My sister Julie posted this on Facebook – I love her dearly! This is a beautiful letter that says what I could not express about our Mother. …. David
Sweet Mama passed away on Saturday, July 13, at 4:09 p.m. The funeral was on Tuesday, July 16. I miss her so much. She was a wonderful person and a wonderful mother. Her laughter was like music. Her heart was as big as all outdoors.
Mary McLamb Buffaloe was a strong country girl, born on a farm in Cumberland County, North Carolina. Even as a child, she worked hard, picking cotton and cropping tobacco in the intense noonday sun.
When her mother died, Mama was still a young girl. On top of her never-ending field work, she also became the woman of the house and took care of her younger brothers and sisters.
When I think of Southern women, I never think of “belles” who wear fancy dresses and sip mint juleps in the parlor. That kind of woman is as foreign to me as a million dollar bill.
Instead, I think of beautiful Mama, wearing a kerchief and holding a hoe in her strong hands. She is the backbone of Carolina.
As Mama grew up, she loved to dance the jitterbug. Mama could work like John Henry all day—then head out in her A-line skirt to the juke joint on Saturday night.
People tell me she turned every head in the place. She was a gorgeous woman.
On Mama’s first date with Daddy, they went to a dance. He wore a white sport coat with a pink carnation (in reference to an old song). Instead of being impressed by his romantic gesture, she laughed. She loved him dearly. So do I.
Mama had an outhouse. Sears & Roebuck catalogs for dreaming (and the outhouse). An ornery mule who sat down in the middle of the row. Old barns that smelled like curing tobacco. An orange and some hard candy for Christmas. Fat rattlesnakes in the fields. Loretta Lynn and Elvis on the radio. Cornbread and clabber on the porch. Sweet, gigantic watermelon hearts.
I love Mama’s stories. Some are about hardship and survival. But many of her stories are hilarious. She had a great sense of humor. She always made me laugh.
Even as recently as March, Roy would take Mama and me to the stores in town. (Bless his heart…he was so good to Mama, and she loved him very much). To repay him for his good nature, I’d try to act like I had some sense in public and not aggravate him too much.
But it never failed. Mama would say something so funny that I’d end up giggling, snorting, and staggering down the aisle, trying to catch my breath.
People either laughed—or stared at us like we were crazy—which made it even funnier.
Life was never financially easy for Mama, but she gave me so many things that money can’t buy. She gave me Jesus’ true love, her beautiful songs (she could sing so sweetly), and a happy heart. She gave me deep roots and a never-ending love of the land.
Mama also taught me to love people who are often forgotten, tossed aside, or not popular. She was a lone volunteer…long before it was fashionable to be a volunteer. She wouldn’t even think of herself in those terms. In her mind, she was simply doing what was right.
When I was a child, she often took me to visit old people, lonely people, the sick, shut-ins, and people in a mental institution, which was a long way from our home. Many of the folks we visited were strangers, but they quickly became our friends and loved “Miss Mary” dearly.
I’ve never forgotten the lessons Mama taught me. She didn’t just spout platitudes. She didn’t announce her good deeds to the world or expect payment for what she did. She quietly lived faith through action.
Mama was very country, and so am I. Unlike some people I met at college, I’m very proud of my culture. Dirt roads, woods, and water are part of me.
I don’t give a flip about the latest computer gadget. I’m not impressed by penthouses, Hollywood stars, or fads. Even though I have been educated, I refuse to lose my accent or change my lifestyle, simply because somebody might look down on me. I have a strong will, the ability to make do…and appreciate what I have.
Mama gave me all that (and so much more).
Mama loved all her kids deeply, and she was generous to a fault. When I went to college and discovered one of her outfits and a wrinkled ten dollar bill she had tucked in my suitcase, I hid in the bathroom and cried. I knew the set of clothes was her best outfit. And I knew the wrinkled bill was the only one she had in her pocketbook.
Mama tried very hard to live, but there’s just so much a physical body can take. Even so, she was vibrant and full of life until the very end.
Her last words to me were “I love you, Julie.” Of course, I knew she loved me, even if she hadn’t been able to say the words. She said it a lot. But it was just so comforting to be able to hear it one last time.
It was a heavy, sad day, but that memory is also sweet. Her face was glowing and beautiful. Yes…beautiful! Even in her last hours on earth, she taught me so much.
Now, Mama’s dancing and singing in Glory Land. It’s very hard to say all this out loud, because I still can’t believe she’s gone. I’ll miss her until I draw my last breath….and then I’ll be thrilled to see her again.
I am so fortunate to have had her. Sweet Mama was a real woman. She was one of a kind.
Julie Buffaloe Yoder