At church this morning we sang:
"He touched me, Oh He touched me,
and O the Joy that floods my soul.
Something happened, and now I know,
He touched me and made me whole."
Marty and I attend First Redeemer Church in Cumming where we live and where Marty works as the Food Service Director. She and her staff cook meals, including Wednesday night supper, for the 4000 or so members at this mega church north of Atlanta. Marty lets me wash dishes for her when ever there is an event. Am I lucky or what.
This morning Dr. Richard Lee gave an exceptionally good message on Discipleship; leading people to the Lord not just by your words but by the way you lead your life. If there is any one religious tenet that I would attribute to my Mother and to my roots growing up in The Tiptonville Presbyterian Church, it would be that very theme. Lead your life as Christ would have us lead it to His honor.
This church, as seems to be the norm at large churches these days, has no hymn books. The Choir Director leads the congregation in what these days are called "Praise Songs" the words of which appear on three large screens. As you might imagine the small town boy in me rebels somewhat at this "mega change" from my memory of singing from well worn hymnals followed by the doxology.
Many of you may not know that James Neville was the organist at our little church and Mother was the first female elder elected when the Presbyterian Church joined the "real world" sometime in the 50's and started allowing women to be ordained. If you want to have a good laugh, find Jack or Helen Haynes and get them to tell you about Daddy's facial expressions when the church's song leader, Miss Marian Burnett, would start singing off key or worse yet, would somehow switch to a totally different song than the one James Neville was playing. I think that is why Daddy always emphasized to us that God had a deaf ear and no matter what the quality of our voice we should not hesitate to sing out in church.
This morning Kevin Richmond slipped in an "oldie but goodie"; He Touched Me". In truth the hymn is not so old having been written by Bill Gaither in 1963. But it sings like an old one.
As you have learned by now it takes me a minimum of 4 paragraphs to get to my point, which by now is obvious. As I was reading (and yes, I was singing--off key), I could not stop my self from changing the subjective pronoun to "She". I don't know, maybe that's being sacrilegious, but I have been so focused this past week on Mother that it just seemed to fit. And then the pastor got up and preached a sermon that mirrored Mother's life as well.
She touched me. She touched us all.
Several of the letters we have received have made mention of a small blackboard that stood in the front of Mother's class room. I was reminded that each day or maybe it was each week Mother would write something on that board totally unrelated to the subject she was teaching. It might be a poem, a famous quote, a bible verse (she'd be in trouble today), or a historical event. Something that was intended to make the class think.
Often, I was reminded, what ever was on the board was never discussed. That is to say, Mother never worked it specifically into her lesson plan. If someone asked a question about the contents of the blackboard, it might then become subject to discussion, and occasionally Mother did have a particular idea in mind and would lead the class to that topic, but just as often the quote on the board would simply disappear to be replaced the next day or next week by another one. Nita (Jones) Heard told me she had several pages of these quotes written down. If you're out there Nita, send them to me please and I will share them with this crew again.
She touched us often when we didn't even know we were being touched.
July 16, 2009
Dear Jimmy, Cathie, and Richard
Mrs. LeDuke can't be 93. She is still my greatest teacher and will always be the lady in command, standing up in front of the class. I never had a teacher who commanded the respect, demanded discipline and had so many students who enjoyed her class. I remember one fellow classmate who said he hated English classes, but he "really liked Mrs. LeDuke". I sincerely believe she is one of the most gracious ladies I ever knew. In all my years, I have never heard an unpleasant comment on your mother. There are not many folk who can lay claim to that honor and respect.
The last time I saw Mrs. LeDuke was at my dad's funeral in 1997 and we were in the front before the services and she came up, hugged me, and said the most unforgettable thing to me. She said, "My, you are very distinguished looking and I know your dad was proud of you".
There are many things we remember as we grow up but she, Martha Bryant, Mrs. Coates, Grace Dietzel, Mr. Henley and your dad were my favorites. Mr. James Neville once told me, "Barthell, shut up. You were vaccinated with a phonograph needle".
I know it is easier to look at someone from outside the family, but I think it must have been good growing up with your dad's sense of humor and your mother's graciousness. I could probably write for a long time about Mrs. LeDuke, but it would become redundant. She is a very great lady and the best teacher ever.
Please give her my very best and God bless!!
July 14, 2009
Dear Jimmy, Cathie, Richard
I cannot begin to tell you how your family influenced me. I have the fondest memories of your dad in Chemistry and Physics classes. He had an unusual sense of humor. I remember one day in chemistry class a student pulled a prank - you know with sulfuric acid. This was back during the days when teachers' language was above and beyond reproach.
However, your dad was quite irritated over the incident and made this comment: "If I were accustomed to saying 'Damn', I would say it right now!" He then became amused at himself and started grinning. He definitely made Chemistry and Physics most enjoyable for me.
Mrs. Catherine was the teacher who had the most impact on my life as a student. I endured four years of high school Latin and through her tutelage won the Mid-South Latin Tournament at Memphis State my senior year. But she went beyond the requirements of a teacher. She was very much concerned for my well being. I had the lead part in the senior play, "Washington Never Slept Here". One day she asked me to stay after class. She asked what was wrong--- I was not effectively acting my part in the play. When I responded that nothing was wrong, she persisted until I finally admitted that I was worried about paying my way through college. She immediately referred me to a gentleman in Martin, Tennessee who, as a result of my visit with him, recommended me for a Gooch Scholarship. Because of that scholarship, I started my college career, and subsequent loans from the Gooch Foundation enabled me to get my degree. After being discharged from the Army I returned to LCHS and taught school for four years with your mom.
I left the teaching profession in 1974 to become a State Farm Insurance Agent in Dyersburg -- a career which I still love. Were it not for the caring attitude of your mom I probably would not have been a teacher nor would I be engaged in the career that I now so thoroughtly enjoy. And in this career, every day it seems I get opportunities to help other people, just as your mom helped me.