The Iron Lady

    I have written in essays past about my parents’ conversion to faithful churchgoers in the early 1950’s when I was just a child of seven.  At that time, through the eyes of a child, the only dramatics changes I noticed were the all-Downing all night domino/beer binges stopped and I seemed to gather a new bunch of friends at the church.  When you’re seven years old, you don’t notice the adults around you very much, choosing rather to size up the kids in your age bracket instead.  Such was the case as my family and I began attending Peace Tabernacle in Baytown, Texas, pastored by Rev. V. A. Guidroz.
    The first adult I remember noticing with any regularity was, naturally, my Sunday School teacher, Glory Guidroz.  Glory was one of the several adult Guidroz children who served their parents in some church capacity.  A friendly woman with a pleasant face, she made me feel welcome in this strange world of new kids.  On my first Sunday at church, she put my name on the attendance board on the wall and a gold star next to it and told me that when I had five stars on my attendance board I would be a genuine full-fledged member of the class.  Four weeks later I watched proudly as she affixed my fifth gold star, and I felt like I had arrived.
     As time advanced, I made many new friends and even learned to recognize some of the adults…mainly those who were parents of the kids I had become acquainted with.  There was one woman, though, who, though she had no dealings with the younger youth, still seemed to be somewhat visible to everyone, and even caught the attention of us younger kids…although (please forgive me) not in a respectful way.  She was known to us as “The Lady Who Sings Funny.”
     Miss Anniedeen Bateman was a school teacher, unmarried, who lived with her mother.  During the summer vacation, they would disappear to Alto, Texas, to a family farm, and then magically reappear about the time school was to start in the fall.  A watercolorist, pianist, and singer, very talented in any creative endeavor, she was deeply involved with the music of the church, directing Christmas choirs and whatever other special choirs the church deemed appropriate and singing special songs during services.  It was in this activity that she caught the attention of us kids.  You have to remember that in the era of the fifties in deepest, darkest Texas (especially in somewhat conservative Pentecostal churches,) practically everyone sung with sort of a down home country twang backed up with a piano and maybe an organ or guitar.   Sister Anniedeen Bateman, however, put her musical skills to the forefront and played every song exactly as it was written in the book and sang with an operatic gusto that was so far over the heads of us immature little rug runners that we would listen, giggle, and squirm until she finished her song. (Even as I write this, I am embarrassed.)  Occasionally, as we played after services, we would attempt to duplicate her operatic skills, but it was hopeless.
     I came in closer contact to Sister Anniedeen (as she was affectionately called by the church members) a few short years later when I reached my early teens.  She had begun giving piano lessons at her home, and my sister, Judy, had become a favored student, though she was five years younger than I.  After Judy had been at it for about a year, Mother decided that I needed some culture in my life and signed me up for lessons also.  Actually, I was a little excited about it, and got Judy’s early study books out and began to practice on our home piano.  I had about the first six songs perfectly nailed (I thought) and was ready to impress Sister Anniedeen when I finally sat down at her piano.  I took off on the first song at about sixty miles an hour with no concept of rhythm, and she yelled (quietly), “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!   Let’s follow the rhythm!  Now ready?   A-one, a-two, a-three…..”   I told myself silently that this was apparently not going to be as easy as I thought.  I lasted for about a year and a half, but, once I discovered girls, my piano career (truly regretfully) fizzled.  However, she still would not let me off the musical hook.  In her eyes, everyone has a musical talent, and she insisted that I receive a few voice lessons, and so, in a matter of a few months, I sang my first solo at church…quavering voice, knocking knees and all.  But I found that I sort of enjoyed it.  I began to appreciate the artistry of her singing.  She enunciated her words clearly and I could feel the spirit behind the words.  No one will ever be able to sing "Jerusalem" like she could.
