Love is patient and kind, love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (KJV)
Tomorrow would have been my godmother’s birthday. Her name was Lillian Holmes, and she was probably the person who made the greatest impact on my life. She loved me. I miss her so much. She died when my own daughter was just a baby, but I can’t help but still think about her on this day, and so often throughout my year. Other people may look up to movie stars or sports figures, but Mama Lil was always my hero. I have no doubt she’s in heaven singing with the angels now, and I will see her again one day. Without her, I don’t think I would have ever known what love is.
Yes, I called her Mama Lil, as did most of the rest of the people she knew. Mama Lil had raised 53 foster children, including my older brother and me for the first four years of my life. My dad was in Korea, and my mom worked nights at Bill’s Barbecue in Richmond, VA., so we lived with Mama Lil and Daddy Harry and their family. Mama Lil and Daddy Harry had already adopted two of her foster children. They were sisters, Patsy and Jackie. I think there may have been other children coming and going on a temporary basis when we first came, and I remember many adult children visiting throughout the years with their own children, but as far as I know, we were the last permanent residents. (At least permanent in the sense we lived there four years.) Jackie married my cousin as a young teen and had two children. The marriage failed. Jackie and the two boys also returned home and lived with Mama Lil and Daddy Harry until Jackie remarried when I was a teen. So her world knew her as Mama Lil, even though she’d had no biological children, or if she did, they were already in the arms of Jesus. It’s so sad to think there are so many babies aborted each year when there are so many women out there like Mama Lil. All they’ve ever wanted is a baby to hold in their arms and shower love on like she did with me.
Even after my dad came home and we moved away, most of my summer months were spent with Mama Lil and Daddy Harry down at their home on the Rappahannock River. And when my parents divorced when I was sixteen, Mama Lil and Daddy Harry moved in with my dad to help take care of us. They didn’t move out until my dad remarried.
My mama always claimed I was Mama Lil’s favorite. It was her excuse for not loving me herself. Can a child ever have too much love in their life? I don’t think so. I think my mom’s view of love was skewed, as is most people’s view of it. 1 Corinthians gives us God’s definition of love. Mama Lil’s version of it came as close as any I’ve ever seen on earth. She was kind and giving. Her love took action, saving lives of children in desperate situations. No, her love was not perfect. Only Jesus’ was perfect, and yes, maybe I was her favorite because I was the last baby girl, and maybe it was because she sensed I needed love so desperately. All I know is how much I praise the Lord for putting me in her path, and how much I thank Him for her mighty example to me of how to love.