My mom is the best person I’ve ever known. Period.
Over the course of my life, I have had the honor and privilege of intimately knowing a handful of people that I would consider “in a league of their own” in terms of their Christian faith. Mom is the best of them.
My mother was born as the second child of Fred and Robena Davis of Centreville. Her birth name was Cherlyn Diana Davis but at an early age, her father nicknamed her “Danky,” and it stuck. Danky grew up with a solid family foundation in a small clapboard house and attended Bibb County High School, where she was a majorette and beauty queen, winning the coveted “Miss Bibb County” in 1966.
While attending Mississippi State College for Women (MSCW, now MUW) in Columbus, Mississippi, she was introduced to a swashbuckling, sideburn-wearing, skinny-as-a-rail, handsome young man named Al Blanton. They immediately fell in love. Danky spent forty years of her life, in the background, caring for and loving my father. If Dad said it once, he said it a million times: “I don’t deserve your mama.”
Neither of us did.
Danky chose as her profession a teacher. In her twenty-seven years of service, she made a profound impact on hundreds of second-grade children, the type of impact that resonated many years later. “Your mom was my favorite teacher,” many have offered. Her sweet, caring demeanor made the classroom a pleasure, learning fun. She was unmistakably committed to the craft of teaching, spending long hours and Saturdays in her classroom at West Jasper Elementary.
Her duties didn’t start and end in the classroom. No, she had another child to deal with at home (two if you count me).
She made sure I was ready for church every Sunday morning, for church was not an option. She helped me to memorize verses during Bible drill, stressed the importance of knowing the books of the Bible and was the first person to introduce me to Jesus. I remember that my mom gave me a picture book with watercolors of Bible characters inside. Bedside, she would read to me. Those characters came alive as I drifted off into a deep sleep, so many years ago, and there is no measure of the amount of impact that may have had on my life.
Back then, her days were long. She began in the kitchen at 5:00 a.m., making sure she didn’t wake her sleeping son as she quietly passed his room over the hardwood floors. Her breakfasts were large and legendary. Perhaps the most difficult endeavor of the day was waking me up (often it took several “Al, get up’s!), and once accomplished, she was on a downhill slope.
She drove me to school until I was a senior in high school, for I had skipped two grades in elementary school and I didn’t get my drivers’ license until that year. After a grueling day, she came home and started in on supper. Nights, she took time to help me with my studies, calling out questions for tests and making sure my homework was done, completely. The next day, she began again.
My mom demonstrated hard work and selflessness to me. She thought about others first, before thinking about herself. Love was shown by doing instead of saying. Yes, the words “I love you” were offered, but they had already been spoken, and shown, and illustrated by all of the many small things she did for me every day. She still does these things.
My mother’s greatest moment in her life was the year and a half she took care of my dad when he had cancer. She, ever by his side, did everything—and I mean everything—in her power to keep him alive. There was no task that was beneath her, no endeavor too demanding. While cancer was taking away my dad’s life, it was taking hers away also. Her life was looking after him. She never left his side and never hesitated for one moment in her conviction and resolve to care for him. Most people would have given out from exhaustion; my mom looked deep within herself to continue down the road less traveled, and walked it.
There is a spirit within her that glows so radiantly that it is immediately felt by any person that has ever had the pleasure of meeting her. It is as sweet as honey. I do believe that that Holy Spirit has allowed her to see things from a different perspective, to see the bigger picture, to have peace. My mother is a good person because she is not beholden to this world. She is wise enough to know that the things of this world will one day rot and spoil, so she concentrates more on the enduring and the everlasting. “God is all we have,” she says frequently.
Since my father died, my mother’s faith in God and Christ has not been shaken, but strengthened. “God helped us,” she claims with respect to my dad’s suffering. She has not once balked at Christianity, called it untrue, or cursed her Savior for taking away her husband. Instead, she continues to pour herself into the lives of other people and step up her daily walk with Jesus.
God how I wish I were more like her.
As the days collect since my father has been gone, I have had time to reflect on his legacy that continues to toll in my life. And, I have had more of an opportunity to develop a tender relationship with my mom. During this time, I have realized something. I realized that my dad’s large shadow that was cast on my life shaped largely my likes and dislikes, my personality. Many of you who never met my father might be able to see him through his only son. But I have realized that my mom, sitting in the background all those years, teaching me through example, is the reason why there is any goodness in me.
A few weeks ago, someone asked me “What’s your mother like?” I responded, “She’s the finest human being I’ve ever known.” “Why do you say that?” they inquired. Thinking for a minute, I responded: “I believe that a long time ago, she decided that she simply was not going to do the wrong things. That she was going to do what was right. And she has never deviated from it. Not once.”
She has not allowed the cruelty of this world to have one single impact on her life. Her spirit is pure, conscience clear. Forasmuch goodness that illuminates through her life, I do not believe that this goodness is innate. I believe that the full essence of Jesus has manifested through her, every day of her life. Why this is so, I cannot say. I continued to be puzzled and awed at the strength of her character and convictions.
As I brutally struggle with the trials of life, the problematic flaws of my humanity, I thank God that I can look to my mother and see Christ. Because of her, I’ll always know what to shoot for.