Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Black History Month Nudges our Memories

(On August 25, 2005 my brother and I and our wives drove down to Hurtsboro, Alabama to a tiny black church on the edge of that town. It was the home church of Nancy Fears and this would be the day of her funeral. Our family was the only white folks in that church. When the Pastor wanted to know if anybody had anything to say this is what I said...
I give you my remarks because in this Black History Month we all need to remember all those black folk that graced our lives. Back then especially 
they worked and lived and dreamed mostly out of sight. Most of them never had their names in a newspaper. And yet--our lives would have been far smaller and much diminished without these brave souls who gave so very much with so little praise or pay. On this day so long since 2005--I once again rise up and call her blessed.) -rl

We have all gathered here on this sad day to honor Nancy Fears. We look back on this special life of 94 years. We remember who she was and all the things that made ump her life--and so we have come to pay a tribute.

Outside my Mother--Nancy was my teacher. She only finished the third grade her daughter Betty Ann told me. But Nancy was my teacher. She kept my brother and me while my mother and Daddy were at work in the mill. She kept us safe and clean. I don't know how she came into our lives--but she was a blessing.

I just want to mention some of the things that I learned from dear Nancy.

I learned about patience. Growing up is hard for all of us. But I can remember sitting at our kitchen table pouring out my disappointments. She would turn and say sharply, "Roger, just you wait. Just you wait. Chile--you got to be patient."

I learned a lot about faith from Nancy. She would tell me from time to time, "You got to believe. How can anybody get through this world without believing." She never talked much about faith--she just lived it. Never pious or self-righteous, she just lived her faith out.

I learned about the dignity of every human being from Nancy. I don't have to tell people in this room about how it was in the nineteen forties. You could tell me stories that would make my hair stand on end. There was a hard line drawn between black folks and white folks. I didn't know many black folks back then. That was one of the terrible things about segregation. But I knew Nancy. I trusted her. I loved her. i knew she was as important as anybody else. I learned a little later how wrong the world was to black folk. But when I started preaching I talked a lot about the dignity of everybody. I learned that lesson from my teacher, Nancy.

I learned about loyalty and commitment from Nancy. Even though we couldn't 't pay her very much because we had so little she was committed to our family. She would just appear many Saturdays after she had worked all week in the mill. And she would say: "This house needs a cleaning." And the dust would fly--she did it because she loved us. She defended us. She kept up with births and weddings and funerals. She sat with us when our father died and later our mother. This picture above shows Nancy standing on the front porch of our flour-room house holding my little girl in her arms proudly.

Nancy taught me about gratitude. Born in 1910 I cannot even imagine how hard life was. Maybe that's why her father took her to school in Chicago hoping it might be better than Alabama. Even though her life was hard--she didn't stay down long. She was grateful. She was gratefully for her children and talked about them often.She used to tell me stories about Hurtsboro. She was grateful that she had survived--even though she never used that word.

I could talk a long time--but my brother and I have come to grieve with you. Nancy has laid her burden down. She aches no more. Whatever cares and worries she had are all over. She is at peace. 

When my Mother died Nancy stood by the casket and talked to my mother. She said, "Miss Ruth you worked hard, hard all your life. You raised two good boys but now you don't have to work no more. You just rest, Miss Ruth, you just rest."

And I would give Nancy back the words today that she gave us back then. "Nancy you worked hard, hard all your life. You raised several fine children. And you don't have to work no more. Dear Nancy, you just rest. You just rest."

--Roger Lovette /

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