Thursday, October 04, 2012

For my mother

Dixie Dozier Lee
November 9, 1945 - October 2, 2012

Ten years ago, I wrote a poem for my grandmother’s death. I couldn’t do that today.

But my mother, like her mother before her, shared similar qualities of love, faithfulness, generosity, and talkativeness – she might’ve been the fastest talker this side of the Mason-Dixon line (though her sisters might disagree).

She spoke almost always first of others. She knew to ask about your health issues or your brother’s knee surgery or your mother’s cancer or a move or a job or a loss – whatever needed prayer.

My mom was bubbly and bright, a flame that flashes out too soon. I was going to say she was like a candle, but I think she was more like a firecracker. Or a floodlight.

She lit up this whole town with her smile.

We’ve said this often, and she probably said it of herself, but she never did meet a stranger. Wherever she went, she spoke of her family and her story. The story of me. The story of her grandchildren.

I’m thankful that our son, Jacob, her oldest grandchild, is just like her. He, too, shares his stories with the world.

But there’s always more to the story.

A million little gifts make up a life well lived. And she was constantly giving her life away.

She gave her life to her friends wherever she lived. She cooked countless meals that she brought in joy or in grief, shared news over countless walks, and hosted parties and dinners with a graciousness that was far better than any Martha Stewart décor.

She gave her life to her siblings, whom she loved. She loved loads of family – nieces and nephews and cousins and second cousins and third cousins once removed.

She gave her life to my dad some 43 years ago. They truly danced through minefields together. Gracefully. And they remained unscathed.

And when she gave me life, she gave her life to me.

When I was born, premature, at 28 weeks, she came to the hospital every day to hold me. She pumped ounces of precious milk for me to drink and, apparently, fought off a few nurses who tried to give me bottles of formula instead.

When I was a child, she gave my friends and me room to play. And when we came in from the creek, muddy and dripping and spent, she had hot chocolate waiting inside, with mini marshmallows and powdered-sugar doughnuts.

She gave away her life when she worked, as a bookkeeper, or seller of office products, or real estate agent, as a golf course manager, and as a restaurant manager/hostess/waitress/busboy/dishwasher. Somehow it is appropriate she ended up in the “service industry.” She always did the hard work, the part that others sometimes shirked, because she was foremost a servant to us all.

When I was a sophomore in college she often came to my dorm room to stay for a few days. While I was in class, she folded my laundry, chatted with my roommates, and somehow became lifelong friends with the cleaning lady. Of course.

When I moved to Atlanta she came still. She chatted with our apartment neighbors, she took me shopping for proper professional attire, and she could always be counted on for staying up for a late conversation with my night-owl husband, Gaines.

When I was pregnant with Jacob, she came to my 28-week ultrasound, and when she saw that he was healthy, and that he weighed more than I did when I was born, she cried tears of joy.

She gave her life to her grandsons, to my children. She made the long drive often, as often as she could, every month or so, to see them. She assembled Lightning McQueen puzzles with them on the floor, she rocked them and held them, she read fairy tales to them, she traced letters on their backs at night before they went to sleep.

And when those grandsons came here, to visit, she showed them her world. She taught them how to take care of flowers and plants, how to serve up good food, and how to hit a golf ball clean across the pond.

I don’t know everything about my mother’s stories, only a small corner of the patchwork quilt that the Lord has been weaving out of our lives. We only see the underside, the messy part, the loose threads and crooked stitches, the tears and seams and patches. But God sees the completed quilt, the tapestry of all of our lives sewn together in love. And my Mom did a lot of sewing in her days.

Last night, I was reminded of something I wrote a few years back, reflecting on my grandmother’s passing.

“Some glad morning, I know, when all our tears have been wiped away, we will sit together at a glorious kitchen table in the New Creation. [My grandmother] will tell me about Cousin So-and-So, with whom we are somewhat distantly related to by marriage, and about her neighbor who used to live down the street who just happens to be a cousin of ours, too. And will we be introduced, I and those oft-mentioned relatives whom I never met while she was alive.”

