My mother, Delores McCranie, passed away on Wednesday, May 23rd while at the beach with some friends. She was 78 and in declining health.
The following is the eulogy I wrote and read at her funeral. I wanted to share with you, my friends, exactly who my mother was and what an incredible God we serve.
In Remembrance of Delores McCranie
(January 24, 1934 – May 23, 2012)
Delores McCranie, my mother, was born on Wednesday, January 24th 1934, and went to be with her Lord this last Wednesday, May 23rd.
Since most of you have only known my mother since she moved to Lake Wylie in 2000, I’d like to take a few minutes to let you know… as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story.” And since we are here to celebrate her life… let’s do that… but let’s celebrate all of her life, from beginning to end.
Most of you know my mother as the Delores McCranie the Bridge Player, or Delores the Community Bible Study teacher, or Delores the friend that would come to and host various parties or get-togethers with you. And lately, many of you knew her as Delores the woman with a lot of doctor appointments who was struggling with failing health. But there was another side to my mother that she seldom spoke about. And there were events in her past than made her, marked her, and transformed her into the person you knew these last 12 years. Once you know that Delores, once you see her from the inside, once we strip the layers away and see her at her core, well, it makes what happened to her at the beach last Wednesday so much more meaningful.
Let me explain…
My mother was an unplanned pregnancy… back in the days when being pregnant out of wedlock was the “unpardonable sin.” She was born illegitimately to my grandmother, a small, quiet, meek woman, our Ma-Maw, who had taken the liking to a man my mother knew of, but never met. Several years later Ma-Maw married a rough and tumble, Aldo Ray looking, John Wayne kind of guy who was 9 years younger than her. He was my grandfather, my Pa-Paw, and he was the single most important male in my and Ken’s life growing up.
And, unfortunately, he turned out to be the only man that ever really loved my mother. Let me elaborate.
Delores went to school just like everyone else in those days. She had crushes on boys, childhood dreams, she loved listening to music, took family vacations… all that was good in life in the late 30’s and 40’s, the Ozzie and Harriet, June Cleaver generation. Then, as a Sophomore in Lakeland High School, she fell hard for a handsome young man, a senior, who later became her husband and our father… Bo McCranie.
Bo was a handsome package on the outside, engaging, talkative, witty, funny, the life of the party and the center of attention… always. Everyone liked Bo. Everyone thought how great it would be to have Bo as a husband or a father. But they only knew him on the outside, the public persona, the Little League coaching, church-attending Bo. My mother knew the other side. The dark side. The self-absorbed, narcissistic, lying, unfaithful, alcoholic, borderline sociopath Bo who would tell you whatever he thought would get him what he wanted or needed at the time…no matter how it affected or hurt anyone else. He was like the “white-washed tomb” Jesus spoke about. “All clean and pretty on the outside, but inside, full of dead man’s bones. Nothing but rotting, decaying corpses.”
Overall, it was not a happy marriage. There were fights, hurt feelings, crushed spirits, separations… and somehow she stayed with him for thirty years. Thirty years? How? Why? Years later, I asked her that question. “Mom, why did you stay with Bo for so long?” Her answer, “I stayed for you and Ken. I didn’t want you two to suffer from the stigma of a broken home.” Because in the 50’s and 60’s, at least in the circles she ran with, divorce was not an option. It was like the scarlet letter, the permanent stain.
Now don’t get me wrong, Ken and I had a wonderful childhood… filled with everything imaginable. In fact, until we got older, we were pretty much clueless as to the actual dynamics that made up our dysfunctional family. Do you know why we had such a great childhood? It was because she worked hard, tirelessly, full-time, to shield us from the pain and hurt and betrayal she felt in her own marriage and in her own home. She didn’t want her boys scarred like she was. She didn’t want us to feel the pain and hurt she felt. And I am eternally grateful to her for that.
We moved a lot, usually following my dad’s desire to climb the corporate ladder in the Consumer Finance world. We lived all up and down I-4 interstate in Florida, from Daytona Beach to Tampa and back to Orlando. From there, it was to Maryland and New Jersey and then back to Jacksonville, Florida where I graduated from college and Ken graduated from High School.
And it was also in Jacksonville that another event happened that shaped my mother’s life… she became the head of fundraising for the local American Cancer Society office and finally found something that she loved passionately. The American Cancer Society gave her an opportunity to help others, to make a difference, and to receive the praise and encouragement that comes from doing a job well done – to the absolute best of her ability – that she desperately craved but never received at home. And she threw herself into the mission of the American Cancer Society, tirelessly, 80 hour a week, with reckless abandon.
