I don’t want to feel sorry for myself. Geez, if you hang in here with me after that line, well, then, God bless you.
Today would have been my mother’s eight-first birthday, and every time I tried to write something eloquent, I failed hard. She was the best, and I miss her. During these last couple of months, I have been overwhelmed by the outreach of kindness and sympathy from friends, hers and mine. These words are among my favorite:
“I have sat beside, under her leadership and so close in prayer with your mother, on many Monday mornings—
She brought life, laughter, peace, memorized scripture passages, prayer needs and most importantly she taught me about “grace notes” and moments our Lord gives to us and our family: encouragements, joy, blessings—these are prayers of praise!
Praise prayers were prayed for you: in your teaching positions, your home sales and purchases, your honors, her grandchildren, births, graduations, and accomplishments. She thanked God for Kody, his strength and promotions, provision for you. We as a circle of friends “cheered you on” with our hearts lifted in unison for any concern, worry, or need. She prayed lovingly and with faithfulness, waiting patiently on our Lord to answer. I am still learning “patiently”. So, so thankful for her wisdom and understanding our Holy God and His promise, Psalm 31:15 “our times are in His hands.”
May you, sweet Crystal see and hear in this note, your mother’s deep spiritual love, her constant commitment to you…”
And these words go on. So, today I celebrate my mother. I see her as the picture of health with a smile that radiates sheer joy, and I hear her voice through the thoughtfulness of her friend. I hope she hears me, too. Happy Birthday, Dear Mama! Happy Birthday, to you!
On the corner of the desk at my mom and dad’s house, a stack of addressed envelopes in my mother’s handwriting remained for years. Three, four, or more. The cards inside were written to her nieces and nephews. One was for my daughter Lauren. I always wondered why they were never mailed, but one cannot argue with Alzheimer’s. Upon my mother’s death, we opened one that was not addressed, and we found a story from my mom and a letter. I think she wants you to have it. I think it’s all to say that everything will be okay.
I want to tell you a story. This is a true story. It is about me. How my life was changed.
From Sharon Savage Petty
When I was a very little girl, before I went to school, our family went to a little white frame church. It was about a half a block east from our house. We walked to church every Sunday. I loved going to church. I loved Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. I loved all the songs and the stories that I learned. I loved Jesus and knew that He loved me. When I was in grade school, the church had grown so much that they decided to build a bigger church. It was built about half a block west of our house and it was made of stone. We continued to walk to church every Sunday morning and Sunday evening and sometimes on Wednesday night. I remember one of my Sunday School teachers more than any other. Her name was Mrs. Ward. It was about that time that I began to listen to what the preacher said that we are all sinners and need a savior. He said that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins. I knew at the young age of ten years old that I was a sinner and I wanted Jesus to be my Savior.
Our little Baptist Church asked people who wanted to invite Jesus into their lives to be Lord and Savior to come to the front as a witness of our commitment to follow him. I wanted to walk down the aisle to make that commitment, but I was a very shy little girl, and I couldn’t make myself go.
I believe it was the next Sunday. I will never forget what happened that day. I heard a small sound, and I looked across the church and saw one of the girls from my class at school. She was walking down the outside aisle. I thought, “If she can do it, I can too.” So I went down the aisle. I prayed to Jesus asking him to forgive my sins and be my Savior and Lord. It was a strong commitment to follow Jesus.
That afternoon, my Mother’s friend came over to visit. She said that she didn’t believe that I was saved, and she thought I went to the altar because my friend did. Her words put doubt in my mind, but I knew in my heart that Jesus was my Savior. That night when I went to bed, I prayed and prayed asking Jesus if I was really saved. I prayed for a very long time that night and, suddenly, I felt great peace come over me. I knew then for sure that I was saved. I got out of bed and went into the living room where my Mother was and told her that I really believed that I was saved. She said, “I believe that you are too.”