     It was in my teenage years that I began to see the value of Sister Anniedeen.  She took a special interest in the youth of the church, serving as our Sunday School teacher, guidance counselor, and to a certain extent, disciplinarian.  She opened her home to youth gatherings and was instrumental in creating the Conquerors’ Club, a social organization for youth which emphasized personal responsibility, devotion to the church, and Bible understanding.  The club spread to several other churches in the Galveston Bay area and was highly popular amongst the youth for several years.  Our Sunday School classes were heavily Bible oriented, and she was not afraid to offer pointed advice about how we as young people should conduct ourselves.
    Shirley and I married in 1961, and having been booted out of the Conquerors’ Club due to our marriage, our contact with Sister Anniedeen became limited to church and an occasional older youth visit to her home.  Shirley had suffered through the loss of her mother in 1957 due to cancer.  My father-in-law remarried, only to relive the same cancer nightmare with his second wife.  In 1963, however, we were stunned to learn that a third marriage was imminent.  The Reverend James L. Creel announced the engagement and pending marriage to none other than Sister Anniedeen Bateman.
     It seemed strange at first to realize that Sister Anniedeen wasn’t just “Sister Anniedeen” anymore, but rather “Mom” or “Mom-in-law.”  Shirley and I probably had less of an adjustment than the rest of the family to make because we basically disappeared for four years as I joined the United States Air Force in the fall of 1963.  Although we occasionally visited Baytown while on leave or traveling to a new assignment, it was not until the fall of 1967 that we moved back to Baytown to reestablish a home.  By then, the new order had been well established.  Sister Anniedeen brought order to a family which had suffered the loss of two mothers, and the fact that she was new at parenting didn’t seem to be a drawback.  After all, once a teacher, always a teacher.  She applied her teaching skills to parenting with the same enthusiasm.  The cycle was complete when the child of the new union, Rocky, was born.
    In 1970, our church in Baytown suffered through a tumultuous time resulting in a minister leaving under clouded circumstances.  As it turned out, I found that my in-laws and I were on opposite sides of the issue, and, when the climax occurred, there were some hurt feelings and strained relationships.  From our marriage in 1963 to 1970, I had addressed my father-in-law as “Brother Lemuel” and my now-mother-in-law as “Sister Anniedeen.”  In 1971, my in-laws moved to Casper, Wyoming, to take the pastorship of a church.  Shirley and I visited them the next two summers, and somehow a new relationship with my in-laws was formed.  That fall I wrote them a letter and said that after ten years of marriage to their daughter, I would like to go beyond the “Brother/Sister” relationship and call them “Mom” and “Dad.”  I still remember the wonderful, gracious letter I received in return which I still have stored in my archives somewhere.  They have been “Mom” and “Dad” ever since.  We moved to Wyoming in 1974, and for the next seventeen years my bond with Mom and Dad grew stronger with each passing day.  For the remainder of this essay I will refer to “Brother Lemuel” and “Sister Anniedeen” as Dad and Mom.
     I haven’t the time to describe my every experience with Dad and Mom.  Dad, quick-witted, quick-tempered, opinionated, and outspoken, met his match with Mom, who could match her husband in every aspect except maybe the quick temper.  She was far more temperate in her emotions and was the consummate dutiful wife.  Serving as the pastor’s wife, she enthusiastically performed her duties, and continued to display her musical talents with piano/organ playing, singing, choir directing…and insuring that we did our parts also.  She still reached out to the youth in Sunday School classes and social gatherings, stressing not just the social aspects, but also the need for the youth to have a spiritual foundation.
    As the years drifted by I began to suffer the dreaded “middle aged spread” and started having to really watch my weight.  It was during this time that Mom really began to get on my nerves.  OK, I’m just kidding, but she has always been somewhat of a health nut…always watching her calories, etc.  So when she would see me eating a greasy hamburger with double meat and double cheese with extra fries, she could not stop herself from saying something.  I was tempted to start eating only in the dark, but that’s hard to do in a restaurant.  I finally resigned myself to the idea that she was just looking out for my best interests, whether I wanted her to or not.
