Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Life Worth Living

Today our church family said our final goodbyes to a wonderful woman, Sally Ford. While we mourned the loss of her companionship and guidance, we rejoiced knowing she is truly in a better place. I can't remember a time when I didn't know her. She and my mom have been best friends as long as I have been alive, and our families took many vacations together. From surf fishing at Carolina Beach in North Carolina to trips to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, almost every childhood memory includes Sally, her husband, and their three sons. She has been a role model for me from the time I was a child. You know how it is when you're a teenager; your parents know NOTHING, they don't understand you, and have no clue that you are practically an ADULT and still treat you like a kid. The nerve of them. At times like this, when you have someone like Sally that can put things into perspective, and put you in your place, it's a huge help. She taught me a lot. By sitting and talking with her, seeing what she did with others, and following her lead, I have learned so much. I have learned that by inviting a group of girls from church over to make candy on Sunday afternoon, you give them a memory that will last a lifetime. I have learned that you can pick up the phone to call someone or send them a card, and by doing that you help them to realize they matter and they are not forgotten. I have learned that you can speak your mind, in love, and make an impact on someone. I have learned generosity, compassion, love, how to keep a positive attitude and find the joy in any situation.

Sally wasn't in good health for a while, and this year it seemed like it all just exploded on her. She found out she had macular degeneration, and had surgery then shots after shots in her eyes, to try and preserve her eyesight. Then in May she had to have heart surgery to replace a valve in her heart. In July she was diagnosed with cancer, which had already started spreading. This is a lot for any one person to take, especially all within a few months of each other. But did she complain? NOPE. The way she put it to me one day was like this. She said "I could be bitter and say why me, why is all this happening to me at one time. But I see God working. He knew all this was coming. He fixed my eyes so I see my cards. And by fixing my eyes, they found the heart damage. If I hadn't had the heart surgery, I wouldn't be strong enough to face chemo. God knows what He is doing.".  Wow. To be able to look at all this and still give God the glory. But we all saw that her faith was unshakable.

Sally had been a Christian for about 45 years. I never saw her waver from that. She and Webby raised their boys to be good Christian men, which they all are now, and are raising their children with the strong faith they learned. As much as she hurt, she made it to every service she could. Some of the same services I missed because I was tired, or because my back hurt, or whatever other excuse I had. She has helped so many of us so many times with encouragement and support.

For those of you who may have been reading my blog from the beginning (yes, all 2 of you), you might remember that I said Sam had really struck something in me because I knew someone who was born with a similar condition in their hands. That someone is one of Sally's sons, T. He and I are the same age, have grown up together, and I got to see firsthand just what all Sam could do if given the chance. It really got to me how different their lives were, all because of their mothers. Sally gave birth to T, saw his hands were like they were, but it didn't make a bit of difference to her. He was her son, and he was never treated any different than his brothers. He was pushed to be the best person he could be, never was treated as if he had a disability or as someone different. Sam's mother gave birth, saw his hands were like they were, and cast him aside. It's just inconceivable to me. If Sam had Sally as his mother, his dreams would be unstoppable. And that's what I had intended to do. I wanted to be for Sam what Sally had been for T. And when we were unable to continue, she knew I hurt. She sent me the sweetest card and invited me over for coffee. It made such a huge impact on me. All around were people I knew who hadn't even acknowledged that we were adopting, and never understood the grief we had when we had to let go. But she did.

She knew I was hurting, and she reached out to me. And she did that to everyone. I doubt there's a person at our church who doesn't have a similar story. That's just who she was. Even in the hospital she tried to comfort everyone around her who was upset. I sat with her last Thursday at the hospital and just cried at seeing the amount of pain she was in. I was holding her hand, trying to comfort her, and she put her other hand over mine and kept saying "I'm ok, I'm alright". She even kept her awesome sense of humor to the very end. Once during a really bad pain, she took a deep breath and said "Traci, let's just go to the beach".

She has always been one of the funniest people I know. She had a sharp wit and a quick mind, and you knew you would be cheered up around her. Sally loved to laugh. Once, we were heading to the beach, I with two of my kids, my mom, Sally, my brother, and his friend. We stopped at a gas station for a break, and when we all piled back in the van, my brother and his friend couldn't stop giggling. When twelve year old boys do that, you know they're up to something. After several miles, we finally got it out of them. They had taken some snap and pops and carefully placed them under the seat of the toilet in the women's room. (If you don't what they are, they are these little paper balls filled with an explosive powder. Throw them on the ground and they make a banging noise. Completely harmless, but will scare you to death if you aren't expecting it.) Now you know how gas station bathrooms are. You don't use one until you really HAVE to go. Imagine running into one, plopping down on one thankful you made it in time, and those things going off! Let's just say it would be a good thing you were where you were. Mom and Sally were horrifed at first that they had done this, but couldn't help but laugh at the thought. Sally tried to scold Josh and his friend, but she was laughing so hard she couldn't hardly do it.

Sallie Gatewood Ford

She was one of a kind, and there is so much I could write about her. But the most important thing I will remember about her was that she lived her faith, right up to the very end. She's an example we all need. I hope I can grow up to be a Sally one day.

What will your legacy be? What will they say about you at your funeral? Will they be able to base an entire sermon around your faith and life, and be able to say, this is how everyone should do? Will your family have the comfort Sally's family has, of knowing she is truly at peace and without pain?


  1. What a wonderful post. You were truly lucky to have Sally in your life. She sounds like a rare gem.

    Sue H.

  2. Just like I remember her! I berate myself everyday for not keeping in touch with her. She touched my life in so many ways while we lived there, and was such a wonderful example of a what a Godly woman should be! Traci, thank you for writing this! I am glad that you had Sally to comfort you when the adoption fell through. I didn't know about Sam's hands, but it's just like Sally to reach out to you and offer you comfort. She was truly what I hope to be every day.

  3. I only hope and pray that I can be half the woman that Sally was. Thank you, Traci, for writing this tribute to Sally. She helped me out so many times, and counseled me when we lived there. I thought the world of her. Her faith and love for others, even those who were less than kind to her, should indeed be an example to all of us. I wish I had done a better job of keeping in touch with her.

  4. She sounded wonderful wont she be having fun right now in the Glory of our creator...i relish the chance when I can worship our god in his glory and dance and sing unhindered by all here that keeps us from truly rejoicing.


  5. I thank God every night for knowing her for 49 yrs and being her husband for 48 yrs.She could do and make do in any situtation in life. Make you laugh every day, and make you think too. Its been said that when you came into her house you knew you was welcome.She made you feel that way.
    Love`ya babby. web.