From Comic to Committed


Born, along with her twin sister (Othell) to Oscar Lee and Idella Short Blansit on November 28, 1923, Mom grew up on a farm in rural Valley Head (DeKalb County) Alabama.  She and her twin were the fifth and sixth children and youngest daughters of four living children. Later another son joined the family.  Her family owned a small farm which was largely under the management of my grandmother.  Mom’s dad should probably be considered a quasi-businessman who from my best memories worked as a salesman and/or collector of funds for a mercantile store. I have always assumed that Papa’s occupation was the reason we did not hear as much about the hardships of the “depression” in my Mother’s family.

Now that all Mother’s siblings are gone, I have to rely on the stories she told to me as we walked up and down the streets of Rossville.  Mother walked really fast and it seems I always felt as if I was running to keep up – but keep up we did because she was always sharing some truth with us – truly we lived the admonition of Moses to talk of “these things in the way.”

A favorite story (which she shared repeatedly in her final years without changing a word from the original account in my childhood) was about the day her Dad left home with a mule that he sold to his first customer only to return home that evening with the same mule and a pocket full of money.  His ability to talk served him well in business but almost cost him eternity.

Mom’s family were members of a Methodist Church in which Papa had apparently been elected to be a Steward (one responsible for practical things, according to Google). While my grandmother had a good salvation testimony, my mother always questioned her Dad’s salvation. According to mother, he could outtalk any Preacher who discussed spiritual matters, leaving them convinced – but he met his match when my mother became concerned about his eternal state.  And shortly before his death, he confessed his faith in the Lord Jesus.  Thankfully, there was a happy ending.

Childhood memories with my Mother are so pleasant … I never remember her spanking us (she left that to Dad) … rarely raised her voice but if she raised her eyebrows, we knew we were in trouble.  She kept our feet on the ground – to our prissy, little struts, she would remind us that nobody was looking because they were too busy looking at themselves.  I can still feel the strut deflating – My sister often says, “Every little girl needs a mother like we had.”

The best memory of all is sitting in front of the bedroom dresser while Mother “wadded” (literally, to Aunt Rosella’s chagrin) up my thick hair into atrocious-looking pin curls.  It is probably important to know that in those years, if someone was saved or something exciting happened at Mt Olive, I cried – really cried.  I remember the Pastor’s son chasing me once through the church yard saying, Phyllis is a crier, Phyllis is a …” over and over. Well, I was – and this probably wasn’t lost on my Mother. So in one of those hair-curling sessions, I remember my mother asking me if Jesus was knocking at my heart? My answer was a confident no.  To which she replied, “That’s ok Jesus will let you know.” Mother infused a confidence in the Lord in our young hearts that continues to this day. 

Mother was saved in a joint Baptist-Methodist brush arbor revival when she was eight or nine years old.  She related joining the Methodist church and subsequent “sprinkling” to being a very cold experience – and spent several years trying to figure out what it all meant.  When in high school, she tired of the search and threw it all overboard determining to figure it out when she got older.  To quiet her soul-search, she turned comic – entertaining those around her.

Walking home from school during her senior year, Mother began to vomit blood – so seriously that she heard her parents say, “She is going to die before we get her to a doctor.”  She, obviously, didn’t die but spent several years trying to recuperate. Her story goes like this – I had never heard any preaching or teaching on surrendering one’s life to the Lord, but somehow, I knew this sickness was a God-thing and she started bartering with God.  “If you will heal me, then I will do this or that…” But she grew none the better until one day, she prayed, “Lord, if you will heal me, I will give you myself.” And immediately she felt in her heart that it was done.

Subsequently she told her Mother, “I’m moving to Chattanooga and getting a job.” And she did.  It really is a sad story because she was still very weak and told often of how she would get on the bus to go to work and fall asleep before she got to her stop and the bus driver would wake her up.

Dad followed her to Chattanooga, and they were married on November 25, 1944.  The promise to give herself to the Lord was still unfulfilled until she went back to my Grandmother Biddle’s to attend the annual August protracted summer meeting in 1947.  Not really happy to be there, she sat in the vehicle before a morning service surmising what she and Dad would do when he came to get her on the weekend – that is until she heard the Lord say, “If you don’t make peace with me today, you will not be here when Milford gets here.”   And that changed everything – the Comic became Committed.  A repertoire of memories lingers of those who are now in the presence of the Lord because she was relentless in reaching them for Christ.  One gentleman stood beside her casket and told me, “I will be in Heaven because of your Mother’s big toe.”  More about these experiences later.

While the vapor of Mom’s life passed all too quickly, I have found comfort in her grandson’s eulogy wherein he referenced Joseph Parker, “…our life is not one whole chapter in a solid paragraph, to be read through as if it were but one great sentence: our life-chapter is broken up into verses, punctuated sometimes very strangely and surprisingly…” To emphasize a single verse at the expense of the whole life would miss the point – so it is with my Mother and soon I plan to re-visit some of those chapters through the lens of those things that, albeit she being dead, speak to me today.

If you should be one of those who were hurt in her later years, it is my prayer that a little insight into her love and passion for Christ will soften your anger and bitterness. And to those “loyal-to-this-day friends,” I challenge you to never lose sight that it is possible to become embittered and misunderstood.



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