    I have written in previous essays of my daily morning trips to their home for coffee and breakfast on the way to work.  I was touched after Dad died in 1989 when Mom asked me to keep coming by for our morning visit and coffee.  It was about a year later that I truly discovered the depth of her spiritual faith and Christian behavior.  A short time after Dad died, our church elected a new pastor.  As is the case sometimes, all was wonderful for a while but things began to unravel in a year or so. Controversy began to swirl around the pastor, and, as luck would have it, Mom and I wound up on opposing sides. I am not a person who likes confrontation.  When I have something to say, I prefer to write it down, so I wrote letters to two people respectfully stating my opinion and what I though needed to be done.  One of them was to Mom in which I also stated that until the trouble blew over, I felt it best not to come by for breakfast in the mornings.
     Within a few days after mailing the letters, I received a phone call at my office.  The caller was the other letter recipient, and it was clear to her that my spirit was bad, I had bitterness in my heart, and I needed to pray through this issue and clean up my bad attitude.  It was obvious to her that I was completely wrong.  By coincidence, a day later I received a written letter from Mom, and my only regret is that I have since misplaced it.  She was so gracious and so understanding, praying that the turmoil would soon be resolved and we could reestablish our relationship.  It was so beautifully written that I instantly wanted to resolve any conflict I had with her.  As it turned out, the issue was soon resolved, and in short order we were having breakfast again.  My respect for my mother-in-law went through the roof.
    In 1991 Shirley and I moved back to Texas, and Mom stayed in Wyoming even after Dad’s passing.  We visited several times, and she came to Texas occasionally, but by 2009, with most of the family in the Houston area, and others leaving the Casper, Wyoming, area, she chose to come back to the land of her roots, also.  Shirley and I retired in 2009 and moved to the Spring area to be near kids and grandkids, and Mom settled not too far from us in a retirement home.  We all attend the same great church and have enjoyed a closer relationship than ever before.  We have had many interesting discussions about the endtime and Bible prophecy.  For years, she has been a highly respected Bible scholar and teacher and is a virtual well of information concerning scripture and prophecy.
    Shirley and I have now been married over fifty years, and my mother-in-law occasionally still harasses me about my eating habits.  But what can I say?  She is on the north side of ninety now and is probably in better shape than any of us “kids.”  She continues to read, study, sing, play, pray, and live a life of impeccable Christian virtue.  She has become, not just an institution, but a pattern for behavior.  I think I love her.

The Life and Memories of Coya Creel Eddleman

Note:  The following words are Coya's...with the exception of a place or two where I interjected additional information for clarification.  The words which I interjected are written in italics. 
     My earliest memories are of Pelly, Texas.  We lived on Duke’s Hill, and our house was built on the hill to the point that we kids could walk underneath the porch.  That’s about all I remember about Pelly, because after a short time we moved to Adoue Street in neighboring Goose Creek.  In later years the three communities of Pelly, Baytown, and Goose Creek would consolidate under the name of Baytown.  We lived next door to a family named Barr, who had a son my age named Bobby.  Bobby and I played hide and seek and all the other childhood games.  Shortly, we moved again, this time to Cedar Bayou, an area on the edge of Baytown situated near…Cedar Bayou.  There I roamed the fields with a new friend, Wendell Hunt, who had a horse.  I was fearful of the horse at first, but soon realized that the horse was gentle.  Wendell was very kind to me, and we spent many summer days catching crawfish in the big ditch in front of our house after a big rain.  I soon learned I had to be careful when I picked up a big crawfish.  Its pinchers could wrap around your finger really quickly
    I started the first grade at Cedar Bayou Elementary, and my teacher was Mrs. Hunt.  We had some Hunts as neighbors, but she was no relation to them.  I didn’t like going to school.  Other than going to church and seeing kids there, I had not been around anyone except family.  My sister, Jeanette, took me to school on the first day.  At that time Cedar Bayou School had all grades from first to twelve, so Jeanette dropped me off with Mrs. Hunt and headed to her own class in the high school section.  Mrs. Hunt showed me the table that would be my desk, as well as five other classmates.  As class began, Mrs. Hunt wrote the alphabet on the blackboard and asked us to begin writing the letters on our papers.  The paper had lines, so I didn’t have any problem; that part was easy! 
