Good-Bye Bessie Mae

Bessie Mae Evans  Bessie Mae Evans died last week in Alabama.  She was a 63-year-old black woman from a little town called Camp Hill.  She had numerous health issues, and a heart of gold.  She was step-mother to my bride Deb.  Most folks don’t know this, but Bessie loved the Baha’i teachings.  She memorized her favorite prayer, and would sing it with Deb from time to time:

“O God, guide me, protect me, make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star. Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful.”  – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Over the past five days, Deb and I made the difficult journey back to that little town for Bessie’s funeral.  It’s in a part of the world where racism still lurks beneath a sociable veneer and the pain it has inflicted is reflected in the eyes of everyone you meet.  Throughout our trip we could see both the condescension and the suspicion veiled behind cautious smiles and “how do you do’s”.  But we also saw some heartfelt sorrow and some cathartic healing.  Bessie’s daughter “Keela” (Deb’s half-sister), had a rough time.  Our prayers for healing and peace are with her now.

We connected again, however briefly, with Deb’s family.  I met some relatives I had never met before, including my brother-in-law Kenny.  He’s a man with a sharp wit and a great sense of humor.  And it was good to see the other “brother-men” again too – Jerome, Chris and Wendell.  Whenever those guys get together, it’s a rowdy party, just short of a competition…or perhaps even a bench warrant.  

Saturday morning breakfast, prepared for the whole extended family by Deb’s mom Ruby, was a veritable exhibition of “southern cooking” on a scale that would give any roadhouse a run for its money.  Biscuits, eggs, grits, salt-pork, fried green tomatoes – Man! talk about cholesterol looking for a place to park!  Well YES I ate some!  Not so, however my vegetarian bride (her brothers don’t understand her at all).

All in all, it was quite a send-off for a gentle lady of quiet charm and spiritual grace.  Bessie’s warm memory, cast against the specter of that hard-luck town, was a stark contrast.  She was like a gemstone in a box of rocks.

Good-bye Bessie, with love,

///Darrell  & Deb

Darrell Rodgers                                             
Singer, Songwriter, Performer, Humorist  

About Darrell

Singer, Songwriter, Performer, Humorist
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6 Responses to Good-Bye Bessie Mae

  1. darrell says:

    I wanted to add a comment rant about racism in America. “IT’S STILL HERE”

    Leaving from the airport in Alabama, we had a little encounter with the dear people of TSA who protect us all from those flying terrorists. One of the supervisors of the morning shift was being rather rude in his manner toward my wife who was attempting to get through airport security in a wheel chair. (note: she is black, he is white). The young black woman of TSA who initially helped us was quite pleasant and helpful as we handed her the bag of homeopathic medications that could not be x-rayed (according to our great Doctor) without affecting their efficacy. She was giving her white supervisor a sideways look as he objected to my wife’s request saying “these aren’t homeopathic”. His manner was quite belligerent in contrast to the pleasant demeanor of his co-workers. He was emptying the bag of all the supplements my wife takes daily

    Deb (my bride) called out to me as I waited beyond the checkpoint (having gone through already) “Darrell, they want to X-ray the medicine.”

    When I stepped back through security and in a loud but calm voice said, “you’ll find the homeopathic items in the outside pouch” (He apparently hadn’t noticed the outside pouch…ahem) he seemed startled to see a white man standing before him. He regained his command and said “none of these bottles say homeopathic on them”. I quickly replied “That’s true but all of the floral extracts you see there are homeopathic and contain enzymes that will degrade under x-rays”. I could see that my loud but calm voice was leaving him wondering if I was attacking him. I wasn’t.
    I added “Look, I’m not a doctor. I just do what the doctor says to do.”
    The TSA man begrudgingly admitted that he wasn’t a doctor either but He sternly added “I’ve been doing this job for FIVE Years”. Now where did he think I would go with THAT remark? As though his five years at TSA outweighs the five college degrees my doctor has on his wall!
    I retorted “My wife has been taking medication for quite some time longer than that.”
    He stammered. He gathered up the supplements and took them to the manual screening station.
    My wife said later that every black woman in the south needs an angry white man on her side.

    Now you may be thinking “why is this racist?” TSA treats everyone this way. We all know that some of them are called the “Barney Fifes” of homeland security. Why call it racist?

    Here’s why: As my wife was getting grilled in a rude and accusatory manner, another passenger, a white man, was being spoken to with dignity and respect as they carefully removed the BULLETS from his carry-on bag.

    You do the math.


  2. soulfulady says:

    May this Baha’i prayer, revealed by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, surround and protect Bessie Mae Evans as her precious soul wings its way to the heavenly kingdom, and may her friends and family find solace in it:

    “O Lord, O Thou Whose mercy hath encompassed all, Whose forgiveness is transcendent, Whose bounty is sublime, Whose pardon and generosity are all-embracing, and the lights of Whose forgiveness are diffused throughout the world! O Lord of glory! I entreat Thee, fervently and tearfully, to cast upon Thy handmaiden who hath ascended unto Thee the glances of the eye of Thy mercy. Robe her in the mantle of Thy grace, bright with the ornaments of the celestial Paradise, and, sheltering her beneath the tree of Thy oneness, illumine her face with the lights of Thy mercy and compassion.
    “Bestow upon Thy heavenly handmaiden, O God, the holy fragrances born of the spirit of Thy forgiveness. Cause her to dwell in a blissful abode, heal her griefs with the balm of Thy reunion, and, in accordance with Thy will, grant her admission to Thy holy Paradise. Let the angels of Thy loving-kindness descend successively upon her, and shelter her beneath Thy blessed Tree. Thou art, verily, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous, the All-Bountiful.”

  3. soulfulady says:

    May the disease of racism be overcome forever with this prayer, revealed by ‘Abdu’l-Baha:

    “O Thou kind Lord! Thou hast created all humanity from the same stock. Thou hast decreed that all shall belong to the same household. In Thy Holy Presence they are all Thy servants, and all mankind are sheltered beneath Thy Tabernacle; all have gathered together at Thy Table of Bounty; all are illumined through the light of Thy Providence.
    O God! Thou art kind to all, Thou hast provided for all, dost shelter all, conferrest life upon all. Thou hast endowed each and all with talents and faculties, and all are submerged in the Ocean of Thy Mercy.
    O Thou kind Lord! Unite all. Let the religions agree and make the nations one, so that they may see each other as one family and the whole earth as one home. May they all live together in perfect harmony.
    O God! Raise aloft the banner of the oneness of mankind.
    O God! Establish the Most Great Peace.
    Cement Thou, O God, the hearts together.
    O Thou kind Father, God! Gladden our hearts through the fragrance of Thy love. Brighten our eyes through the Light of Thy Guidance. Delight our ears with the melody of Thy Word, and shelter us all in the Stronghold of Thy Providence.
    Thou art the Mighty and Powerful, Thou art the Forgiving and Thou art the One Who overlooketh the shortcomings of all mankind.”

  4. Darrell says:

    Thanks for the prayers soulfulady. The family appreciates BOTH sentiments.


  5. Carol J. Payne says:

    What a lovely tribute to your Bride’s step mother! And I am so sorry you ran into a rude airline staff member in our state whatever his reason. My love and prayers for all of you. Carol Payne

    • Darrell says:

      Thank you Carol. It’s hard to believe that was almost six years ago. For the record, it was a TSA agent who exhibited racism. The airline staff was most kind and courteous.

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