I seldom use this space for personal or family comments. This week I beg your indulgence to say some things about a dear and beloved lady in my life who died peacefully in her sleep last week. She was my second mother, and I was listed as a foster child in her medical records.

Odessa had turned 105 in December of last year. I had known her for approximately 62 of those years. She was my nurse and playmate, teacher and mentor, disciplinarian and encourager. There is no element of my early life this godly lady did not touch and mold. She knew and loved my wife. Then, although the miles had begun to separate us by then, she loved and enjoyed our children.

As a sickly child who spent a lot of time in bed with regular bouts of pneumonia and assorted other respiratory ailments, my mother needed help with the constant care her child needed. With mother's work in the daytime and the night duty for my care, Odessa took care of me for six to eight to ten hours a day. I knew her well and loved her deeply. A major part of my hatred for racism surely traces to my love for this African-American woman of tender heart, joyful spirit, and Christ-like character.

Typically too frail to play outside as a little boy, Odessa played Lone Ranger and Tonto with me in the house. With the padded arm of a couch for my horse, she and I chased down many a bad guy and brought him to justice!

We found irony in the fact that our memories are rooted in West Tennessee but our lives have been lived near each other in Michigan for the last six years. Every visit to her daughter Elizabeth's house was special. Her mind stayed sharp, even as her body got weaker. I told her I wished she would try to forget some of the more embarrassing stories about her childhood ward that she seemed to take particular joy in sharing. She would only laugh – and tell another.

She knew my name and those of my brothers.
She knew my name and those of my brothers. But she never used them. She gave us names only she used of us. Mine was ... Umm, maybe I should keep that to myself. Yep. I think I will. But that's what she’ll call me the next time I hear her voice. And we will worship together before the throne with a freedom we didn't have back in those pre-Civil Rights days.

The resurrection will have given back to her everything time, age, and frailty took away — and provide so much more.

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13 NLT).