I truly know that Jesus has been with me since that day. He promised us that He would send His Holy Spirit to be our Counselor, Guide, and Teacher. He helped me understand the Bible. The Fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). I can’t say that I have had a perfect life, but I can say that I have had “A Wonderful Life”. My relationship with Jesus has grown through the years. I read my Bible and pray often. I am very thankful for the life I have had. I have been truly blessed. I hope that you will make a commitment to follow Jesus and have a personal relationship with Him too. I can truly recommend him.
When my mother tested positive for COVID-19 before Thanksgiving, I was winding down my fall semester. On the last Sunday of November, she left the nursing home via ambulance to the hospital. On December 7th, she returned to her home of forty-five years for hospice care. My dad, my sister Liz, my brother Scott, and I were all there to hold her hand and love on her some more. Somehow, I believe, my mother orchestrated all of it and brought her family together for our goodbyes. Meanwhile, in the final weeks of my mother’s life, John Berger’s novel Here Is Where We Meet spoke directly to me, and I had a final paper to write. This post is an excerpt. In a fusion of fiction and autobiography, Berger weaves separate and seemingly unrelated threads of memories and experience and time and space to depict the interconnectedness of life and death.
The novel begins in Lisboa with the narrator, an author named John, ruminating on his dreams. In John’s dreams his parents are alive, and he phones them for various reasons, forgetting they are dead (2-3). When the Lisboa scene resumes, John’s mother takes his arm, they cross the street, and she says, “John…The thing you should know is this: the dead don’t stay where they are buried” (3). A person who continues to live in the hearts and minds of others can never truly be dead. We carry the dead with us wherever we go, whether we are awake or asleep. John goes to Lisboa and meets his long-dead mother there.
In her farewell to John, Mother shares a final philosophy on life and some motherly advice, which shapes the course of the novel. She says, “we are here to repair a little of what was broken” (51) and “we come to the eternal conundrum of making something out of nothing” (53). She advises her son, the writer, to “Just write down what you find…and do us the courtesy of noticing us” (53). For the rest of the novel, John does his mother the courtesy of practicing her advice, noticing the dead, and writing down his memories of them. Perhaps the narrator John and the author John Berger are one in the same, and in writing this book, perhaps both Johns repair a little of what was broken.
John, the narrator, spends the rest of the book traveling throughout Europe, from Lisboa to Genève to Kraków to Islington to Le Pont d’Arc to Madrid and to the Polish village of Górecko, as if travel is one of life’s secrets. He moves fluidly between settings, the past and present, the living and the dead. His travels reveal the most important people, places, and experiences of his life. John Berger published Here Is Where We Meet at age 79, probably when he considered the influences and interconnections of life and death more than ever before.
John Berger’s eight chapters conclude with chapter 8 ½, a one-page dialogue scene with his mother that ends where the novel begins and connects it all together. Mother repeats her earlier advice, “Just write down what you find” (237). Perhaps life ends in the same way—we remember our loved ones and their words and connect all the pieces. John’s mother returns to her point in the way that people do when they want to make sure their audience has heard the message. Yet, even after eight chapters depicting the courtesy of noticing and writing it down, John responds by saying, “I’ll never know what I’ve found.” He doubts what he knows as we all tend to do, but in truth, John has found more than he realizes, making something out of nothing.
My mother passed at home on Christmas Eve, surrounded by her family. She is no longer here, yet she is vividly here. In my mind, my beautiful Mama radiates the sheer joy of her prime and laughs a sparkling twenty-year-old laugh. She lives on through my family, in our hearts and minds, and in the countless number of trees she planted around my hometown. I can only hope to do my mother the courtesy of continuing to notice, to write down what I find, and to repair a little of what was broken..
Sharon Sue Petty, 80, passed away peacefully at home amid family on December 24, 2020. The third of five children, Sharon was born February 26, 1940, at home in Oklahoma City to Edward Tony and Catherine Leota Barker Savage. She brought extra joy into this world.
As a young girl, Sharon wanted to be president of the United States. She met David Kent Petty at the end of her eighth-grade year when she was elected Student Council president. David, as the outgoing president, swore in Sharon as the new president. These kids fell for each other at Northeast High School in Oklahoma City, and they swore their lives to each other in marriage on May 29, 1961. Sharon chose to be the best wife and mother she could be, and she was.
