a deity and mankind. It is the same word usage in the third chapter - at the wedding feast in Cana - when Jesus gets upset after his mother tells him to create some wine "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." (John 3:4). (Of course, all I can think of when I read this passage are those 1960s commercials, "Mother, I'd rather do it myself!").
But, there are others who have interpreted this phrase as more of "hi, there!" I like this interpretation. I like to believe that your Mother, and my father, and all believers, wake up to see a friend's smiling face say "Hi, there!" Imagine what a joy that was for her? At least, that is the image I would like to hold.
I am asking Marinelle if she would forward this e-mail to those of you who have it, and would let me know an address so I can mail it to those who do not. Marinelle knows me well, John and Sherri know me somewhat, Jimmy has only known me long enough to drown the mistakes of my piano playing with his wonderful singing, and Brenda and Jean and I have met for only brief periods of time. But, I know that sometimes with a physical loss like this, those around us who are the closest are not the ones with whom we want to share, or even to let see our vulnerabilities. So, please know that no hour is too late, or too early, if you ever want to talk. And, most important of all, while this transition is difficult, please realize that in countless ways, you are not alone.
Godspeed & Love,
Tom Carpenter, City Attorney for Little Rock, is a long time friend of Marinelle's. He played the piano when she and J.B. got married and did part of the eulogy at J.B.'s funeral. He is one of her very dear friends.
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