   But…as I sat there thinking I was in a completely different world, my heart began racing, and I just knew I had to find Jeanette so she could take me home.  So, I just got up, walked out the door, and began running to find Jeanette.  I ran in the front doors of the high school building only to see a hall that seemed to be long and dark.  I went to every door and peeked in to see if Jeanette was there.  I finally found her.  This scene went on for several days to the point that when I opened the front doors of the high school and started running, Jeanette’s class members would yell, “Jeanette, here comes your sister!”  She was so embarrassed!  One time she grabbed me and spanked my bottom right there in front of everybody while I loudly cried.  Finally, however, I settled down, learned to love Mrs. Hunt, and became a good student.  If we ever missed the school bus, though, my sister, Daris, would march us to school, even calling out, “Left! Right! Left! Right!” until we got to school.
    Just as I was to enter the third grade, we moved to 303 Dyer in Baytown.  I finished the third grade at Alamo Elementary in Stewart Heights, but I wanted to be back to my friends at Cedar Bayou.  So I got a transfer and moved back to my old school to begin the fourth grade. Mrs. Gentry was my teacher.  I loved being back with my friends.  I enjoyed school, loved my teachers, and completed the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades without a problem.  I then moved over to the junior high section of Cedar Bayou to begin the seventh grade. 
    One of my first acts in the seventh grade was to sign up for choir.  The first day of choir, the teacher, Mr. Williamson, called the roll.  When he came to “Coya Creel,” he stopped, looked at me with a stern face, and asked, “Are you any kin to C.B. Creel?”  I told him he was my brother.  He looked at me with a glare in his eyes and said, “We’ll have none of that monkey business!”  The class laughed, and I was embarrassed and didn’t know what to say.  Apparently, C.B. had been guilty of a lot of “monkey business” when he was in choir.  However, we all became friends eventually, and I loved choir…but apparently C.B. didn’t.
    I spent two or more weeks each summer in Livingston with Auntie and Granny.  Auntie (Naomi) and Uncle Grady Stephens were Mama’s sister and brother-in-law.  Granny (Ivy McCaghren Gaylord, b. 1876  d. 1921) was Mama’s mother.  Robert Lee Gaylord (b. 1876, d. 1921) was Mama’s father.  During one of my summers there, I met Letha Mae Doyle, daughter of Brother Doyle, the pastor of the Livingston Church at that time.  Letha later married Brother Jerry Ward, one of the evangelists who visited our church in Baytown.  Once, when Letha and I were playing outside, a big thunderstorm suddenly came up. Instead of my going back into their house and waiting it out, I became frightened and felt I just had to get back to Auntie’s house.  I struck out running down the side of Highway 146 praying and promising God that if He would just get me back to Auntie’s house I would forever be good.  As I came running up the long driveway to Auntie’s house, Granny met me on the porch.  She was so concerned and asked, “Child, why didn’t you wait until this little storm blew over before coming home?”  I answered, “I was so afraid and wanted to be home!”
    We were members of Peace Tabernacle in Baytown, and Brother V.A. Guidroz was the pastor.  The Guidroz family had children who were about the same ages as the Creel children.  They had eight in their family and we had ten.  Judy was the closest to my age.  We had lots of good times.  One Sunday I went home with her after church.  Come evening church time, we went back a little early, and Judy said, “Let’s go to the garden and pull us a radish.” (Sister Guidroz had a beautiful garden behind the parsonage.)  So we did.  That radish was so hot, I was on fire, and there was no water to be had.  When Mama arrived at church she wanted to know what I was crying about.  I had to tell her about the radish.  Of course, she said that was what happens when we do things we shouldn’t do!  No pity!
