These ladies discovered the secret of true happiness
“Creature, Momma is fading fast. When the time comes, Regina and I would like you to preach her funeral. Would you be available?” Geneva Rigsby has always called me “Creature” instead of “Preacher.” I quickly responded, “I’d be honored to, Miss Aneva.” The little kids always called her Miss Aneva. With such a happy, selfless mother as Maggie, it’s no wonder Geneva and her sister Regina are so fun-loving.
I preached Maggie’s memorial service just a few weeks ago in a rural funeral home north of Nashville. I centered my message on a passage I have never used for such a service in all my years in the ministry—Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart does good, like strong medicine.” It fit her so well.
Maggie was a member of the first church I pastored, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Orlinda, Tn. Orlinda is one of those towns you cannot get to unless you are going there. The church had about seventy faithful members, most of them tobacco or dairy farmers. Pleasant Hill was indeed a pleasant experience for the most part, and Maggie helped to make it that way.
Doing good for others was Maggie’s trademark. I cannot remember any aspect of church work that she was not involved in, from teaching to planning to cooking to washing dishes. She served selflessly for the sake of others around her. She was quite supportive of me as a young pastor still wet behind the ears. She also gave of her time and energy to the town of Orlinda as a councilwoman and senior citizen center coordinator.
Life had slapped Maggie around pretty badly at times. And due to physical ailments earlier in life, she once confided to me, she would arrive home from work exhausted. She’d pray at bedtime, “Lord, please give me the strength to make it through one more day.” He would. And she would pray the same prayer the next night. I recall holding her hand in the hospital one evening as she told me almost breathlessly, “Bro. Bill, between the Lord and Dr. Gill, this will turn out alright.” It did.
Maggie did me and the other officiating minister a real favor the day of her funeral. She had so lived her life as to make her memorial service a joy to preach.
As I was leaving the funeral home, I ran into one of my former dairy farmers, Doug Morgan. I had not seen him in fifteen years. Naturally I had to ask him about his mother Hattie and sister Sandy. Hattie, at eighty years of age, has her hands full caring for her daughter. Sandy has Down’s Syndrome. Up until three years ago, she was active and happy. Although she could not talk, she could gesture with her hands and arms to express herself. She smiled a lot. Today she is bedfast and not very responsive. We went to visit them. Hattie’s love for Sandy is obvious.
“The doctor told us at birth that Sandy might not live past six. But if she lived to six, she might make it to twelve. And if she made it to twelve, she might make it to eighteen. If she made it to eighteen, who could know how long she might live,” Hattie informed us. “And now she is sixty-three.”
I stroke Sandy’s hair as Marcia and I told her goodbye. “She has been such a joy to us,” said Hattie, smiling.
I have observed many individuals intent on chasing down the elusive blue bird of happiness but ending up in abject misery. What are they doing wrong? They might take a lesson from Maggie and Hattie. A “merry” heart (joyful, happy in all circumstances) resides only in those who care about others more than self.
“And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35).
“Letnothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).