At home, Ken and I went off to college, got married, began our own lives with our own families while hers fell apart. After another series of deep mistrust, hurt and betrayal, she and my father divorced in 1983. He quickly married another woman and my mother once again drowned her hurt and feelings of loneliness, inadequacy and insecurity in her work. And that single devotion to her work began to pay off. She rapidly advanced to District Manager, Regional Manager and finally as the CFO of the entire state of Florida. She was a driven woman. She was married to the job. She had no time for friends or relationships or gardening or chit-chat or children or grandchildren because there was so much work to do, so many people to help, so many fundraising events to plan, so much to accomplish. It was like she was defining herself by what she did and not by who she was. She was on this constant race for approval and acceptance, on an eternal treadmill of sorts, trying to convince herself that she was important, appreciated, that she was loved, and that her life would make a difference.
Ken and I were heading in opposite directions at that time yet we each knew that no matter what our life brought, or what path we took, she would always be there for her boys. She was always about her boys.
Spiritually, my mother had a distant, arms-length relationship with Jesus all during our growing up years and during her working career. Jesus was something that people in America believed in, that good people embraced. I mean, only reprobates or losers or foreigners didn’t believe in Jesus. After all, we live in America, in the South, where there are churches on every corner… so that was the extent of her spiritual life… until she retired from the American Cancer Society at the age of 66 and moved up to Lake Wylie, SC to be close to her family.
Then everything changed. For the first time in her life, she saw the need for, and made the time for, friends. You. Those of you here are truly the first and only friends she ever had. And she wasn’t experienced much with making friends. She wasn’t very good at it. In fact, I would rate her a C- on her interpersonal skills. I mean, all of the close relationships in all her life were either extremely hurtful, like with my father which made her build up emotional walls to keep herself from being hurt again and again, or they were work relationships where she gave the command and others followed or paid the price. So she learned, unfortunately, that you either protect yourself from others at all costs, or you tell them to jump and they better say, “how high?”
She had a hard time in retirement, after leaving the working world, switching from boss to friend. A hard time… and some of you know what I mean. But here, in River Hills, with you, she began to slow down, to see the joy in simple things and, for the first time, re-examined her life as to what she knew and believed about Jesus and, in my opinion, truly embraced Him for who He is and not who she wanted Him to be. In other words, she came to faith. She took the knowledge of Christ that was embedded in her head (where she was in charge) and slowly began to move it into her heart (where the Lord was in charge). She began to see the Bible as what it really is, God’s Word to be obeyed, and not just one of many paths to enlightenment… whatever that means. In essence, she became a Believer, a Christian, and her place in eternity became, for the first time, secure to her.
But not her hurt. Some past experiences run deep… like bedrock, and fight to define who a person was, is, and will be. The old life, the old man, dies hard as Paul says in Romans 8. But still, during the years when she was growing in her faith in the Lord she still, during times of deep reflection, wondered why no man ever loved her but her father. Why her marriage failed. Why other relationships with men failed. In fact, she told me several times that she didn’t believe that any one ever loved her for who she was, truly loved her unconditionally, unreservedly, altruistically, loved her for who she was and not what she did, but her own mother. And often she said she felt very alone, like an orphaned child, when her mother and father passed away.
Because of her past, my mother was fiercely independent. She felt that no one could, or would, take care of her so she had to strap on her boots and do it herself. (Although I don’t think I ever remember seeing her wear boots. That wasn’t her fashion style.) Again, I think this belief was formed from years of disappointment in her marriage and with some other male relationships in her life. Therefore, she had a great fear of getting older, getting sick, needy, becoming dependent, and of dying. No, she didn’t fear death since she knew about heaven. But she did fear, terribly, the process of dying. She was deathly afraid that she would lose her independence, her ability to take care of herself, of lingering, of suffering, of wasting, of pain… and sometimes her fear of these things would be debilitating, almost paralyzing. No matter how much Ken and Debbie or Karen and I or many of you assured her that you would be there for her, the fears lingered.
Over the past year or so her health began to deteriorate rather dramatically. She had a recent stay in the hospital, in intensive care, that she never really bounced back from. She suffered from a dozen or so different illnesses that were, for the most part, untreatable and incurable. And she was in constant pain with RA and had to take heavy duty painkillers just to get through each day. Recently she had fallen several times and it was only a matter of time before one of these falls would result in a broken hip or something worse. Physically, she was in a real sad phase of her life without much hope. We called each new episode or illness the “new normal” as she slowly spiraled downward.
