By Gary Cook
The ancient words from the wisdom literature of Ecclesiastes 3 concerning a time for living, dying and laughing and the words from Proverbs 31 about laughing at the days to come become more real as one gets older. We are blessed if we know these truths and even more blessed to see them lived before us.
I saw them lived in two remarkable sisters who were born to the Bounds family in Kemper County, Miss. Their names were Lorena and Mara. They thought each other’s thoughts, finished each other’s sentences and were almost always laughing when they were together.
Lorena was my wife Linda’s mother. I could not have had a better mother-in-law. Her husband died a few weeks before Linda and I met in 1965. Lorena was only 54 years old at the time. Her daughter was soon to be engaged and married. Her son lived in California. But Lorena did not miss a step in her life. She went back to college, lived in the dormitory, was consistently on the dean’s list and finished her degree. She then became a school teacher until her retirement.
When Lorena was 85, without much prompting, she decided she needed to be near her daughter, Linda. With the help of her son and her daughter she sold her house, left her beloved Mississippi and moved to Oklahoma where her son-in-law was a pastor. She had three very good years in Oklahoma and two years that were difficult.
In the first three years she would say to me laughing, “Don’t you bury me in Oklahoma; you take me back to Mississippi!” In the last two years she would often say to Linda, “I want to go home!” Linda would respond by asking, “Where do you want to go, Mama, back to your home here or back to Mississippi?” Lorena would say, “I just want to go home!”
At the age of 90 Lorena “went home,” and as I had so often smilingly promised we took her body back to the Mississippi soil in a cemetery beside the West Kemper Baptist Church.
Lorena’s sister, Mara, also had that wonderful spark that so enriches life. She outlived two husbands and was ordained as a Baptist deacon in her 60s. Last spring Linda and I went to Mara’s 100th birthday celebration. She was resplendent that day and she was laughing. Later she suffered a broken hip, and as a result she decided it was time for her to “go home.” A few days before she died she called her church and said, “You take my name off the prayer list. I don’t want anyone praying that I will get better because I am ready to go!”
Her daughter described one of her last days saying, “We listened to a lot of music. We were listening to Elvis singing How Great Thou Art. I was so caught up in the moment I started singing along.” Mother said, “be quiet, I just want to hear Elvis!”
Somewhere in that place we often call home, Lorena and Mara are still laughing at the days to come!