Sharon attended Oklahoma State University and delayed her graduation to support David through law school. When the family moved to Guymon in January 1970, Sharon continued her studies and graduated from Oklahoma Panhandle State University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education.
Sharon loved gardening. Over the years, she cultivated many productive vegetable gardens and gave away bushels of zucchini. She applied for and received grants of over $100,000 for trees to beautify Guymon. She planted and watered many trees personally. Sharon also served several terms as the president of the Rose Garden Club in Guymon, where she mentored other gardeners. Sharon’s top gardening tips included 1) Only trim shrubs in the months with “R” in them. 2) Planting trees in the fall gives them a chance to grow before leaves require moisture. 3) Knockout roses are wonderful. They bloom from spring to the first freeze. They are hardy and resist disease and drought.
Active in her church and community, Sharon taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School and helped with Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts. She volunteered as a tutor in Guymon Public Schools, as an ombudsman at the Heritage Community, and as a committee member for Guymon on the Move. Sharon visited, mentored, and shared hope with inmates and met weekly with her beloved ladies’ Bible study groups. A member of Victory Memorial United Methodist Church, Sharon was involved with United Methodist Women, the UMW Clothing Ministry, the Stephen Ministry, Martha Ruth Circle, and several church committees. UMW honored Sharon with their special recognition for her service. In 2002, the City of Guymon recognized her as Citizen of the Year. In 2004, Beta Sigma Phi sorority awarded Sharon the honor of Woman of the Year. In 2008, Main Street Guymon recognized Sharon for her efforts toward the city’s beautification. Sharon only wanted to make a difference, and she did.
Sharon touched many lives with her beautiful smile, unconditional love, and constant kindness, and her life was a living example of her favorite Bible verse, Isaiah 41:13. “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Sharon fought the challenges of Alzheimer’s and complications from COVID-19 with the supernatural strength and courage of her heavenly Father. At age ten, Sharon knew she needed Jesus, and she felt His presence throughout her days.
Sharon is survived by her husband David of the home; daughter Liz Lee and husband Mike of Guymon; son Scott Petty and wife Gerri of Stillwater; daughter Crystal Byers and husband Kody of Houston, Texas; grandchildren Chase Lee, Gant Lee, Drew Byers, Lauren Byers, Catherine Petty and Will Petty; two great granddaughters Olivia and Allyson Lee; her brother and his wife, John Paul and Nancy Savage of Granbury, Texas; her sister-in-law Linda Savage of Norman; and many nephews and nieces. Sharon was preceded in death by her sister Carol Rose Payton and two brothers James Edward Savage and Joed Cleve Savage. All of these she loved and touched deeply.
Sharon’s life will be celebrated with a graveside service at Elmhurst Cemetery in Guymon on Monday, December 28th at 2:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Rose Garden Club of Guymon or the Panhandle State Foundation scholarship fund. In her memory, please wear a mask and maintain distance in public.
My first memories
include my Mama’s voice.
No matter where she is,
no matter where I am,
I hear her—
“There was a little girl,
who had a little curl,
right in the middle
of her forehead.”
Mama points in thin air,
draws a circle.
“And when she was good,
she was very, very good,”
she emphasizes very,
nods up and down,
“and when she was bad,”
she exaggerates bad,
lifts an eyebrow,
“she was horrid.”
shakes her head.
It’s a gentle warning.
Her words still ring true.
At the end of each day,
Mama would always say,
“Goodnight, sleep tight.
Don’t let the bed bugs bite.
And if they do…”
This is my cue.
I say, “Take your shoe,
and rub their tummies
black and blue.”
Mama says, “I love you.”
And I say back, “I love you, too.”
It's our routine.
In times of trouble,
Mama stands on God’s word.
How many times did I hear
“And we know that all things
work together for good
to those who love the Lord
to those who are called
according to His purpose.”
Mama would say it now
if she could.
And then—"I love you.”
But I hear her voice.
"I love you, too, Mama."
No matter where you are.
No matter where I am.
