When I was six years old, I had three life goals...
1. to make it through the first grade
2. to grow up and become a veterinarian
3. to someday be taller than Miss Yearwood
Some kids had growth charts where they marked their height, but I had Miss Yearwood. Miss Yearwood taught children's church every Sunday, and almost every Sunday, I would check to see where I stood on Miss Yearwood.
"Miss Yearwood, I'm up to your chin!"
"Miss Yearwood, I've made it to your ears!"
"Miss Yearwood, how's the view from down there!"
At barely 5 feet, I didn't have long to wait before I grew as tall as Miss Yearwood. Any time I picked on her for her height though, Miss Yearwood always gave same answer, "Dynamite comes in small packages!"
I really don't know how old Miss Yearwood was when I met her. I know she had grey hair and she would often talk about her grandchildren, but I never liked to hear about them. I guess I was jealous. Miss Yearwood climbed trees and did all things cool and adventurous, and I always liked to think that I was her favorite kid ever.
Miss Yearwood would often sing in church, and she remains as one of my favorite singers. She never used music, and she didn't have a soft soprano voice, but she would sing "Hand in Hand with Jesus" with such strength that I can almost hear her singing as I type this.
Miss Yearwood never got her driver's license, and when I was scared to drive when I was 15 and 16 my argument was, "Well, Miss Yearwood's never had a license, and she does just fine."
When she first met Shad, it was a big deal. Shad was the first boy that I had ever brought to the church for everyone to meet, and Miss Yearwood did not make it easy on him. As soon as he saw her, Shad said, "Miss Yearwood, I've heard so much about you." Miss Yearwood said nothing to him except, "Turn around." Shad looked confused, but he had enough sense to do just a Miss Yearwood said. (She has a mean headlock) As soon as he was done with his turn, Miss Yearwood looked him over and said, "You'll do," and walked away.
That picture is of Miss Yearwood and I the night before Shad and I moved to Maryland. You can tell I'd been crying in that picture. It was extra hard to say goodbye to Miss Yearwood.
A few years ago, Miss Yearwood went to live with her daughter about an hour away and no longer goes to Ridgeway. Every time I go home and go to church, I miss her so badly. I grew up living away from my grandparents, but I think God gave me people like her to fill that void. However, Miss Yearwood never really seemed like a grandma. Though she is much older than me, she always seemed more like a friend. She's timeless. No matter what her age, her youthful spirit and joy shines through. In fact, some people call her Miss Cheerwood, and the name fits her.
In children's church, Miss Yearwood taught me the books of the Bible, countless songs, and many Bible stories, but I also learned a life lesson from her. Just because you grow up doesn't mean you have to lose your fun.
Update: On May 19, 2013, Miss Yearwood passed away. Yesterday, I cried because I was sad that I was never going to see her again, and sad that my boys would never get the chance to get to know her, but I kept finding myself smiling when I thought of her in heaven climbing trees.
Over the past year, Miss Yearwood's health had gone down. Shad said it best when I told him of her failing health. He said, "You can't contain her. A bird like that was meant to fly." Her spirit was far to big for the body that was failing her.
Yesterday, I started thinking what did Miss Yearwood's first day in heaven look like, and if you would let my imagination run I'd like to share it with you.
At some point yesterday, as all the angels were singing. I bet they looked around and asked the others, "Who is that new voice?" Then they would all stand back, stop playing their harps (because Miss Yearwood never needed music), and listen to her sing.
Some people say that when they get to heaven they want God to give them a voice like an angel, but I think Miss Yearwood still has her same beautifully strong voice. Yesterday, I think all the angels stopped and listened because they heard something in her voice more beautiful than their perfect tone and pitch. They stopped when they heard the sound of a woman who went through some battles. The sound of a woman who poured herself out into the lives of the lucky children of Ridgeway Baptist Church. The sound of a woman who spent her whole life "Hand in Hand with Jesus."