Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Mama Cromer

The service for Allie Mae Cromer was a celebration of her godly life of 102 years.  "Beautiful on the inside and out" has become so cliché, but I can honestly say that Allie Mae Cromer was truly this and more.  Ten years ago, her granddaughter Amanda Vickery, one of my closest friends, wrote an accurate, unforgettable story about her Mama Cromer for Grandparents' Day at Midway Elementary School, where she teaches. Both privileged and honored, I read it at Mama Cromer's service. 

The story was followed perfectly by a message by her pastor, Don Cox. I know you'll enjoy Amanda's story as much as I did.  And please, don't miss the message after that.  Both Amanda and Don gave me so much to think about for my own life. 

My Grandmother
Allie Mae Cromer

Allie Mae (17) &
Claude Cromer
My grandmother, Allie Mae Cromer, born in the year 1913, grew up picking cotton for less than 30 cents a day. She grew up in a small but full home with eight brothers and sisters.  During her elementary school years, she would often go and stay with her aunt in town to attend the town school and come home on weekends. Her favorite Bible verse is Proverbs 31:30, "Charm is deceptive and beauty disappears, but a woman who honors the Lord shall be praised."  She lives out this verse in her life each day.
I always dreamed of having a little girl one day and naming her after my Grandmother.  In 1996, my dream came true.  Our daughter, Allie Cromer Vickery, was born.  My grandmother was so thrilled to hear that we had named our Allie after her.  We decided to go with Allie Cromer, leaving out the Mae knowing one day she would "get us good." My grandmother could not understand why we would name our daughter Allie. Here are some of the reasons we did:
Mama Cromer, as most call her, turned 95 in May.  She has piercing blue eyes that twinkle and a sweet cackling laugh.  She is 95 going on 18.  She even has Oil of Olay anti-age wrinkle cream in her medicine cabinet.  She washes her own little station wagon AND drives it, too.  She never misses church and backs her own car up in her parking space each Sunday.
Not long ago after church one Sunday, it was raining really hard.  I said, "Mama Cromer, let me go and get your car for you."  She said, "No, honey, I'm fine!" She proceeded to put her black leather purse on her frail shoulder, her black leather Bible under her armpit and pop up her "flowery" umbrella and head off in her black leather pumps.
Her favorite shows are Jeopardy and Price is Right.  She continues to bake her famous coconut cake.  She still insists on doing it the old-fashioned way by breaking the coconut herself on her driveway.  She grates the coconut only on the fine side of the grater. (That takes a lot longer!)
Most of all, my grandmother is known for her flower garden. It is more magnificent that any words could ever say! It is where we gather each Easter to hide eggs.  We have to be careful amongst her flowers.  Each flower has a tin stake labeled with a shaky hand-written name of each flower.  My grandfather made all of these for her before he died.
She goes to bed at 8:00 and rises at 5:00.  (These days she even wakes at 12:00 midnight to turn off her sprinkler). Early each morning she heads straight out to her garden.  If you ride by her house, you can see her bent over body and the silhouette of her wide brim sunhat.  You really don't notice her small white wood house because it is surrounded with so much beauty! She has gardened her entire life.  Her garden is loved and visited by so many people.  She says that God has multiplied her seeds and bulbs because she has shared them with friends and family.  Although she lives alone, she is never lonely, for she has so many garden visitors during the day.

She wins awards for her flowers, too.  Mainly, she is known for her daylilies.  One time, she even won an award for winning the most awards.  Another time, she won a Bass boat and sold it to purchase central heat and air for her home.

She is a strong and prideful woman.  I have never known a woman quite like her.  Over her 95 years, she has lost her husband and one of her five children to cancer.  She has kept her strong spirit through it all.  Her beautiful blue twinkling eyes are beginning to fail her, and her hearing is growing weak.  Other than that, she is still much like the young girl picking cotton, but in an aged body.

After my own father died, she and my mama became best friends again.  During Grandparents' week, she always comes to Midway with Mama.  My daddy never had a chance to come and visit our wonderful school.  My mama gently leads Mama Cromer's frail body down these long shiny halls.  She holds on to her tightly every step of the way.  Having her here at Midway for Grandparents' Day is all I have ever known.  "I can't imagine," she tells us, "being a part of such a wonderful, beautiful school as this. Midway is such an opportunity," she tells my girls.  They ask her about when she was in school.  She tells them of how schools were long ago.  We are all amazed at how things have changed.

That one little girl I dreamed of turned into two little girls.  My prayer for them both is that they grow up to be like my Mama Cromer.

Amanda Vickery

Amanda's prayer for Allie and Maggie is what a mother's prayer should be for her daughter, a faithful and giving life. 

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 2 Timothy 4:6-7

Paul encouraged Timothy personally and challenged him to be faithful and persevere in his ministry.  Dr. Cox spoke of Mama Cromer's race.

Looking at the tiny frame of Mrs. Cromer, you might not think of her as a warrior or a runner, but in essence, in Christ that is what she was. She became a disciple of Jesus earlier in life when she placed her trust in Jesus to be her Lord and Savior.  She was one who put her hand to the plow and never looked back. Her battle and race was not like that of Apostle Paul.  She did not face martyrdom, but she was faithful in that sense that all Christians are called to be in how she lived life in the sphere the Lord gave to her.

Mrs. Cromer's battle, her race, was more along the lines of 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 "make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders."

Paul places this type of life right in the center of what it means to be faithful to Jesus.

As Amanda mentioned in her story, Mama Cromer's yard was a sight to behold.  In Anderson, most know about her yard, especially her daylilies.  No matter how fragile, she didn't stop working.  Everyone knew she enjoyed God's creation. Dr. Cox reminded us that not only did she enjoy communing with her Savior as she worked, she also glorified Him with the array of colors that grew up due to her diligence. 

Amanda prays for her daughters to be like Mama Cromer, but that is actually an appropriate prayer for all of us.  I, too, need to grow up to be like Mama Cromer. She was a person in love with Jesus who did good and showed kindness.  If she gave you a flower from her garden, she gave the best that she had.  Dr. Cox challenged her family, and I felt challenged as well.

As Paul wrote to encourage Timothy through his life, you her family know that as she loved you, raised you, spent those times talking with you, listening to you, praying for you, cooking for you, she was doing that to model before you how a believer should live for the Lord. She wanted to be a consistent witness, and she was. Allie Mae had to make choices to sacrifice so as to minister to others and to advance the cause of Jesus. Mrs. Cromer would want you her family and us her friends to see her life in the light of Paul's words to Timothy.  She was pouring her life out for Christ not so as to earn eternal life but because she had received eternal life as a gift. As she lived out her life by the principles of the faith she kept or to which she was faithful, she would want us to run the race well.    

Mama Cromer lived a faithful life, even in difficult circumstances.  She was certainly a role model for those seeking to live that life.

You are known as ones who are part of the family of Allie Mae Cromer-a great woman in the eyes of God. As people could always look at her and see faithfulness, as they could pass by her house on that little corner with the beautiful garden and be reminded that the fragrance of Jesus hangs there as much as the fragrance of flowers, so let your homes and your lives continually be known likewise.

I can only hope and pray that when my race is finished, I leave a story as this,