    We had a simple, sweet growing up life.  We were poor but didn’t know it.  The neighbors on Dyer were all good.  Mama worked, and Dad worked, weather permitting.  Dad was a carpenter and worked, I think, through a union shop.  Later, when his health began to fail, he worked as a janitor at the Roseland Park Swimming Pool.  I was eleven years old and got a job working at a shoe shop.  I needed a minor’s release to enable me to work, which Mama signed for me.  I got my Social Security card and earned fifty cents an hour working after school.  Daddy would drive me to work.  By then, his ankles were swelling and he wasn’t feeling very well.  When I was thirteen, I went to work for Herring’s Drug Store on Main Street next to The Style Shop, an up-town ladies’ dress shop.  One of the ladies who was a sales clerk there came into Herring’s and ordered one of our fresh chicken salad sandwiches.  (Mrs. Herring made fresh chicken salad sandwiches every day.)  I served the lady her sandwich, and she immediately lifted the slice of bread and asked, “Where’s the pepper?”  I didn’t know what she meant.  Mrs. Herring walked over and told her that I was new and didn’t know about the pepper. Mrs. Herring picked up the plate and brought me behind the counter and quietly told me the lady always wanted plenty of pepper on her sandwich.  She picked up the pepper shaker, and I thought she was going to dump the whole shaker of pepper on the sandwich!  That’s the way, she said, this customer wants her sandwich.
    I learned to make coffee in a big urn at Herring’s.  When I would arrive at work on Saturday, it was my responsibility to make the coffee.  Mr. Hill showed me how to fill the urn with water, remove the large cloth filter, clean it, and add fresh coffee grounds.  We had hot donuts delivered to us from Patterson’s Bakery across the street every day.  After the coffee was ready, a warm donut along with that hot, fresh coffee was divine!  That’s how I became a coffee drinker!

     By the time we were living on Dyer Street, it was just C.B., Loretta, George, Karen, and I living at home.  C.B. was going to high school and playing football.  After school and football practice each day, he worked at George Smith’s Humble gas station at the end of Dyer Street and North Main.  Mama was working, and C.B. would come home many times for lunch, and I would fry some potatoes (maybe some Spam) and fix him a sandwich.  Sometimes C.B. would need his shoes polished (he was dating Bobbie by then.)  He would start out by saying what a fine job I did with his shoes.  The shoes he was referring to were the shoes that were given to me.  I loved those shoes.  When I first got them, they were a little big, but I grew into them, but then they got a little short!  But it didn’t matter to me; I loved those brown leather, lace up shoes.  I polished them every night!  C.B. saw this and bragged on me so much that he talked me into polishing his own shoes.  He told me he would give me a quarter every time I polished them, and that did the trick.  I polished his shoes every night whether I got the quarter or not.

  By this time, Daddy was unable to work.  One Christmas the Goodfellows Charities brought us a large bag of groceries and toys.  The toy bag had a doll, a fuzzy red cap, a truck, and some puzzles.  I let Loretta and Karen share the doll, and George must have taken the truck.  I took the fuzzy red cap.  It fit so cute on me and tied under my chin.  I do remember feeling sad because we could not have had Christmas without the Goodfellows.  The Goodfellows were a blessing, but I remember feeling in my heart that someday I wanted to be able to do the giving myself.      
    I was thirteen when Daddy died.  I remember him lying in a hospital bed in our living room growing weaker by the day.  The day he died, May 4, 1951, he had been in a coma for hours (didn’t realize it at the time.)  When Myrt came to the house, she immediately went into the kitchen, gathered up whatever was in the cabinets and refrigerator, and began making soup.  While the soup was cooking, she picked up a broom and started sweeping the floor, crying the whole time.  I realized at that moment that Daddy was bad off.  The house began to fill up with family because my brothers and sisters always supported one another.  I’m not sure of the time of day that Daddy died, but I do remember Jeanette sending someone to Lyon’s Grocery in Stewart Heights to get something.  I rode in the car with, I think, C.B. and Bobbie, and sat in the car while they went in.  I couldn’t understand why everyone seemed to be going about their business when Daddy had just died.  For a while afterward, it was hard for me to pick up and live each passing day knowing that things would never be the same.  I didn’t realize that God had His hand on me and knew my future and my needs.  With a praying mother and family, my life was secure.
