How many times did I hear these words from a former Sunday School teacher-mentor-older friend? More than I wanted to, let me tell you. She didn’t dispense sympathy or platitudes or anything else—just those six words, spoken decisively and leaving no room for argument or discussion.
Growing up during the Depression in a family with a stepfather and half-siblings, she soon struck out on her own. She “boarded out”, tending children, cleaning houses, doing laundry, and anything else she could find to do to keep soul and body together.
Once her high school principal said to her, “If you don’t come to school more often, you’re not going to graduate.”
To which she replied, “Well, I guess I won’t graduate then, because I have to eat.”
In adulthood, she survived a divorce not of her own choosing and raised a son on her own. She often worked two jobs for reasons I won’t go into here.
I came to know her when she moved to my hometown (for work) and became superintendent of the junior high Sunday School department in our church. I’m not sure I liked her much at first, but she had ways of cajoling me into doing tasks she wanted done and loved calling me fairly early on Saturday mornings, exuding over-the-top faux “regret” for waking me up.
Over the years, I grew to love and respect her and soon learned she expected and gave no quarter in life’s battle. “You just have it to do,” she’d intone flatly, no matter what situation I presented to her hoping for a magic—and easy—solution.
So I did it—whatever “it” was at the time—grudgingly and perhaps not well, but like her, I became a survivor.
When she died unexpectedly in a car accident, part of me went with her. But I’d visit her grave occasionally, and as I placed flowers in that barren, windswept West Texas cemetery, I was sure I could hear her whispering, You just have it to do, Toodlebug. You just have it to do...