People look forward to heaven for various reasons. No pain. No more crying. No more traffic jams. No more wasps.
One of the biggest reasons I look forward to heaven is the fact that I will once again get to spend time with Virginia Hendrix! She was my grandmother, and we affectionately called her "Mom-ee." To this day, she is one of the grand characters in my life, one of my favorite people I have ever known.
She exuded grace, characterized by many of the best qualities of a charming Southern lady during her era.
When my grandparents celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1988, I remember my mother praising her mother. Mom told Mom-ee the quality that stood out from her life was her "joy of life." A happy, joyous person, she brought love and joy to many people.
Born on August 10, 1917, Virginia Gullatt lived in Columbus, Georgia. Virginia had two sisters, Martha and Dorothy "Dot." At age twelve, their birth mother died. Their father eventually remarried, and they gave Virginia a half-brother named Edward.
"Ginny" fell in love with and eventually married her sweetheart, Marion Howard Hendrix, also known as "Monk." I never heard my grandmother call him anything but "Monk." My grandparents married in 1938, enjoying a 59-year marriage.
A devout Christian and faithful Baptist, Mom-ee had a simple but strong faith. She believed the Bible as God's Word, she believed Jesus Christ was God and that He provided a way for her sins to be forgiven. She believed we should love, obey, and follow Jesus Christ. She served in their churches, sang in the choir, and taught adult Sunday School classes into her eighties. Cedar Spring Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina, eventually named the class after her. She read the Bible every day, prayed for missionaries, and sang praises to God.
She loved her husband, she loved her family, and I think she probably loved every person she met. When she was a young senior adult, she went to the nursing home every week. Stopping by the dollar store, she loaded her trunk with trinkets and small prizes, so that she could reward the seniors who played Bingo with her.
What a great cook was Mom-ee! We still miss her fried chicken, potato salad, Christmas divinity and coconut cake. One of my cousins dubbed her house a "snack bar." She always had a stash of Coca-Cola, gum, and ice cream. She often said, "Shu-gah [the south Georgia way of saying "sugar"], do you want a Co-Cola or a snack?"
She exhibited true Southern charm. She showed hospitality. She respected authority. Patriotic, she believed in American exceptionalism. She gave kindness and grace. She laughed and loved. She loved her BBQ (sliced from Sugar and Spice drive-in), sweet tea, and banana pudding.
She believed in traditional family values and the difference between right and wrong. She believed in a biblical worldview. Though she lived during the turbulent time of the sexual revolution in America, she believed in a traditional view of marriage.
The Bible says that when society embraces sin and forgets truth, "they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush" (Jeremiah 6:15). She, however, knew the fear of God, understood the reproach of sin, and practiced the need for submitting to God's Word in the paths of life. Many times I have thought that she would blush to see in our day the loss of respect and civility, the unfiltered world of social media, and the disorientation of gender confusion when wrong is often heralded as right and what was considered shameful for millennia is now trumpeted as normative.
The prophet Jeremiah issued a warning during a similar time: "This is what the Lord says: 'Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.' But you said, ‘We will not walk in it’ " (6:16). Mom-ee walked in good ways and the ancient words of the Lord, and she found rest.
As a child, I sat next to her on her couch and listened to her read and tell stories like "Goldilocks and The Three Bears" and "The Three Little Pigs." When my head itched, she would take those strong fingernails and scratch my scalp.
I watched her snap beans in the summer. She took the grandchildren on occasion to Hardee's to play on the old metal playground and then to K-Mart to buy some fun surprise like a Match Box car. I remember the smell of her lotion on her hands and the smell of her hairspray. She religiously kept her Friday morning appointment at "the beauty parlor." She liked to have The Price is Right on while she began to get ready for lunch. And she knew that the meal you have after church on Sunday about 12:30 was called Sunday dinner.
A woman of her times, she cooked three meals a day - no microwave or instant food. One time she laughed and said, "My husband was a wonderful man in so many ways. But he was no help at all in the kitchen!" And I remember how she cried and grieved the months after he died. After his death, for several months I called her weekly. One day she said, "Thank you so much for calling and checking on me. It makes me feel good."
I still have postcards in my files she mailed to me from the Golden Gate Bridge, the Amish Country, and Walt Disney World. I could always count on birthday cards, and in adulthood, I always received a gift certificate or gift card from Red Lobster for Christmas or our wedding anniversary.
My wife remembers her bragging to my mother about our infant son. Mom-ee exclaimed, "Oh, Marian, isn't he just dah-lin'!" On his birth date, she came to the hospital, spending much of the day with us telling stories and laughing.
I pulled out my file folder titled "Mom-ee and Pa-Pa" today. Wiping back tears falling down my face, I read old post cards and notes written in the 1980's and 1990's. In one mailed on January 16, 1990 she wrote . . .
Will write you a note so I can get it out for the postman. I am thinking about you and praying for you this morning - I know you are in exams and will do real good. Also wanted to send you a little money to take on your ski trip this week. Maybe it will get you a good hamburger, fries, and a coke!
I thought about you Sunday night and know you did a great job with your solo. Wish we could have heard it but maybe we will get to hear you another time soon.
I went to see my blind friend a little while yesterday and took her some beans, cornbread, baked sweet potato, salmon croquettes, and fruit. She gets so hungry for vegetables and is afraid to do any cooking much because the smoke alarm goes off so easy in that little trailer. I just took her some of what I had fixed for our dinner - also a bowl of chili.
Love you, Mom-ee
I found a long one written to me when I moved back to seminary in January of 1997. In it she wrote,
Your mother came over to see us last Friday and brought us a good BBQ sandwich for lunch. She's so good to call us every day and sometimes twice. She is a precious person! Dave called us Saturday night - said it had been so cold there [Cincinnati, Ohio] too but not much snow. I think it has been cold everywhere!
Take good care of yourself and know we are very proud of you and love you very much.
Mom-ee and Pa-Pa
Her four children and seven grandchildren were blessed because she was a part of our lives. My wife and I gave our daughter the name "Virginia" as a middle name in honor of Mom-ee.
Her life spanned an incredible time of change. World War I raged the year of her birth as President Woodrow Wilson led the United States. In 1917, Albert Einstein published his first paper on cosmology. T. S. Eliot's first collection of poems came to print. William "Buffalo Bill" Cody died. Best-selling books of that year included Anne's House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery, The Lost Princess of Oz by L. Frank Baum, The Sovereignty of God by Arthur Pink, and His Last Bow: Some Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Mom-ee experienced a massive stroke in the fall of 2010. I vividly remember hurrying to Mary Black Hospital and walking into her room that evening. She struggled to talk to me but could not get any words out. I wrapped my arms around her and we both just had a big cry together.
She believed in heaven. She knew God personally through His Son. She trusted Him for her salvation, she repented of her sins, and she invited Him personally to live in her life and be the Lord, Master, and Shepherd.
We love and miss you, Ginny. I look forward to laughing with you again!
On my grandfather's 100th birthday, I wrote a tribute to him as well. Click here to read My Grandfather: 100 Years Old Today.
Also, when my grandfather's sister Frances died in 2014, I wrote a tribute to her called God Will Take Care of You. Click here to read it.
Would you like to know God personally? Click here.