Earlier today, Brandon was talking about the Vaiden High School having their class reunions. He said that if my great Aunt Tina (Miss Christine Carithers) were still alive, he would have taken her up there to see some of her old students. Yes, she certainly would have enjoyed that.
After Brandon said that, I started thinking about Aunt Tina, and she has been on my mind all day. She passed away on January 20, 2012 at the ripe old age of 95. She was the oldest of five children (one of them my grandmother) born to Blanton E. and Dottie Alda (James) Carithers of Talahatchie County. She never married, and therefore had no children of her own. She was a real force to be reckoned with though. Everybody watched their p’s and q’s around her. She had a masters degree in education and was definitely used to being in authority. During her career, she taught in Philipp, Vaiden and Scobey and later was the Home Economics teacher, the Dean of Women, and a dorm mother at Holmes Junior College. She also served as Home Extension Agent for Tallahatchie County for a time. Though she had no children, she served as the matriarch of that part of my family during most of my childhood and adulthood. Whenever the Carithers offspring got together – it was usually at her homeplace out in the country from Charleston, Mississippi. My Grammaw Daves (nee Mae Belle Carithers), Aunt Middah (Mildred Carithers Parish), Uncle Johnny (John Edward Carithers) and Aunt Peggy (Peggy Carithers Russell), their spouses and children and even their children would all gather at Aunt Tina’s to eat, fellowship and generally “cut-up.” One thing about that side of my family was a very well developed sense of humor. Every one of them was or is hilarious. All had a dry quick wit, and there was always lots of joking, big story telling, knee slapping, tricking, and just good times. My goodness we all would have fun! More importantly, though, is that I don’t ever remember eating a single meal there for which we didn’t thank the Lord for providing, nor do I remember not going to church. When we all gathered there, we all knew that we would either go to Aunt Tina’s church (Charleston First Baptist Church), or my Aunt Middah’s (Charleston First United Methodist Church). There was lots of teasing about whether we kids were making “Baptist pallets” (if we stayed at Aunt Tina’s on Saturday night) or “Methodist pallets” (if we were to stay with Aunt Middah and Uncle Barry in town). Either way the entire family would trek to church on Sunday morning.
Though Aunt Tina didn’t have children of her own, she treated all of her neices and nephews and we grand-nieces and nephews, and later great-grand nephews and nieces as though we were her own. I figure each one of us thought we were her favorite. I know I did. She displayed many fruits of the spirit, but one of her greatest was the gift of encouragement. She always wrote to me to ask about my grades, what was going on in my life, and whatever activities I was involved in. She came to my dance recitals, many of my band concerts, birthday parties, and many other events. She always expected a letter to be written back to her, and I always complied… because, well, nobody wanted to disappoint Aunt Tina. She lived her life in such a way that you always felt the presence of the Lord around her. She could be quite sharp with you if you didn’t display proper manners, or acted in a way that wasn’t acceptable, but I always knew she loved me. Some of my best times were spent at her house in the country with her. I’d usually spend several days a couple of times a summer up there with her, and many times during my spring breaks or Christmas holidays from school. Later after I grew up, she would have Justin and Phillip stay with her when they were off from school.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I truly appreciated her deep faith and I am still amazed at what a strong person she was. I asked her once why she never married, and she quickly asked me why should she? I stammered around and said, well most women want to be married and have a man to provide for them and to love them. She told me that Jesus was all she needed. He provided for her, loved her, saved her and she would spend eternity in His presence, and that was better than any man on earth could do for her. Not that anyone could (or would) argue with Aunt Tina, but honestly who could argue with that? She stated it very matter of factly and that was the end of that.
Years later when my beloved Grammaw Daves died unexpectedly, she, Aunt Middah and my cousin Pam came to my house in Greenwood on the night Grammaw died. I was absolutely beside myself. Oh, I was hurting, and I was distraught, and I felt completely adrift in my grief. Aunt Tina wasn’t a real touchy feely kind of lady, but I felt so good when the three of them walked through my door. I knew how much she, Aunt Middah and Pam loved Grammaw and I figured she’d feel about the same way that I did. She took me aside and asked me why I was so upset. To say the least, that shocked me to my core. What did she mean, why was I so upset? My grammaw was gone. She had been my very best friend, and I didn’t expect it, and I wanted her back right that very minute! I guess my look puzzled her too, because she said, “Don’t you know that when she opened her eyes, she saw Jesus? How can you want her back? I can’t wait until I can see Him! We will NOT be selfish about that.” We talked about how there was no doubt she was in heaven, and that we surely shouldn’t selfishly begrudge her that blessing. At Grammaw’s funeral, Bro. Jim preached from Psalm 116. When he got to verse 15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints,” what Aunt Tina had told me that night really sank in. We Christians are all supposed to be trying to become more like the Lord. I realized that Aunt Tina could see my grammaw’s death as “precious,” and it made me ashamed that I hadn’t. That was Aunt Tina, always living out her faith, quietly with her words and yet loudly with her actions. She wasn’t a put-on or a show-off, she was the real deal. A genuine and sincere Christian living out her faith day by day, minute by minute.
I just know that she touched my life in so many ways that I would be hard pressed to ever express it all in words. This blog post certainly hasn’t done it justice. I like to think that she made an impression on everyone’s heart that she touched. Like I said, she had no children of her own, but I hope that all of us are living in a way that would make her proud. She’d have “no greater joy than to know that [her] children walk in truth.”
Over the years, she cheered me on when I was doing well and living right, and she chastised and yanked my chain when I was adrift. I tried to thank her many times for the influence she had on me, but she always brushed it off as though she hadn’t done a thing. After her death, I received a ring of hers that she wanted me to have. I wear it almost every single day. It’s not fancy, or flashy, but I love it because it was hers. Each time I look down at it, I remember her, and “I thank my God upon every remembrance of” her, her well lived life, and her larger than life faith.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. 3 John 4