As long as I can remember, I’ve been a mama’s girl. I dropped out of pre-school, and my mother was my safety net. She chose her battles and her strategies, and in the end I finished out the year. She tucked me in each night with a “Good night, Sugarplum” or a “Good night, sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” She chauffeured me back and forth to school and home each day. The aroma of banana bread filled our kitchen. I would change clothes for dance lessons or gymnastics and jump back in the car with mom. Those lessons moved south by two hours to Amarillo during 5th and 6th grade and forty minutes northeast to Liberal during the 9th. Mom always drove. She never complained. How many hours did we spend together just the two of us? She was in my every audience at every recital, every swim meet, every school activity. And after my freshman year at OU when I found myself pregnant, she helped me move from my dorm into my first apartment and accompanied me to childbirth classes. Even though I lived five hours from home, she drove ten hours round trip each week and held my nineteen-year-old hand as I became a mom.
My mother taught me unconditional love, stood by me during the best and worst of times, and prayed with me and for me non-stop. Somehow my best doesn’t seem to compare.
Once upon a time, I was a soccer mom, Lauren was highly competitive, and we criss-crossed the U. S. for the love of the game. One spring evening about thirteen years ago, I remember sitting on the sidelines watching practice with Jane, another mom, who confided, “Natasha told me that Lauren pierced her belly button.”
“Oh, really?” I said.
Lauren was a freshman in high school at the time, too young to be showing anyone belly buttons or belly rings. Even though I may or may not have revealed more than my belly button at her age, I sat through soccer practice devising my mom-plan. The next day the girls would be boarding a plane for a tournament, location now forgettable. Practice gear needed laundering, and I would wait until we returned home to “discover” the piercing for myself.
I remember smiling at Lauren after practice and saying, “Nice workout!” I remember the ride home as if everything was completely normal. I remember walking into Lauren’s room once home, pointing at her Texans practice t-shirt, and saying, “Take that off. I need to start a load of laundry.”
On cue, Lauren flipped up her shirt, and I gasped with added Mama drama, “What have you done?”
“I pierced my belly button,” she may or may not have said, the memory a teenager now.
I pointed at her navel and said, “Take that out—It’s going to get infected.” Ripped out on the pitch would have been the scarier possibility, but I hadn’t thought through my words or possibilities or consequences, only my detection tactic in keeping the confidence of both Jane and Natasha.
And on cue, Lauren pulled out the piercing and handed it over. At the time, in my mind, removal of the belly ring was punishment enough.
Flash forward a year, same teenager, now a tenth grader.
Lauren’s friend Savannah vacationed in Amsterdam the summer before sophomore year, and Savannah returned with a wonderful souvenir for Lauren—a sterling silver pair of marijuana leaf earrings. I have to give Lauren some credit for showing me the earrings, but I warned her, “You cannot—ever—wear them to school.” Lauren attended school where I taught, and no way ever could she be seen—ever—with cannabis leaves in her ears.
I remember riding shotgun to school one day, Lauren driving with her learner’s permit, a typical morning and a smooth ride considering the fifteen-year-old behind the wheel. At the end of the same day on the way home, Lauren drove once more. This time, I remember the glint of sterling catching my eye from Lauren’s ears. I remember sitting at a red light and commanding once more, “Take those out.” I extended my right hand, palm up. “Give them to me.”
Lauren unscrewed the backs, dislodged the earrings, and placed them in my upturned palm. I can still picture the open field on the passenger side of the street. I remember rolling down my window with her jewelry in hand. In slow motion, I still see myself tossing the silver weed as far as possible into the weeds. I’m pretty sure she hated my guts for that.
Momming ain’t easy, even though my mother made the job seem effortless, but she’s a saint. Sometimes emotions stand in the way. As far as I know, there’s no parenting manual on actions to take when your teen-aged daughter pierces her belly button or sneaks around with marijuana leaves in her ears or hates your guts. I think we all do the best we can, and after that, I’ve found prayer my best hope.
And you know what? Here she is now, age 27, my adulting daughter, BBA in Finance, earning a salary, supporting herself, buying her first car without help, and smiling from ear-to-ear.
And anytime I ask my self, What would my mother do? I know, and I pray.