On January 23, 1937 a woman left her ten children at home and walked some distance through the bitter cold to an abandoned service station. Freezing winds whipped through the building; mocking the burlap sacks attached to windows as a barrier.
In that lonely place, the woman valiantly wrestled the excruciating pain in her body as an eleventh child was being born. Hidden in a rural corner of south Alabama, no one would hear or acknowledge her cries of pain. Childbirth is never easy. It requires focus and fortitude and a tightly held vision of the joy to come. She labored alone.
Experience had taught her all the right steps and compassion moved her to clamp the umbilical cord allowing the baby girl to live. But there was no joy for the woman. The child was labeled illegitimate and therefore unwanted.
At this point, details surrounding the baby's birth grow more sketchy. Somehow a local judge was contacted and the baby was handed over to him. He called a woman in Pensacola, Florida who he knew was looking for a child to adopt. There were no attorneys called; no paperwork was needed. The child was simply classified as abandoned.
But Cora's joy overflowed as she made her way to the judge's home. She dressed and bundled her new found treasure cradling the baby in her arms the ninety miles home. Unable to have children of her own, Cora was 35 years old when she chose the name Alice Marie for this miracle child that would be her one and only.
This isn't the opening for some "made for TV" movie. It isn't a fabricated story to promote adoption. It's the record of my own mother's birth; a birth we still consider miraculous.
Mom's growing up years weren't necessarily easy as her father left and there were many years of uncertainty. But she made the choice pretty early to dedicate herself to Christ; doing her best to follow His leadings.
And it must have also been in those early days when she took on the attitude that became her trademark: "In life you're either going to laugh or cry - I choose to laugh!" When she went home to Heaven eight years ago, that's how everyone remembered her.
"Alice brought the party with her!"
My sister, brother, dad and I never had to wonder if we were loved; Mama told us and showed us routinely. She put dad's needs ahead of her own and made sure he knew he had first place in her heart. She ran a tight ship in the area of discipline making sure we knew what was expected and that disobedience brought swift consequences.
There was always an abundance of hugs and kisses. I especially remember the hours spent rocking in an old red platform rocker that threatened to topple over if we pushed back too hard. Mama rocked and sang to me when I was sick, which was often as a kid. Her arms comforted and her voice encouraged during the drama of teen years. She cheered and bragged on my own little family making sure my girls knew they were her treasure. It was the same for my sister and brother.
There are too many stories to tell. Too many lives she touched to mention them all here. Too many friends that still feel the void of her home-going. But this one thing seems important to record on what would have been her eightieth birthday, Mama embraced life and people and fiercely loved everything about being part of this world.
Tonight I'll gather with my family and we'll celebrate the legacy of Alice Marie. We'll all tell stories about "Mema" which will make us laugh and cry. We'll try our best to explain to her great-grandchildren what an amazing woman she was and how much she would have loved them. Together, we'll thank God that she urged us all to follow Christ and that we'll see her again some day in heaven.
Bottom line is this, the "unwanted/abandoned" baby girl grew up and made the most of the years given her on this earth. Her influence outlives her! I'm so very grateful to have been known as her child and I want that to be the story of my life as well.
Happy 80th Birthday, Mama! I'm sure you and the angels have planned a celebration that could never be matched here!