Medically, physically, her future looked bleak. And it appeared what she feared most, the lack of independence, not being able to drive, or to live by herself, might actually become a reality. For the last couple of weeks I would take her to her doctor appointments… giving Ken and Debbie a well-deserved break. During these times together, and I thank the Lord for them, my mother and I would talk about the future, the past, blessings and regrets, and about heaven. Last Friday, we talked a lot about heaven… what it would be like, who would be waiting for her to introduce her to friends and family that had long since passed on. What would it be like to see her mother again, to hold her hand like she did as a little girl… and her father, Pa-Paw, who came to faith in Christ just 3 months before he died? What would Jesus look like, what would He be like? What would it feel like to be loved and embraced unconditionally? To feel the arms of her father wrap around her and hold her close to say, “It’s ok, honey. You’re home. Everything is going to be ok. Come, let me introduce you to Jesus.” What would it be like to go to a place for all eternity where there is no pain, no sorrow, no RA, no need for Dr. appointments, or pain meds, or walkers or canes. Nothing. To be loved unconditionally, like a little girl playing in the sand on the beach, watching the waves, surrounded by her family. No cares, no worries, no sorrow. “Mimi, what would it be like?”
Miraculously, and it was a miracle, she rallied. Some of her friends invited her to go to the beach with them for a week. Two weeks ago, that would be impossible. But late last week, she rallied physically. “I need to go to the beach,” she would tell us. “I would love to stay for a month. The beach is my favorite place in the world. I am so looking forward to laying on the beach, under the big umbrella, watching the waves. Ah, I love the beach.” And she did.
So, she went last Sunday to Myrtle Beach. She called Ken on Tuesday night almost giddy she was having so much fun. “I want to stay longer,” she said more than once. “I’m having the time of my life. The beach is my favorite place on earth.”
On Wednesday morning, at 9:00am, she went down to the beach while her friends went shopping. She laid down under her umbrella, put on her sunglasses, and began to enjoy, for the last time, all that was good in this world to her. She closed her eyes and with the sound of the ocean, the smell of the salt in the air and the feel of the heat from the sun, and went to sleep.
After lunch, her friends came down to the beach, splashed in the water, and noticed how deeply sleeping my mother was under the umbrella. She had slumped over. They tried to wake her and found she was gone. She closed her eyes in this life, at the beach, and opened them in heaven.
What must that have been like?
Was it like being a little girl again, eyes open wide in trust, sheer excitement and wonder, arms outstretched, running to her dad, to Jesus? Was it like being a little girl holding her momma’s hand, walking together, splashing their feet together, at the edge of the water? Was it like being a little girl again, finally surrounded by the people who love her unconditionally… by the two men who love her, and would always love her… her Pa-Paw and Jesus.
At this point in the service, I played the following song.
I want you to know that I have never been jealous of my mother… until today. For she is experiencing something that, as of right now, I have to wait to experience. She is in sheer bliss, and has been, since Wednesday morning.
And if she could come back, for just one moment and stand before you today, her family and her friends, I think she would tell you this… “It is real. Heaven is real, God is real, Jesus is real… and it’s more than I can describe.” And I know her one desire would be for you to be there with her in heaven.
In closing, I want to share with you just a few things I saw my mother learn since she retired. I want to share with you what she learned about the Lord and about life that she didn’t know all the years she spent running aimlessly on the treadmill of fame and fortune. These are some truths that carried her into heaven.
One, that Jesus is Lord of life and we are not.
Two, that we receive Him as Lord and not as Savior. We come to Him on His terms, and not our own.
Three, that to embrace Christ is to embrace all of Him. Changed nature, changed life, changed goals, aspiration, convictions, behavior. In other words, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do the things I tell you to do?” Great question. What would your answer be?
Four, life with Christ is eternal and life without Christ is also eternal. One in heaven with her and one in hell, eternal torment. And as long as you are breathing, you still have a choice to determine where you will spend eternity.
Five, what happened to Mimi will happen to each and every one of us. There is no escaping death nor the judgment.
Six, there are two paths that each of us can go down. (1) the wide path that leads to destruction and (2) the narrow gate that leads to life. Both paths say “this way to heaven” but only one will get you there. Which one are you on?
After a few personal, closing remarks, we ended by playing one last song.
My mother is finally home. And I will see you again… mom.