When my mother, Myrtle Olene Paulk Mushegan was born it was on a windy March day in South Georgia, Baxley to be exact, her mother was only sixteen years old and her dad was nineteen. I often heard the story of how when they put nine pound baby Myrtle into Addie Mae’s arms she looked up at her husband, Earl, and said, “What in the world are we going to do with a baby? How will we keep her alive?” They did a good job because baby Myrtle lived to be 90 years 8 months and 29 days old.
My mother was the oldest of six siblings and seems she was born with all the instincts of motherhood. When she was fourteen her mother had twins, a boy and a girl and was very weak and sick after their birth. It became the job of Myrtle to care for them and she became a second mother to “the twins” from that time until the present and referred to them as her “babies”.
Her nurturing nature as a mother made her the perfect pick for a dashing young Bishop from Los Angeles, California to marry and become the consummate preacher’s wife. The same care she gave her three children extended to the church family and she was the one who wanted to make the hospital visits or call those who were sick or just needed to talk to someone. If I had to choose a word that described her my first thought was “loyal” because in her eyes her family was perfect. Not perfect in the sense that we did no wrong but perfect because her love covered a multitude of sin, which did not mean that we didn’t get pinched hard on the leg if we talked or, heaven forbid, chew chewing gum in church. God help us if she ever caught us gossiping about someone or talking in a negative way about our family and any of these offenses were worse if they involved a member of the church!
If she ever got sick it was a crime to mention it, she wouldn’t admit it out loud and truthfully she never got sick very many times. If something did happen that she couldn’t deny such as when she had my baby sister a month premature and was told that this baby girl would not live, she had the faith to pray and believe that her baby would live when the doctor told her that baby Janet would possibly be mentally impaired because of a situation with mother having a negative blood type and the baby being positive which set up a reaction causing her bilirubin to rise very high. Baby Janet had to have three blood transfusions and during the last one as mother lay in her hospital bed praying with my dad kneeling on the floor beside her, she saw a vision of a great big hand with her baby laying safely in the palm. She rolled over and told my dad, “Our baby is going to live and she is going to be alright!” I would say that baby turned out just fine getting a full scholarship to Agnes Scott College and graduating at the top of her class with a double major, then going on to get her Master’s Degree from PSI and Georgia State University.
Aside from her will of iron and faith of a giant there was a romantic side to Myrtle. She had seen a picture of a young evangelist and knew on the spot that she would marry him, long story short they met In Birmingham, Alabama where my dad was there for a church convention from California and she having come with her dad, also a preacher, from Cleveland, Tennessee.
They met, had dinner at a Chinese restaurant with another couple, then took a walk around the park and walked up the Iron Man (I don’t know, this is their story) and three hours later he proposed to her and she said yes. Three months later they married in a huge wedding at midnight on New Year’s Eve, they were saying their vows as the bells were ringing in the New Year. From that time until he went ahead of her to heaven they were sweethearts and lovers, their union produced three children of which I am the eldest, after me came my brother, Alan, and then the little sister I already told you about.
I said that if I had a word to describe her my first thought was “loyal” but the thought that comes along with it is one that my cousin brought up today as we celebrated her life at lunch, that word is THE word and it is “peacemaker”.
There were two scriptures that were pounded into me from a young age, one was Proverbs 6:16-19 “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.” Emphasis on the “sowing discord among brothers part!” The second was Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Those are two things she demanded of us, to keep the peace with our family and everyone else as much as possible and to know that if we did we would be the sons, or children, of God. She did both. The only time she ever got truly riled and mad enough to fight was if anyone said anything negative about her family and that went beyond her husband and three children to her siblings, yes she was loyal to a fault and the ultimate peacemaker. And as my cousin pointed out it says peacemaker not peacekeeper!
So my final word is this, not only did she leave on Christmas Day, it is also my birthday and I have been her caretaker 24/7 and my dads before her for several years, so it is my thought that she first gave me life on a cold December 25th morning and gave it back to me in another way two days ago. She was very alert all day Christmas Day and had little conversations with several of the grandchildren and even ate a little piece of birthday cake.
She told my son as he was saying goodbye to her so that he could go with his wife to his in-laws, “Mama is going to come later today”, and Ara asked her if she was going to go with her, and she answered, “I don’t know, the children need me.”
With my sister holding her in her arms and my brother touching her forehead and praying over her, she took her final breath, it was 6:45 PM, I think she decided to go have Christmas dinner with my daddy and didn’t come back, she just went on home with her sweetheart. I miss her.