A good life lived

She had been giving Phyllis, the weekend daytime caregiver, step-by-step instructions on how to prepare chicken and dressing in the crock pot. “People will eat that,” she said. “It’s going to be good.”

Mama Hollie with her first great-child, Lucas.

She worried about having enough eggs for cooking when the family arrived for Christmas. She told Phyllis to move a floral arrangement to the side so she could watch her cook.

Then she died. Just like that.

It was appropriate, I suppose, given how much my mother loved food. Whether cooking it, eating it, or storing it up in two full-size freezers and a large pantry, Hollie Cartledge could be a bit obsessive about groceries. I suspect growing up dirt poor during the Great Depression had something to do with her insistence that there always be plenty food available.

If there’s a restaurant in heaven – I think “The Holy Cow” would be a good name – my mother is probably looking over the menu.

I grew up, like any good southern boy, calling her “Mama.” When her first grandchild was born, she became “Mama Hollie,” and that was her name from then on.

Mama with her three boys, Tony, Don, and Jeff

My mother was 87. She’d struggled with a variety of illnesses for some time, and had been surviving on 15-20 percent of a normal heart capacity for several months. I suppose it finally just gave out.

She died on Saturday, three days before Christmas. Her gifts for the grands and greats were neatly lined up beneath a small tree, as visions of turkey legs danced in her head.

Mama loved many things. She loved her family, and she did well by all of them. She was proud of all three of her boys, who grew up to be solid citizens who did well and gave her grandchildren to dote on. She made them birthday cakes and cookies and clothes, and couldn’t be happier than when some of them spent the night with her.

Mama spent all of her life in a small town but didn’t want to be limited to it. She read about other places and travelled when she could. I took her to Hawaii once, and to Albuquerque, and to New York City. She saved her money and went on a couple of Caribbean cruises with the Lewis Family. Whether it was to the North Georgia mountains or wherever a grandchild happened to be, Mama was ready to go.

“Mama Hollie” and “Daddy Bill”

And Lord, how my mother liked to shop. She could spend all day traipsing between half a dozen department stores, looking through just about every rack or shelf, and coming away with baskets of bargains. My daddy was a patient man. Few things made Mama happier than finding something marked down to half off when she already had a coupon for an additional discount. Her vision of heaven probably looked a lot like Costco.

Church, of course, was also high on Mama’s list. She helped out with Bible School when we were young. She sang in the choir. She was faithful to her Sunday School class. She went on senior trips and outings for as long as she could climb into the van. She took food when people were sick or someone had died, and mailed cards upon cards to folks who needed prayers.

With the youngest great-grandchild, Asher.

Mama wanted to love technology, but had a real knack for wrecking it. Over the years I bought her two desktop computers and a laptop. She went through two iPhones, and just about every time I came home I’d have to straighten something out. She had a hard time remembering how to access her email, post something on Facebook, or find pictures of her grandchildren. Her philosophy was that if a program didn’t work, she’d just keep pressing keys or clicking on random icons in hopes that it would. At one point, her iPhone keyboard was in Chinese.

Mama’s penchant as a tech-wrecker could be frustrating, but I always had to admire her desire to keep up and try new things.

I am only one of many who will miss her love and her humor and her cooking and her interest in knowing everything about all the people she cared about. Hers was a life well-lived, and we take comfort in the hope that she’s utilizing that same bright-eyed curiosity in a whole new world.

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