Rifling through old family records I discovered the obituary of my great-grandmother. Her name was Ola Whitfield, a simple woman born in the 19th century, and so much like the other sharecroppers in the Deep South at the time.
She worked hard, was sparsely educated, remained anonymous to the greater world, birthed a farmhouse full of children, and died young. Much too young, from an infection that would likely be cured by a single round of antibiotics today. She lived only 36 years.
Of course, I take great interest in her otherwise uncelebrated life, because without her, I would not exist. And I take great interest in her simple, confident faith; a faith passed along to those she left behind. It is a faith that has outlasted both her and her children. Even as the ink on her obituary fades and slowly evaporates with the decades, it appears her legacy will not.
That obituary, written in the vibrant language of the time, captures her simple faith so well. It reads, “Ola professed a hope in Christ in August 1901 and joined the Baptist church at Antioch. Oh, it was so hard to give her up but she left a true evidence of her faith: She called her husband to her side and told him that if it had been the Lord’s will she would have loved to stay with him and help raise the children.
“She told him to carry the children to church and Sunday School and raise them right. Such a consolation to us all to hear such words as she gives us to do the will of our Father. Therefore, we ought not to grieve for we have this sweet assurance: She is at rest.”
Granted, raising children “right,” (a Southern colloquialism for instilling proper social manners, respect for elders, and weekly church attendance) is no guarantee that said children will turn out well. They just might become ungodly little monsters. That wasn’t dear Ola’s point, I don’t think. In her unpretentious way, she understood the profound truth that she would live on in those who followed her. So she was being intentional, planning for her life to outlive her.