And my mother will be at that Table, too, and will introduce me to all the siblings that I never met, those who were knitted together in her womb that she never got to hold. And we will rise up from the Table well-fed, with new, unbroken and glorious bodies, full of more life and vigor and health than we ever had in this world. And we will know fully, as now we are fully known.

I hold on to that Hope.


  1. Allison,
    Your beautiful words moved me to tears. I was devastated to hear the news of your mother's passing. There is so much in this life that doesn't make sense, especially when life is lost suddenly, without explanation. We may not have answers here today, but there will be a day when "there will be no more tears". I pray God's deep comfort and the peace that passes understanding on you and your family during these dark days.
    Much love,
    Becky Holloway

  2. Allison,

    I am sitting here in tears. What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful woman. Praying for the day when your smile will be bigger than your tears and for floods more of sweet memories to share. Mostly now, praying for peace and grace to walk through the hardest days ... praying much for y'all!


  3. Allison,

    This is a beautiful tribute. Thanks for sharing these precious memories with us! Praying for God's comfort to you and your family.


  4. Allison,
    I was in tears yesterday when you read these words aloud. I don't know how you found the strength to do it. I know the whole situation still seems surreal, so I know it must have been so hard to sit down and translate your feelings into words. I just wanted to let you know that you spoke beautifully and from the heart. You really did your mother's memory a great honor by allowing the rest of us to catch a glimpse into her extraordinary life. She truly was a firecracker and the world is worse off now that she's gone home.
    Take care and be strong.
    I love you sis :)

  5. Allison, dear sweet cousin, I am weeping for you and mourning the loss of your sweet mama, who really did always ask about other first, and who really might have been the fastest talker I've ever met. Her legacy lives through you, and I love that her magnetic, infectious personality is living through your precious boys. I pray for the Lord's provision of comfort to you - that He wraps his arms around you like a mother as you navigate this new chapter.

  6. Allison,
    Thank you for sharing the Dixie you knew and loved with those of us that knew and loved her in college. I will always cherish that weekend we shared in Auburn, loving and remembering good times.

    She will live on in our hearts just as she will in yours.
    God bless you all and with much love,
    Virginia Kelser Jones

  7. Allison,

    I had not seen your mother for many, many years until the week-end before she died. As you know, she was in Auburn with about 350 of her Kappa Delta sisters, to celebrate our chapter's 90th reunion. From lunch and dinner on Friday, through the brunch, decades parties, and museum party on Saturday, to breakfast at the restaurant at the conference center Sunday morning, she oozed personality and charm. It was as if all of those years had melted away and we were sorority sisters once more just having "a good old time."

    I was so happy that she and your dad were moving to Auburn share I could see her more often. I told her about our "vintage KD lunch
    group" that gets together monthly and was looking forward to her being a part of that and also to seeing Bertha, who was my pledge sister,
    more often too. We had also talked about your dad's hip replacement surgery since I had been through that 11 years ago too.

    Your tribute to her is so perfectly expressed. She would be so proud of what you have said. Please know that all of her Kappa Delta sisters are grieving with you too and we are very happy that we were privileged to spend such a wonderful week-end with her.

    With love to all of you,
    Betty deGraffenried Burgess


    1. Dear Allison,
      Your tribute to your Mother is so incredibly lovely. You truly captured her personality, her spirit and her heart. Your Mother and I were "sistahs" in Kappa Delta. In fact, I stayed with her during our reunion and will always treasure such fond memories of our weekend together. Even though we had not seen each other in years & years, it was like we picked up our friendship exactly where we left off years ago. She was just that kind of person.

      I have visited your blog at least half a dozen times this week. When I got the link, my intention was to add some comment offering you some comfort. Instead, YOU are the one who has given me comfort by sharing your beautiful tribute to your Mother.
      My best wishes always,
      Carol Blevins Aldy

      PS And yes. Allison, I know your story well, even though you don't know me at all. I'll never forget when Dixie shared the story of your birth, she quipped..."Should've sent it in to Red Book..Would've made $500...A Red Book story for sure." Your Mother was so proud of you & your handsome young sons.