At the end of this month, a memorial ceremony will be held and a new gravestone set at the site of my great, great grandfather’s grave. The little I know about William T. Jeffries includes a family story about his service in the Confederate Army. He walked to the battlefield, only to lose an arm in the fighting. He continued to help with horses, perform other duties for some time until his discharge. I can remember as a little girl staring at a picture of the one-armed man in a dusty looking coat. My childish mind had little concept of what it must have been like to lose a limb in battle, then go back to serve some more. I marvel now at the determination and grit, bravery and commitment he had. It’s not so much the cause for which he fought, but the courage and commitment with which he lived that interests me.
And I’m cut from the same cloth.
My Grandmother, Lavada Jeffries, was a lady through and through. She carried herself with the utmost grace and sweetness at all times. She had a tender way about her, but was fierce in her determination. She lived far beyond the doctor’s prediction by simply refusing to give up. Her children can testify she was a force to be reckoned with, and was not to be disobeyed. As her grandchild, I rarely saw her iron fist but was lavished with plenty of her sweet-smelling hugs, and heard plenty of reassuring words in her soft lilting voice. I ate my share of her amazing biscuits and loved her vegetable soup. As I grew older, we read our Bibles together in the morning and shared cheese toast before I left for school.
Years later after she was gone, I was in the depths of despair after my first husband confessed an affair. I had tried to keep my misery from my dad, not wanting to stress him out since he had his own health problems, plus not sure how a daddy like mine would react to the betrayal of his girl. Daddy knew, though. He found a moment alone with me under the carport and I’ll never forget his words. “I know what’s going on with you, Baby. Your mama told me; I made her tell me. I know it’s bad right now. But don’t you forget whose granddaughter you are. (He nodded toward Granny’s house.) You’re just like her. Made from the same strong stuff. You can do this.”
He was reminding me I’m cut from that same cloth.
My mother has been a minister for as long as I can remember. Her world is her pulpit, especially the McDonald’s drive thru, the local thrift stores, and the patients for whom she tenderly cares. Shirley Jeffries was into women’s ministry before women’s ministry even existed. As a little girl, I learned to braid hair from one of mom’s friends. We spent quite a bit of time at Donna’s house and now, looking back, I know that my mom was ministering to that lady and her two young boys through a divorce that left them penniless and a disease that left Donna disabled. I’ve seen my parents stop along the roadside to pick up a stranded single mother. As a girl, I was no stranger to nursing homes, funeral homes, and hospitals. Now I know my mom, and dad too, were busy in those places, singing, loving, praying, visiting, helping people along the way.
And I’m cut from the same cloth.
These days I’ve been super concerned about my own children. I have been lamenting the fact that I’ve failed to give them one childhood home to remember. I’ve failed to give them so many things I hoped and dreamed they would have. I’ve had my heart set on building a plan to stay in the same place and finally give them more than two consecutive years in the same school. I still want that continuity for them, but a friend of mine pointed out something that helped me relax a little, and got me thinking about the kind of stock we come from.
It’s not about the house we have, and it’s not about my ability to protect my kids from the pains of life. I can’t do that. But I CAN show them what kind of fabric makes up their genes, what kind of blood runs through their veins. My job is to concentrate on building that character into my children and it doesn’t take money or a house or lack of troubles to do that. It’s more important to know the kind of people we ARE not the kind of place we live or kind of things we have.
I want my kids to look back, consider my faith and my courage, my smile and my laughter, my love and my commitment and say:
“I’m cut from the same cloth.”