   One summer our yard needed mowing, and the flower beds that Mama insisted on having needed cleaning.  I was working full time at Herring’s Drugs.  Mama was working, and by now C.B. had gotten married.  To take care of the yard, I hired a neighborhood man to mow and clean our yard.  I don’t remember how much he charged, but I was able to pay whatever it cost.  The yard looked really nice…for about two weeks! 
    When I was in the eighth grade at Cedar Bayou Junior High, I became a cheerleader for the junior high football team.  I was also in the band.  The band would march for the high school football games even though we were junior high schoolers.  C.B. was playing on the high school team, and it was exciting to hear his name called over the loud speaker at the games.  I played the snare drum in the band.  I chose the snare drums because the school furnished the drums.  There was no way I could afford to buy a musical instrument.  Also, the uniforms were furnished with no fee.  The cheerleader skirt and vest were furnished, but I had to pay a fee for use.  I managed to earn enough money to cover the cost.
     During this time we siblings were furnished meals by a program for orphans, so I was able to eat in the school cafeteria every day.  After lunch I was able to buy an ice cream cone for five cents.  There was this cute boy who worked the ice cream counter.  Each time I returned to my table, my girlfriends would say, “Coya, that boy likes you!”  I would look at them and reply, “No way! He’s too old for me.  He’s in high school.”  They just laughed.  That went on for a while until I began to realize that they were right.  We began chatting, and he would give me an extra dip of ice cream and a big wink.  The girl friends said, “Wow! Coya, he likes you, he has a new car, and he’s very nice.”  They apparently knew him from Cedar Bayou Baptist Church where he and his parents attended.  Soon, Don Eddleman asked me out for a date.  He picked me up about 6:30 on a Friday evening, and we went to Princess Drive In on Decker Drive and got hamburgers and French fries.   We visited there for a while, and then he took me back home about 8:00.  On the next date, he came to church with me to a young peoples’ function.  We began dating every Saturday night, usually to a youth church function or just to eat out somewhere.  We really didn’t care where we went…just so we were together.  Don was 18 and I was 14 when we became engaged; I was fifteen when we married.  Within a few years, we were blessed with two beautiful children: Pamela (January 4, 1958) and Donald (May 12, 1961.)
    Don and I enjoyed 56 beautiful years together.  Before we were married, my Aunt Lizzie (Daddy’s twin sister) told me that if I would “put that marrying business behind me” and finish school, she would see to it that I was able to go to college.  She, a retired school teacher, and her husband, Uncle John had no children.  I would visit them for a couple of weeks every summer.  But, as we know now, her talk didn’t change my mind about “that marrying business.”  She always told me, “Coya, you’ll probably have a houseful of kids by the time you’re 25.”  Her fears of that event never came to pass, but I always appreciated their love and concern.
    In 1955 I was working for Franklin’s Dress Shop.  O.E. and R.L. Downing were brothers whose families were attending Peace Tabernacle.  By then, Don and I were attending there, also.  The Downings owned Downing Roofing Company, a business located just down the street from our church.  One Sunday morning, R.L. told me he would like to speak to me after church, so Don and I waited in front of the church.  R.L. had a lot of responsibilities with our church, so he was usually one of the last people to leave.  He began by saying, “I know you are working at Franklin’s, but we are needing to hire a full time secretary.”  O.E.’s wife, Reba, was working as secretary at the time but was ready to go back to fulltime housewife.  Of course, I was certainly interested.  A secretary wasn’t on her feet all day meeting the public!  Plus, the environment would be nice, because both O.E. and R.L. were perfect gentlemen.  I became proficient with the telephone, especially the calls that came in on rainy days.  These people always wanted immediate repair service!    During my employment with Downing Roofing Company, I was able to become better acquainted with the Downing families.  R.L. and Ethel had small children who would come visit while they waited for R.L. to come in from a job.   It was a pleasure to see how they adored their dad and waited patiently to get a hug from him.  The oldest, Bobby, was nearly grown (he thought.)  He was a brilliant young man, very mature for his age. He loved coffee.  I can’t remember just how old he was, but I kept all the coffee fixings in the adjoining room to the office.  I kept the cream and sugar packets handy but also had a box of sugar cubes nearby.  Bobby would go into the room, fix his coffee, come back into the office to visit, and comment, “This sure is good coffee!”    This went on for a few days until I realized all the sugar cubes were gone, because Bobby loved his coffee really sweet.  I had to laugh, but I just kept buying the boxes of sugar cubes.  Bobby had two sisters at this time, Judy and Kathy.  Later, another sister, Mary would come along.  To this day, I love these kids.
