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  • Writer's pictureHolly Tomlin

Leaving a legacy

Ollie Babbs Thomas

October 10, 1934 - August 3, 2016

Today we lost an amazing woman. A woman I was lucky enough to call “Mammaw”. She was also known as Babbs, Mother, Sister, Daughter, Friend.

She was born and raised in Alba, Texas. At the young age of 16, she married my grandfather, William Ira Thomas. They were married for over 50 years until he went to be with the Lord in 2004. She had four beautiful children and a fifth child that she miscarried early on in the pregnancy.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.” Proverbs 31:25, 26

If there was ever a living example of the Proverbs 31 woman on this earth living amongst us, it was my grandmother. She was a living and breathing example of one who was walking with the Spirit. She shared so many traits of Jesus. She exhibited every single fruit of the spirit spoken of in the bible…

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control.

A gentle giant. A true servant at heart.

She was truly the most selfless person I have ever met. Just as she lived her life, she left this earth. She waited until her visitors left and then went in her own time. She never wanted to be a burden to anyone. She never was one to complain or ask for help. I am certain she knew her time was coming and waited until everyone had stepped away to let go.

When I read about how Jesus lived in the bible, there are so many similarities I saw demonstrated in her life. First and foremost, she was a true humble servant. She loved with all that she had and more. She served her husband, her family, her church and her community for her entire life. She would have done anything for anyone. The running joke in our family is all the crazy things she did for my grandfather. She would have done anything for my grandfather. Anything. Can you imagine if you were sitting at dinner and your husband raised his glass and shook it at you because it was empty and he needed more? Well I can’t. But, never saying a word to complain, she would stand every time and refill his glass. Can you imagine cooking a pound cake from scratch at 10 o’clock at night? Ummm… never!  Well she would. If that’s what my grandfather wanted, then she would do it with a smile.

She was the most patient person I ever met. Countless times, we were at her house growing up and I am certain would destroy it. At one point, when I was younger. I took a sharpie to the back of her orange living room chair. Wow. Something that most people would strangle a child for, but not her. She smiled and continued to love me so well. I never once heard her raise a voice or a hand to us. She had that chair for such a long time. Forever marked with a sharpie. J

She was the best listener. She would listen for days at our stories and what was going on in our lives. She always responded with encouragement and praise. Her and my grandfather were there for all of our birthdays, games, concerts, graduations, weddings, children’s birthdays…. So many life moments that they never missed without a really good reason.

Every time I would call her to check on her, she always responded with “I’m doing pretty good”. Even just a few days ago in the ICU, I asked her how she felt and she said, “I’m pretty good”. Unbeliveable. Even in a time when she had a legitimate reason to be grumpy or sad, she wasn’t. She chose joy. She went through many trials in her life. But one would never even know it. I always wonder if she had a friend that she vented to. You know we all have someone that we let our guard down with and let them have it. Funny enough, she probably didn’t. I never once heard a negative thing out of her mouth. Her laugh is one thing I will remember the most. She would always get so tickled and giggle all the time. She was always so happy.  I will miss that laugh.

Some of the best memories I have growing up with her are spending weeks at her house in the summers. She would cook whatever we wanted, which typically included her homemade spaghetti sauce and noodles and her famous “Mammaw” soup. I still make that to this day. We would watch the Parent Trap, Sound of Music or all the Anne of Green Gables movies over and over again. She would always sleep in the guest room with me because I couldn’t handle my grandfather’s loud snoring. I always knew there was a part of him that was glad for me to go home so he could have his wife back.

The sweetest memory I have of her is my wedding gown. I am so thankful I let her make my wedding gown. It was simple, yet so beautiful. The most important day of my life and she made me beautiful. My sister mentioned earlier tonight how my grandmother always made us dresses growing up. Each item would have a tag sewn in that said “Made for you especially by Babbs Thomas”. I had totally forgotten about that precious detail.

She taught me how to be a woman, a wife, and a mother. It wasn’t even the words she used and it wasn’t any speeches or pep talks she shared with me. It was how she lived. She was a preacher’s wife most of her life. My grandfather did all the talking. She was a woman of few words. The best part about her was she didn’t need to say a word. She simply lived it. She lived her life in a way that showed others what Jesus was like. She made such a bigger impact on our lives because of the way she showed us how to live. It’s easy to say what is right and wrong, but it’s completely different when you live it out.   

“Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5

It makes me so sad that my children won’t be able to grow up with her in their lives. But I will be able to share the legacy that she left. All the unforgettable memories of her I have. She is now healed in heaven. She is now where we all long to be. She would not want her loved ones to be sad. We are sad, but we are so thankful for her life and how well she lived it. Her legacy will live on in the lives of all those who loved her. She had found the secret to life. She had true joy. She had found this joy that comes from God alone and not in earthly things.

The way she lived was her testimony. I’ve always heard the phrase “we preach our own funerals”. What a celebration we will have in her honor. There is no one else like her and never will be. Every time I would see or talk to her I would end our conversation with “I love you” and every single time she would “I love you darling”. I am so thankful I got to spend time with her in the hospital this week talking to her and hugging her neck. She laughed her sweet little laugh. We exchanged goodbyes and our “I love you’s”.

I love my family. I love my Mammaw. She was one-of-a-kind. There will never be another like her. This week will be hard and we will mourn. But we will also celebrate a life well lived and rejoice knowing she is now made new.

Psalm 30:11-12

“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.”

She is whole. She is healed. She is now seeing the promises of our Savior. She is now seeing the promises fulfilled in heaven. That every single tear, pain, struggle and heartache. It was all worth it. No regrets. She is worshipping in a way we have never seen on earth. Lord we praise you alone for the life of my precious Mammaw. We believe in your sovereign plan and know that today despite our broken hearts, her leaving this earth is part of your perfect plan. May you be glorified every step of the way. In her death, she now has life because of Jesus. She loved Jesus. At the end of my life, if people around me can say “She loved Jesus”, then I will have accomplished my life goal. Mammaw you will never be forgotten. You will live on in every one of us. I love you Mammaw.

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