By: Terry Gassett
She was known to all in her neighborhood as Miss Mattie, an ultimate title of respect and recognition for her matriarchal position in the community. She was laying in a hospital bed when we first met, old, tired, and wrinkled. Her kidney function was failing, and she hadn’t much time left to live. But if one looked carefully, remnants of her younger self were still visible. Her chapped and cracked lips still turned upwards, ever so slightly, hinting that happiness was once very much a part of her life. Although her hands were calloused, they implied her hard work ethic. Broad shoulders made one wonder how many babies she had burped on them, and how many heads had found a place to cry.
My husband was the first to meet her while serving as a volunteer hospital chaplain at the time. He had been asked to visit Miss Mattie regularly, which he did. He often spoke about me during their visits, and on one occasion she asked if he could bring me next time so we could meet. He did, and we became instant friends. After that, I visited her daily in the hospital and prayed for and with her. We spent time talking about family and faith, life and death. We spent time praying to our God, who ultimately makes sense of it all.
The doctors told her that there was nothing more they could do for her and she was sent home to die. She asked me if I would continue to visit her at home, and I assured her I would.
Miss Mattie lived in a neighborhood on the outskirts of town, riddled with poverty, high crime rate, and illegal drugs. Not a place I would typically drive through alone, much less stop for a visit.
When I made my first appearance in the neighborhood, people stared at me with suspicion, contempt and in some cases, hatred in their eyes and what they said. Racial slurs, obscenities, and threats were thrown at me the instant my foot touched the ground. Strangely, I felt no fear.
I kept walking, found my way to her front porch, and entered Miss Mattie’s home.
She was set up in the living room in a hospital bed surrounded by friends and family. I received a warm welcome from her, but a decidedly cool one from everyone else.
Miss Mattie soon set everyone straight; I was a friend and a guest in her home. She made it clear that she expected her family and friends to welcome me, she did. Although they neither knew me nor trusted me, what Miss Mattie said was law and was respected and obeyed.
I continued to visit Miss Mattie over the course of several months. I spoke with her and prayed with her, and had numerous conversations with her family members and neighbors when they visited. Gradually, I was allowed to take her grand kids for ice cream and to bring them to my house to play with my kids.
Eventually, the slurs became less, than nill, and slowly her family and friends trusted and respected me. Finally, I earned the ultimate title of “Miss Terry”.
Sadly, Miss Mattie died. My husband and I were asked by her family to be “honored guests” at her funeral, as I was to give the eulogy during the church service. I
As I spoke of “OUR” Jesus – the ONE whose love unites and not divides – and shared the gospel of His saving grace, people’s hearts were opened by God to receive Christ’s love and forgiveness, and racial barriers came tumbling down.
God opened many other doors for me to continue to share the love of Christ and to pray for the sick and hurting in Miss Mattie’s neighborhood for many more years. It was a privilege I am still grateful for today.
I still marvel in awe of how He worked in all of our hearts – including my own – all starting with the friendship between one black lady (Miss Mattie) and one white lady (Miss Terry).
Indeed, God’s love embraces all colors, and so makes true friendship.
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
Hi, I’m Terry Gassett, Jesus Follower, Wife, Mother, Nina, Life Coach, and Writer. I was born and raised in the “Deep South” and I still live and work there. My heartthrob and I have been married for over 30 years, and we have three grown children, three granddaughters (two who are twins!) and a Chi Chi/Jack Russell perpetual pup.
I am a Life Design Coach and I work with Creative Christian Women to design lives of purpose, passion, and joy!
When not listening to women’s hearts through the coaching process, I am expressing my own through writing. Currently, I’m writing my first book – “Breathe, Just, Breathe: Breathing in the Extraordinary Gifts of God on Ordinary Days.”
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