They called her “Miss Mary.” She and my father came from an older, more formal generation and people she had known all her life called her “Miss Mary” out of old Southern respect. My mother grew up in a time of formal manners, women who stayed at home and raised their children, had supper
on the table when the husband came home, never told their age, and never considered divorce, no matter how unhappy the marriage at times.
She grew up the youngest in a family of three older brothers, the only girl. Her parents doted on her. She had a pony named Jack as a child and her parents let her ride him in the house. It was a farmhouse on the corner of Una Antioch Pike and Murfreesboro Road where Ransom Place now stands. She was Mary Ransom, and that was our family farm.
When she told her father she wanted to mary my dad, her father told her he would get her a pony if she would stay home. He was serious. She was already a schoolteacher at the time, but still living at home and her father did NOT want her to leave home.
She married my father, a military man, and together they traveled the world. My brother and I were adopted late in life by our parents. They lived in Greece a year before we were born, then when I was 3 and my brother 2 years old, we moved to India for three years. My mother loved to travel, was always game for a road trip. The last one we took was in 1990 to a wedding in Iowa a year before she died.
She was not without her flaws and some of them were serious. However, during her ten-year battle with cancer, she was refined through the fire. She had always claimed to be a Christian, and while we went to church when I was a small child, for many years after my elementary school years, she did not go to church or talk much about God. However, during her bout with cancer, her relationship with the Lord blossomed into a full blown, tangible thing, and she developed a strength, compassion and nobility I had never seen in her before.
We had many conversations about God, and her curiosity and passion to learn more were evident. She began to regret some things and I began to forgive some things and for the first time we had a relationship that was based upon a good foundation. She died too soon for it to fully blossom
but the roots were there and we both knew it and acknowledged it especially during the last two or three years of her life. Our roles were fully reversed by then as I was her caregiver.
Shortly before she died her pastor came to call upon her in the hospital. He told her that she was now in a position none of the rest of us were in yet but all would reach one day. He stated she was close to the “other side” and would see God soon, and he asked her what that was like, what she felt as she approached the end of her life here on earth. She looked at him with clear eyes and said that she didn’t know exactly what to expect; she had heard
stories about heaven all her life, about streets of gold and other things and thought it sounded like a good place. Then she added that while she didn’t quite know what to expect, there was one thing she did know: God was on the other side, and that was enough for her.
On Mother’s Day in 1991 instead of giving my mother flowers, I was arranging them on her casket for visitation time at the funeral home.
I have a long list of “wishes” in regard to my mother — things I wish we had both done differently during the ordeal that defined the first two and a half decades of our life together. But I am honored to have know the strong woman she became. She handled a deplorable disease with strength, dignity, and courage and became a person I wish I could have known much much longer. One thing I know is you can never say, “I love you” too often. You can never say, “I forgive you” too soon.
From her I learned to stand on my own two feet, to stand up for myself, and to help those less fortunate than I. She taught me how to knit, do needlepoint and to braid my hair. She gave me a passion for flowers, plants and gardening. She passed to me her love of fine art, classical music and literature. Like her, I became a school teacher. She defined what it was to be “ladylike” and was always a lady in public. And although I have never had one in the house, I love ponies, too.
Some of my expressions and mannerisms are hers, and frequently when I say something to my brother, I hear my mother’s admonitions coming out of my mouth. I miss her. I wish I had known her better, known her longer. Like my mother, I know God is on the other side, and one day I’ll be there with Him, too, and I figure I’ll have all the time I need to get to know her then.