I grew up in what might have been the last generation of Southern children to have African American housekeepers. I've been given a hard time about this before, by people not from the South, people who think there is something demeaning about employing an African American lady to keep house in a white family's home. I don't know why people who are not Southern think they need to reprimand Southerners for something that they never experienced. They saw Driving Miss Daisy and think they know all about inter-racial relationships in Southern households. They don't.
Anyway, the woman I grew up with was named Katie Rhone, known to my brother and I simply as "Katie." And she was our housekeeper. She wore long skirts and smelled like lemon-scented Niagra. When she ironed, she used her broad hands to smooth the garment over the ironing board in a motion so strong, yet fluid, Barishnakov would be jealous. She gave me ginger ale when my stomach ached. And she would never let me eat just a jelly sandwich, though I tried to convince her many times. She insisted that I have just a little bit of peanut butter on it, too.
Katie was a part of our family. In fact, she had been family to my mom a lot longer than I had been. Katie and her husband lived on the land that my grandaddy (a mechanic/farmer) farmed. She had worked for my grandmother and helped her with her five children. Now he was in our home, helping the child she had seen grow up, with hers.
She did not cook meals, but she ironed all of our clothes and cleaned house, and kept us when my mom was out. She was warm and comfortable and delightful. Someone to hug and say "hello" to. A part of our home. Never did I fear or avoid her or think for a moment that I was for some reason "above" her. She had a place in our family, as I did, as my brother did. We did not dare make trouble or pull some kind of prank while Katie was with us. We knew she would report us to our mom! There was no pulling the wool over her eyes!
I remember hearing her talk to my mother as I got older. I don't know the details of their conversations, but I know that Katie would talk about the Lord. After she retired, my mom would go visit her at least once a year, and she would report back to me about their visit. It was probably from these second-hand conversations that I realized that Katie was, in fact, a strong woman of God, a daughter of the Most High and ultimately, my sister in Christ.
My dad sent me an email this morning letting me know that Katie died yesterday. It makes me sad that I won't be able to attend her funeral. It feels wrong. Someone who took such precious care of me, and I cannot be there to worship God in her honor. I wish I could be.
But, I know this much. Katie is currently doing something that I long for- she is in the presence of the Lord Jesus. I imagine her seeing His face. I imagine Him seeing her. I imagine their joy at one another- a lifetime apart- finally together, finally whole.
Those who are quick to criticize a relationship of which they know nothing, fail to see that we were looking up to her, following her example all along. Both in her work and her life with the Lord, she was honorable, faithful, true. I rejoice at the thought of my Father saying to her, "Well done! My good and faithful servant!" She was always serving Him, you see. She knew that. We knew that. Some others who saw it from the outside thought she was serving us. No, no. He always got the glory. He was always well pleased. And she is getting ready to reign, a princess in the heavenly realm, a royal child. One who I will be happy to see again, when I get to go where she is today.