Remembering Mama Lou Nealy

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By JE Bolton

The Bible (Hebrews 13:2) says, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers. For thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

This past week, a community and church lost a very special lady. Everyone who read the obituary knew her as Lou J. Nealy. To those of us who had the pleasure of knowing this special lady, she was Mama Lou and she touched my life in a special way no one knows about until now.

I remember several times after church, Mama Lou, her daughter Faye and I would always go out and eat. We’d talk for the longest and I always looked forward to those special times of fellowship. Of course, little did I know it was more than just mere fellowship. One evening, I’d learn a very important truth.

I don’t normally share facets of my own personal life or my past, unless I feel it’s necessary for someone else to feel a little less alone. So, here goes. For various personal reasons I don’t wish or feel a need to indulge detail by sordid detail, I had a hard time owning my own last name. For the longest time, I told everyone I was Jason St. James.     

Why St. James? I have no idea.  

In the process of “being” Jason St. James, I hoped I’d be accepted by others and would accept myself in the process. When you’re in your early 20s, it’s that awkward transition between teenager and adulthood where you’re trying to find your place in life. When you get to be my age, you learn not to really care what the world thinks. As long as you know God loves you and you love yourself, everything else just falls into place.

I liked being another person for a little while, but the truth was I wasn’t happy because I really didn’t know who I was. Talk about a major identity crisis, eh?

Then, it was that evening talking with Mama Lou and Faye that changed my life forever. I worked up the nerve and told them I was really a Bolton and then explained my past situation. I thought Mama Lou would disown me from her circle for being a liar, but she didn’t.

Instead, she shocked me by saying the last thing in the word I expected, “Oh, honey, Faye and I are related to the Boltons, too!”

We not only found out we were Boltons, but were also related to each other. What a wonderful surprise! Because I had so much respect for this woman, it made me realize that old Shakespeare quote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

I’m so grateful for people like Mama Lou who made me see something I could’ve never seen any other way. God really used this wonderful lady to touch not only my life, but the lives of everyone she encountered. And if I know Mama Lou, she’s up in heaven right now rejoicing with the angels and sharing her story.

Thank you, Mama Lou. You’ve not only blessed us with your life, but you’ve touched us even more with your legacy of love.

Goodbye for now, my dear cousin and kindred. I’ll see you later, and then we can talk forever and a day.