We were watching an old Dick Van Dyke Show the other night, when I just started crying. Grieving is like that. It catches you by surprise.
The character Sally was doing a song and dance at a show for inmates at a prison. She sang Cotton Fields, by Huddie Ledbetter…
When I was a little bitty baby my Mama would rock me in the cradle, in those old cotton fields back home…
It doesn’t seem like a tear-jerker. But my mama was raised in Louisiana and her daddy grew cotton. And picking that cotton was one of the last childhood memories to leave her.
Mom also told a story over and over, about how her own Mama would put the baby of the family (Mama was the third of eleven children) on a big gunny sack that was tied around her waist. And she would pull her baby along near her while she filled the sack with cotton. This was the last story I remember hearing from Mama about her childhood. The story that stuck and held firm through the decay of dementia.
Years later, when she didn’t tell the story anymore, I’d ask her if she picked cotton when she was young.
“Oh-h, YES!” she’d answer, with no doubts. Until eventually even that memory melted away.
Anyway, so there I was watching a sit-com with an upbeat song and dance, crying away. When I calmed down I called my dad to check in with him. He was doing well that night, so I told him about the song and how it made me cry, choking up again as I did.
Dad said, “Well, she hasn’t picked cotton for many, many years.” And then he added, “I’m sitting here thinking about all the things my sweetheart is enjoying in heaven, and it makes me happy.”
I don’t want to imply here that my dad isn’t having his own emotional times, because he is. But I caught him in a good hour. And his words soothed my soul.
It’s okay for those of us left behind to cry. And we will. Often. But what a precious comfort to picture the truth of heaven and the indescribable joys that Mama is relishing there.
She’s not in those old cotton fields back home. Mama is Home with Jesus.