Exodus 20: 12 "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (NIV)
Cora Lou Newberry, "Nana" was born August 4, 1909 in Hempstead County, deep southern Arkansas. She became Nana to all when my sister was born in 1957. She had four siblings, three sisters, a brother, father and mother.
She always referred to her father as "Daddy" and mother as "Momma." Great Grandpa Newberry share cropped a cotton farm. Nana arose before the sun to eat, milk the cow, and feed the chickens. Then drive the horse drawn wagon around the farm as Great Grandpa Newberry and workers loaded bails.
Two of her sisters lived into their 90's and were godly women. They would fuss year's later saying, "Daddy always favored Cora." Nana smiled as she related their words, she never told them Daddy only trusted me to drive the horses as I was the most gentle with them."
I remember the tenderness when she said, "Momma and Daddy" to parent in their 80's. This gave me a brief glimpse of the word "Abba" (no exact English equivalent). Nana truly honored Momma and Daddy for the 92 years they lived.
Wagon full, they headed to Old Washington, Arkansas to drop the cotton to a wholesaler. Then all children to the one room school house. She accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior at age twelve in 1921. Her favorite hymn was the Old Rugged Cross.
Though I never thought to ask, Psalm 23 was her life passage. I get this idea from all the needle point, cross stich,bookmarks and poems she wrote on this Psalm. God was her Shepherd and Christ held her life. She knew her Lord and only listened to His voice. (John 10:27 – 30)
She didn't have a home with complete wood floors until married to my Papa in 1931, moving to Texarkana, Arkansas. No electricity until the 50's. Papa worked the jobs available and their duration during The Great Depression. He finally landed a long-term job with B&O Railroad. God blessed them greatly. He worked for the railroad until retiring after 35 years.
Papa's $12 pay came at the end of the month. They gathered round table splitting money into rent, bills and groceries. If any was left, it was put into a jar for emergencies.
Southern cities in the USA at this time were divided in half by a road. Nana and her family lived on one side of that road. Caucasian side and in segregated south, African-American. My Nana loved people not matter who, what, or ethnicity.
My uncle related two stories several years back at which he cried. An African-American family, whose father was a dentist and more affluent, lived across the road from them. She did their weekly laundry for $.25 a week. Caucasians weren't supposed to work for African-Americans. Nana put the money in the jar.
In her eighties, a friend was placed in a nursing home. Each week she spent over an hour talking to and doing her hair until she passed away. The friend's closest surviving relative was a niece in Los Angeles. Arriving to tend to her late aunt's affairs, she saw how well kept was her hair.
The niece asked who on the staff to thank. They said none of them; thank Nana. The woman was placed in the nursing home with Alzheimer's. She wasn't aware of who, what, or Nana being there talking and doing her hair. The niece thanked Nana and sent her roses monthly until she passed.
She always believed, hoped and stood for the best. Nana said she prayed for me every day, from my birth on March 15, 1960. I never doubted it for a second. She never complained or spoke "ill" of anyone. Not televangelist stealing millions or ones falling from immorality.
In the 1960's, getting a card from her was a treat with taped coins to a card or a $1 bill in an envelope! There was always a note. Though short, saying how much she loved, prayed, and thanked God for me.
She woke before Papa, fixing bacon, eggs, toast, and coffee by 4:30 AM. Papa's lunch for work was packed and breakfast waiting on the table. In grade school summer breaks, the most exciting time was the week stay with Nana and Papa.
I wanted to see their mornings. Around age 9, I asked Nana to wake me. At 4:40 AM, she got me out of bed for breakfast. You could smell the aroma from across the house. Around 5:10 AM, we went to the front porch to the rocking chairs. Each brought their coffee and bibles.
They would read and then look up gazing into the distance for a while. Then look back down to read. I realize now they were praying and meditating on what the Spirit was speaking to their hearts. Nana would usually get them one coffee refill and around 6:10 AM stopped (10 minute work drive).
It was time to get Papa to work at the railroad station by 6:30 AM. We'd climb into their car and drive him to the station.
I would spend days with Nana. We watched birds in the bath outside. Our favorite was the glorious red cardinal, so bright they glistened in the morning light. Their beauty spoke of God's Glory.
In the early afternoon, she would let me watch a couple of hours of TV. Nana would always come check on me; bringing a treat of fruit and a drink. When TV time was over, we would sit and visit, until time for us to get Papa from work.
Meals at Nana's were seven course. Vegetables, fruits, meat, rolls and dessert eaten till you were more than full. She didn't want anyone leaving the table hungry. A favorite of mine were the lemon drops in three rooms she kept in the house.
The first greeting of the day with her, Nana would tell you how much she loved you and reach over and grab your forearm, squeezing it. When the stay was over, she would tell me how thankful she was I came to see her and begin to tear up. Nana would reach over and grab my forearm to tell me she loved me. She couldn't speak without breaking down to cry. Nana's forearm squeeze came to mean over the years, her great love for you.
I would try to call in the late 70's and 1980's, always getting a busy signal. She only raised three boys during the Depression and WWII. Be a stay at home mom, who was at her church whenever the door was open. Then call all her neighbors just to make sure they were doing alright (no wonder busy).
Papa died in January, 1991. Months short of their 60th wedding anniversary. On her 90th birthday in 1999, over 500 people came to her party. Nearly all of her friends had passed away. Attendee's were children, grandchildren, younger neighbors and church members. Many used one word to describe Nana, grace.
Nana was sharp as a tack, until the last two years of her life. She could tell you all the stories of growing up on the farm. Then she began losing her mental faculties at age 97. When she "no longer was feeling just right, she was taken to the hospital. On the third day, she was sitting up and saying she was feeling better. As she slept the fourth night and early hours of the moring, she went to her Lord.
On July 4, 2008, Cora Lou Newberry – Nana passed from this world to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Her Mighty God and Shepherd whom she trusted; a month shy of 99. She is greatly loved and missed. Nana's love and prayers kept, held and saved my life. She was a Proverbs 31 woman.
The Lord answered her final desire though "gone." A friend of who lived to 108, willed money to Nana paying for her funeral. She never wanted to "burden" any, though poor her whole life. Nana wanted no person in debt over her departure for home.The Lord God honored this final small longing of heart.
Psalm 23 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Attributions: Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica. All rights reserved worldwide
New American Standard Bible Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.