Eulogy for Katie Lou Hancock

Before I katie lou hancockstart, I want to say I would much rather you could have the chance to sit with Katie’s five children, as I did yesterday evening, and listen to them share about their mother. They could do a far better job than I to communicate to you who their mother was and why they loved her. Prov 31:28 says, “Her children arise and call her blessed.” Never was there a truer statement.

When I asked Kathy if Katie had a Bible I could look through to see if there were any favorite verses marked, Kathy told me I needed to look in Mom’s Bible. “Mom” is what Katie’s children always called Katie’s mother, Lota Mae Harris. Kathy told me that there was something special I should see written beside Proverbs 31. So I opened the Bible to that chapter, and saw written in the margins, “Katie Lou” with an arrow pointing over to the text.

While I knew what the arrow meant, at first it seemed to me that the arrow pointed at verse 9, which began, “Open thy mouth.” Well, if I stopped right there, some might think that described Katie. After all, one of her children remarked there wasn’t a waitress in College Station who hadn’t heard about Katie’s children and grandchildren at some point in their career. In addition, one of her grandchildren told me she must have talked her way out of at least fifty traffic tickets. Katie never met a stranger.

But verse 9 doesn’t stop at “open thy mouth.” The reason it says you should open your mouth is to “plead the cause of the poor and needy.” Katie certainly had a heart for the poor, the needy, and others who might not be accepted by society for one reason or another. Not many people from Bluefford and Katie’s generation would be close enough to an African-American man to be listed by him as “family” when he filled out papers to enter drug rehabilitation. Even fewer would actually show up at the family meeting nights to support him. But Katie and Bluefford were there, just as they were at the opening of an African-American Baptist church and even opened their home to this congregation as a meeting place for their fellowships.

At my wedding, I met a young man with a mental disability who told me how much he loved Katie and Bluefford. While he wasn’t able to say this, I know it is because they treated him with dignity, and they always made time for him when he called, came by, or spoke to them in church. Where others labeled him “special” because of his disabilities, Katie made him feel special because he was a person created in the image of God. Katie loved to serve people, whether in the Women’s Missionary Union, the Extension Service Auxiliary Club, or on the street; be it a friend, family member, or someone in need or needing a friend.

In Katie’s mother’s Bible, I also found quotations from several poets written on the obverse of the presentation page. One quote was from a poem by Robert Frost. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” This verse reminded me of several things the family shared with me yesterday evening. Jeff talked about how much Katie loved to hunt and fish. He said she would pick a spot and stay there fishing, never leaving until time to leave or break for lunch. Usually, he said, she caught the biggest fish because the rest of us were too impatient and would move back and forth looking for the “right” spot. It is not without reason that we will sing “Shall We Gather at the River” later. Katie loved the outdoors.

Frost’s poem, however, emphasizes that while the outdoors are lovely, he couldn’t stay there, for he had promises to keep. Katie was always there for special events, such as the birth of a baby. As two additional examples, Lucy said her mother would sit in the stands waiting for the end of the track meet, when the two mile race began, to cheer her on. Aaron told me how his Grandee convinced his Deeda to drive all the way to Colorado to cheer him on at the 2003 state wrestling tournament. We think this was the last time they made such a long distance trip. “And miles to go before I sleep” indeed.

In fact, Scottie told me to tell you that Katie never slept. She said Grandee would go to bed after all the grandkids yet be awake before any of them got up. When the grandkids got older, they would think nothing of going by the house at 10pm. Grandee would always welcome them in, put on a pizza or find something else for them to eat. She was always ready for a party.

Another example? Katie’s oldest grandson, Jeff, lived next door to his grandparents when he attended A&M. One morning before Christmas, around 12:30 in the morning to be exact, he called his Grandee and asked if she was asleep. No, she said, what did he need? Jeff was in line at Hastings to buy a Playstation 2 when the store opened later that morning, but he really needed to go to the restroom and wanted to get something to eat. Could she come up and stand in line for him? Katie not only drove up there and held Jeff’s place for him, she knew all the kids in line by the time he came back and they were all telling him what a cool grandmother he had!

Now please understand, Katie wasn’t perfect. Joseph, another grandson who lived next to Katie, talked about how sweet his Grandee was to bring him food from time to time . . . but having to throw some of it away because the expiration date was a couple of years past. Scottie and Jarrett noted Grandee never learned to put gas in the car, cutting short a shopping trip with Scottie once so Bluefford could take the car to get gas or driving around town with Jarrett another time the gauge was low searching for a full service station in the mid-1990s!

But Katie’s life reminds me of two verses from the book of Proverbs. Chapter 20 verse 7 says, “The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them.” Chapter 13 verse 22 states, “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children.” Katie was an only child who always wanted a big family. Yet several of the children said to me, somehow she had six only childs. None of her daughters or sons felt like they ever took a back seat to someone else. Each felt important. Katie supported each one in whatever he or she was interested in. She was always there for the special events.

But her love did not end with her children. Her children’s spouses were sons and daughters, not “in laws.” The grandkids grew up feeling her house was their home, because Katie made it a home and made sure they had fun when she was there. Several of the grandkids said they were such good friends with their cousins because Katie insisted the family get together twice a year, at Christmas and at the Peach Jamboree in Stonewall each summer. Even the friends of Bluefford and Katie and the friends of their children and grandchildren felt welcomed whenever they came over or joined the family to attend the Peach Jamboree or some other family event. Becky said, “Mother lived out her Christian faith.” Jubal agreed, but added she showed you could be a Christian and yet have fun and a good sense of humor.

Returning to where I started, you recall I found the words “Katie Lou” written beside Proverbs 31 and there was an arrow. The arrow actually pointed to verse 10, which begins a poem known as the Virtuous Woman. Becky said Mom used to always say Katie was the woman of Prov 31. In Bluefford’s Bible, he also had a star beside Prov 31 and several verses underlined. One verse was, “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” The other was, “She brings her husband good, not harm, all the days of her life.” Jeff pointed out the fact that Katie knew Bluefford her whole life. They grew up as friends. They married and lived happily almost 67 years. She was always there for Bluefford, supporting his work, assisting his ministry as a deacon, even learning computer skills to help him after his retirement. While they sometime would get frustrated or upset with the other, there was never any doubt that they loved each other.

I remember Bluefford often looking at me and saying, “Son, what’s bred in the bone comes out in the flesh.” He usually said it in jest, hinting to me that whatever it was at the moment that I saw Katie doing would at some point manifest itself in my wife, Lucy. This statement was true about Katie, however, in at least two ways. First, none of their six children has ever been through a divorce. They all attribute this to the witness of Bluefford and Katie’s long, happy marriage. The second way is what I saw in Katie the last time I saw her. Despite the fact that her memories had faded, I saw her grabbing some paper towels to help clean up after a fellow resident had become ill at the dining table. There she was, making a home, serving another in his time of need, living out her Christian faith that was bred in her bone.

In the front of Lota Mae’s Bible was another quotation. “God gives us memories so that we may have roses in December.” Katie has died and all we are left with are memories. Yet these memories allow us to remember and celebrate the life that she lived. And for those of us who share Katie’s Christian faith, we can look forward to the day when her life will be in full bloom again.

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