I had a little time to think on a recent Saturday morning as I drove across Waco to the magnificent structure known as Second Missionary Baptist Church. I had visited there previously and knew the route but this particular Saturday my mind was focused on the solemn purpose of the visit: the funeral service for a grand lady, Lovie Taylor, 91, whom I had known as a youngster many years ago.
Lovie in those days was a woman in her early 30s. My folks had made arrangements for Lovie to oversee my twin brother and me during summer months when our parents were busy working and we were not in school.
The late 1950s and early ’60s seemed more innocent for both community and country. Today it seems youngsters have packed calendars of sports and dance and summer camps, not to mention iPhones, texting and the Internet, to keep them fully occupied. Summers now seem much more busy than those of yesteryear. And because my sibling and I weren’t always on the go back then, we had more time to spend with Lovie.
My favorite memory of Lovie is when she taught us to drive her old standard-shift auto. This was years before we took a more formal standardized course called “Driver’s Ed.” Lovie’s patience with two 11-year-old, green-behind-the-ears motorists was astounding. We loved being with her and often hid her shoes so she couldn’t leave us — a story she told her family many times till very late in life.
On my drive the other morning, deeper thoughts came to me. You see, between that time of learning to drive so many years ago and 2016, I had neither seen nor heard from Lovie, not once. My brother and I thought of her often but, through the years, we just were not in touch with her. That changed a couple of years ago when her son located me via the miracle of the Internet and invited us to Lovie’s 90th birthday party right here in Waco. Speak of grand revelations: Lovie had been living in Waco all these years and had never forgotten us, even as times changed and all of us ventured into other spheres of life. Her son explained that she nonetheless talked so often of “her twins” that they felt obligated to contact us and invite us to the birthday bash.
And so to the birthday luncheon we went. Surrounded by her large family, we were treated with love and warmth. Lovie was as delighted to remember us with a hug as we were to hug her. What a wonderful day.
Fast forward to January 2018 when we learned of Lovie’s passing and the date of her life celebration service. At her memorial service, the real miracle for us was how incredibly accomplished Lovie had become through nine decades of life, a collective testament to her dedication and drive. She had attended Texas Woman’s University, studying child development and home economics and receiving an Associate of Arts Degree in 1971 — the same year I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. Lovie studied social studies and psychology at Baylor University and spent time working with Head Start as a substitute teacher and at LaRue Learning Center as a teacher. Yes, there were other children behind us who also benefited from her warmth and knowledge. Many others.
Besides serving as a remarkable life coach to her own four children, Lovie was a 70-plus-year member of Second Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of former pastors, the Rev. M.L. Cooper and the Rev. Eric Hooker, and the current pastor, the Rev. Nika Davis. She was a Sunday school teacher, treasurer of the adult choir, president of Mission II and a past first vice president and treasurer of the Good Hope Western General Association. She served the Missionary Baptist General Convention of Texas, working on the enrollment and finance committees as well as co-chairing the budget committee and being area president for almost 30 years.
Her surviving family includes four children, eight grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. Stories told by the family at her celebration service documented an incredible matriarch, teacher and servant to church and community.
Her memorial service — complete with ladies of the congregation in their elegant hats and gentlemen in wonderful suits and ties; a joyful gospel choir; and moving resolutions, stories and acknowledgements — not only paid homage to a wonderful lady but did great service to the memory of someone who touched many lives and made a positive difference. In a passionate and eloquent eulogy and in tribute to Lovie, the Rev. Davis appropriately quoted poet, essayist and civil rights activist Maya Angelou: “Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”
This celebration of a life well lived, a benefit to all, left me optimistic about our Waco community, certainly more optimistic than on my drive to the funeral earlier in the day. So many citizens like Lovie, be they African American, Hispanic or white, have lifted themselves up and lifted our entire community up. Without question, she was the rainbow in many clouds over many decades. Can we follow her example?