Dearest Friends,

I want to thank all of you who came to my mother’s service last Saturday. And I want to thank all of you who covered us in prayer. I thought you would like to hear what I said about Mommie at the service. Below is the talk I gave:

Thank you for honoring my mother with your presence. Thank you for the comfort that each of you bring.I am equally grateful for all who could not be with us, but are on their knees praying for comfort and joy. 

To begin, my mother was a beautiful lady, inside and out. She enjoyed beautiful things. So while all of my friends at college were eating off of paper plates with plastic utensils, I had a set of hand-painted Italian china. I still have it today! 

My mother took a lot of trips. She always brought me back a surprise. I knew she was always thinking about me, about us. She made me blueberry muffins on my birthday. She made Christmases magical.  In a day when many parents are pursuing careers, my mother always took care of us. She was always there! My mother was always there to pick us up after school. She was always there for us, in the morning and in the evening.

Mommie had such patience. Growing up, I needed someone who would be patient, who could see my heart, even when my words were not the best.

As a little girl, about five or six years old, I decided to tell my dad’s pilot friends about Jesus. So I went up to a captain on Delta, and I said, “Do you know Jesus?” He stammered, ‘uh what…” And I said “If you don’t know Jesus, you’re going to hell!” Not the best technique. But my mom could see the deep desire of my heart.

One of my best teenage memories was going with my mother and watching her tell people about Jesus. She taught me how to love people and tell them about hope. I actually saw my mother stand over a deep hole where men were working once. She said down into the hole “Do you know that sin is a deep pit from which you cannot escape?” The men were shocked and did not know how to respond.

My mom really trusted God, and she trusted me to trust God. One day I came to her that I had been praying and asking God to close down a very bad store in Sandy Springs. I knew what they sold did not honor God, and wanted it gone. I had become impressed that God was going to close it within the month. I wanted to go to the store and warn the people who worked there that they were about to be unemployed. And my mother took me. Who takes their fourteen year old daughter to a place like that and lets them go inside? I told them that God had decided that they were done, and that they should look for a new job. My mother waited patiently for me in the car. And of course, the store closed just as God told me it would. 

My mom took me to the big Jesus Rally in Texas. Out of the tens of thousands of people there, I was probably the only one there with my mother. My mom always dressed well, but she let me dress differently. So that day, I decided I wanted to wear a big floppy hat. She said okay. Around the sides of the hat were embroidered the message of the Gospel, how a person could come to know Jesus. On the top were the words of a prayer so that people could pray to ask Jesus to rescue them. In Atlanta, I noticed there was a man at the airport who kept walking circles around me. He was obviously reading my hat. We went on to the Jesus Rally, and I didn’t think anything else of it until we were leaving Texas. Ironically, the same man found us in the airport. He got very excited and told us “I prayed with your hat! I prayed with your hat!” I can still see my mom’s beautiful smile as she heard his words.

My mom loved Jesus. She taught me to love Jesus too. The first Scripture verse she helped me memorize was John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, and whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life.” This is still one of my favorite verses. My mother loved to read her Bible. Every day, she would read from Psalms and Proverbs. She taught me to love this book, the Bible. 

My mother believed in the power of prayer. She kept a prayer list in her Bible. Every day, she would pray for her children, their spouses, and her grandchildren Josh and Matt and their wives Teresa and Jill. To my grandchildren I want you to know something important: your great-grandmother prayed for you by name… Luke, Evangeline, Ian, Daniel, and Aiden. She loved you! Prayer is the best way to love someone.

My mother taught me how to be a good grandmother. She adored Josh and Matt when they were little. She always told them stories, especially one about a bunny. This bunny used a ruler to measure between the spaces to find all her carrots. In truth, my mother never grew a carrot in her life! But it was a wonderful, silly story that the boys enjoyed. 

It was very important to my mom that Josh and Matt have godly standards. One day, we were walking through the mall and there was something in the window that she did not think was appropriate for young boys to be looking at. She very clearly said, “Avert your eyes!” She bought them wonderful toys. She gave them boats and special German trains. She spoiled them. She always made sure they had a suitcoat, that they knew how to dress, and how to eat well. 

I learned so many lessons from Mommie about how to be a grandmother. The most important lesson was this: she always showed up. I live in the middle of nowhere in the North Georgia mountains. The kids had a play, and she drove up from Atlanta to this little school. I remember one little boy pressed his face against the window and looked outside. He said, “There’s a Jaguar in the parking lot!” She was always the grandmother that showed up. She came to their puppet shows, even when they were in inner city Atlanta in the very worst places. 

And let me close with this: I get told all the time that I am a hero because of the work that I do. But the truth is… the real hero is sitting in the front row. My sister Catherine who took care of our mother. My mother told me about Jesus. She made everything that came after that possible. She told me, and I told millions of children about Jesus. And that is my mother’s legacy. I can only imagine the blessings that awaited her in Heaven. 

God has been so good to me. Helen Mae Bailey Layton was my mother, is my mother. Because she is more alive than she has ever been. In the book of Hebrews, we are gathered about by such a great cloud of witnesses. So finally my mother will be able to see me do an overseas puppet show. If she was sitting here right now, I know what she would say if she was able to speak to you right now, “Praise God, I’m home!” Amen.

In Jesus,