A Great Lady
My mother was a Great Lady who was a part of The Greatest Generation. Those in that generation had the ability to take the least and make the most out of it. They knew how to pick up the pieces of life and carry on with the same determination with which they began. Martha Raye Harrell was born in 1920, lived through the trying times of the great depression, saw her husband go to war and return, raised a family of six children, lived to see her great grandchildren and somehow kept her sanity and her humor to the very end of her life in 2013.
All six of her children are still alive and well, Praise the Lord! They were raised in a Christian home and all came to confess Christ as their Savior. She took a very meager amount of money and somehow stretched it to provide the needs of a growing family. Of course, our Dad, Frank Harrell, Jr. was vitally involved but this article is not about him, great guy that he was.
Mother, as we called her, could get the job done! And somehow, she was able to keep a sense of humor about her as she was tested every day with the "wild bunch" that we were. I had a brother born late (20 years my junior) so for most of our lives there were five children in the household. It was wild, interesting and challenging. Add to that all the neighborhood friends who had the run of the place and one can easily see that she was an unusual person to put up with all that we could imagine to do and still run the household and laugh at us. She made most of our clothes as she was one of the most excellent seamstresses one could imagine. So, all of us were always very neatly dressed. I look at the kids of today wearing jeans that have more holes in them than good material and I think of what she would tell me from time to time. She would look at my jeans and say, "You can't wear those jeans to school any more. They have a hole in the knee." That hole would be about the size of a nickel but it disqualified that pair of jeans from public view. Sometimes she would repair them with a patch but I usually had to get a new pair.
When she was ninety-two years old, I was visiting her one day and I asked her a question. I said, "Mother, what is the best thing about being ninety-two? Without the slightest hesitation she said, 'no peer pressure!'" Another time she told me something amazing. She said, "Bill, I know I'm an old lady. I can look in the mirror and see that. I can't do what I used to do because my legs won't let me but, on the inside, I still feel like I'm eighteen years old, in high school and on my cheerleading team." That was an amazing statement to me. It points to the fact that aging, while surely physical, is mostly controlled by the mental attitude of a person. I know that was true of Martha Raye Harrell. Her cup was half-full not half-empty. She told me one time that when she was a little girl, she felt God wanted her to be a missionary. Life went in a different direction for her but she lived an excellent Christian life and raised her family as Christian children. We were at church and in our place when worship time came. There was no question as to where we would be on Sunday morning and evening. We would be in church, dressed for the occasion and minding our manners as we worshipped together.
After mother died at ninety-two following a fall, we found some very interesting things among her "stuff". I want to share with our readers a poem she wrote. One can easily see the degree to which she thought about the Lord and her Christian witness. The thoughts of a person who once felt the call to be a missionary come through. Here is her poem:
Who Is They?
We get upset and say, "They nailed Him to a tree." But have you ever thought, dear one, that "they" was you and me? Some of "those" had never heard, we still have "those" today, It's up to us to spread the word So "they" can never say, "They" never told us of our Lord, How "they" nailed Him to the tree. You see again, my friend, the "they" is you and me. Martha Raye HarrellI hope that Mother's little poem has great meaning for each of you. It's the thoughts of A Great Lady.
William F. Harrell