    I worked for Downing Roofing Company for about six years, during which time I had my daughter, Pam.  I went back to work when she was four weeks old, thanks to wonderful neighbors, the Vanovers (Roy and Beatrice with their two older kids, Patsy and David,) who lived next door to us on Windy Lane.  Beatrice (or Vanover, as we called her) wanted to care for Pam while I worked.  This family loved Pam and treated her as their own.  Patsy eventually taught at James Bowie Elementary while David went to college. Pam became so much a part of their family that when David went off to college, he took a photo of Pam and said she was his sister!  Roy loved to let Pam hang on to his finger while she walked up and down their front walk.  Vanover always had beautiful flowers growing, and Roy would let Pam pick one of the blooms.
   Today, in this part of my life, there is so much that I could say but just don’t know how.  God has been so good to me.  When Don passed away suddenly on March 4, 2010, it was the most jolting, life changing event that ever came my way, yet I never lost my faith in God.  That event will forever be embedded in my memory, and I won’t write down all the details because it causes my heart to restrict even now.  I just need to say that I know that God has had His hand upon me each day of my life.  He knows what is in store for each of us.  Of that terrible day of Don’s passing, I remember telling the doctors that I just needed to talk to Don.  They were telling Pam and me (Donald had not arrived yet) that Don was brain dead.  Everybody who knows me knows how I depended on Don always.  There I was, and after 56 years of marriage being completely dependent upon him, I couldn’t ask him what I should do.  “Oh, wow! I sure need you now, Sweet Jesus!” I prayed.  I have to say…along with my children, family, church family, and lifelong friends, God has brought me to this day.  It has now been four years since I lost Don, and I still believe that God is in control.  I have faith, and I’m so glad I know Him.
    During this time my son, Donald, has been absolutely awesome.  Pam and I have wondered many time, “What would we have done without Donald?”  In the midst of his grief over losing his dad, he handled every detail that had to be done.  He and Pam organized all the details of Don’s funeral.  They, along with the grandchildren, were grieving, but with dignity each one played an important part of making sure Don’s homecoming was beautiful.  The song “I’ll Fly Away” sings about when He takes us home “…To a land where joy shall never end.”  We sang the song at Don’s memorial service.  It is comforting to know God took Don home in his time.
    I want to tell about how Don and I became lifelong friends with Hazel and Wilburn Bracht.  Don worked with Wilburn at Phillips Petroleum throwing fertilizer bags.  Phillips was having a company picnic one Saturday.  Wilburn and Don had to work, but Hazel and I were to meet them that evening.  Hazel came by to pick me up.  We were living on Alford Street at the time.  I had never met Hazel at that time, and I was pregnant with Pam.  It was the summer of 1957.  Hazel and I visited in the car on the way to the picnic, and our friendship grew from that day onward.  We’ve had many wonderful, precious times together.  To this day, Wilburn and Hazel are just as precious to me as any of my siblings.  The same goes for their daughter, Cindy.  Cindy and her husband, John, have two children, and their families are precious to me also.  Time and age makes our friendships more cherished with each passing day.
    I wish Hazel, Wilburn, and my children could add their memories to my story.  I’m sure they could add some really interesting moments.