After our family toured the Shiloh battlefield recently, we traveled south to Oxford, Mississippi, where Ray and I moved in 1977 and where our children were born. The next morning we drove to the first house Ray and I ever owned, the little house we bought for $32,000 in 1980.
That’s a holly tree on the left side of the photo. John used to climb almost to the top of it when he was five and six years old. Here we are 37 years after we moved away from that little house, and from many beloved friends, for Ray to preach in Urbana, Illinois.
The holly tree is still there. I knocked on the door and asked the elderly lady inside if we could take some shoots from its base. They are sitting in water in my office. I hope I can start a new one in our yard here.
We took a walk to the town cemetery, just as we used to do when our children were small. We played for a long time at Avent Park, just as we used to do many years ago.
Our grandchildren learned some of the history of this historic southern town.
Ray and I had our picture taken again with the statue of Nobel laureate William Faulkner who wrote about his hometown and is now honored with a statue in front of its city hall.
We took our family inside Neilson’s, the south’s oldest department store, which dates from 1839 and where I used to buy some of our children’s shoes and clothes when they went on clearance. It’s the building festooned with flags behind us.
We all went to church on Wednesday evening. While we stood around and talked to old friends, our grandchildren played with the grandchildren of friends, just like their parents used to spend hours playing together when they were little.
We showed our daughter, her husband, and their children where Ray used to teach Bible classes and hold devotionals for students in the University Christian Student Center. There we rejoiced over tributes to people who were very special parts of our young lives.
Gladys Walls served as the cook at the Student Center. Four nights a week she served home-cooked meals to students. While she cooked them, she served as beloved advisor and friend. She and her husband Elton were precious Christian examples to us and to so many.
I have written several times about Dr. and Mrs. F. Douglas Shields, Sr., who are honored in a garden at the Student Center. To us they were Doug and Cora Beal. They were the leading founders of this great ministry that dates back to the 1950s when Doug first came to Ole Miss to teach physics.
Doug passed into eternity a few years ago, but Ray and I got to visit with Cora Beal before we left town. What a joy to see our now-97-year-old friend smile her wonderful smile and exude her fun personality and to witness her humble trust in her Father in heaven. As we left her room and made our way through her living room to leave, we saw the beautiful Christmas tree made of vintage jewelry made by the sweet hands of Gladys Walls hanging above their fireplace.
Sweet memories are so very sweet. Thank you for the ones you are making today with your children.
The memory of the righteous is blessed . . .