By Stan Adams
Death has come as an unwelcome intruder into our lives, and snatched away a vital part of our existence. I do not suppose there is any more empty feelings than losing the one who helped mold you and shape you and who carried you for nine months, and endured emotional, physical, and social pain for your well-being. It sure does deeply hurt to lose your Momma. I lost mine and 1 feel so lonely, empty, and yes, a little angry (not at God, or at anyone), simply angry that one so much a part of happy life could fall prey to the terrible unexplained, maladies of this life. We are all assured that she is in that much better place and that she is waiting on the other side for her children, husband, grandchildren, other relatives and friends to come home and join her.
I knew her as Momma, others knew her as Wilma Adams, or Wiley’s lovely wife. But, by whatever name anyone knew her, the outcome was still the same. They loved her and respected her quite demeanor. I do not wish for this article to simply be an obituary. Others have lost their mothers and they hurt just as I do. When my momma died, a big empty hole was left, not only in our lives but also in the lives of hundreds of Christians who looked up to, respected, and loved her. Just as Dorcas, in Acts 9:36, she was “full of good works.” Countless people have written or spoken to us about the many kind things she did for them. Godly women everywhere should heed the things she did for them. Godly women everywhere should heed the example of Wilma Adams and be about the business of serving God and helping their families and husbands be all they can be in service to God.
Momma trained her children well. I cannot ever remember my momma raising her voice in anger to any of her children. Oh yes, she corrected us, but not by throwing tantrums and yelling. She had a unique snap to her fingers that made you know when she was serious. She had the ability to appeal to the best in all of us. She could get us to answer our own dilemma, by saying, “You don’t want to do that, do you?” She firmly believed that the raising that she and Dad gave to us would win out over the obstacles of this life, if we lived long enough. This had been borne out in all of our lives. Her four children and nine grandchildren truly do rise up and call her blessed. One of the first things that Momma taught all of us children was how to pray. She had embroidered the “Now I Lay Me Prayer” for us, and hung it over our bed. This prayer was more than mere words to her. One phrase sticks out even more to me now, in light of the reality of the suddenness of her death. It is the phrase: “If I should die before I wake, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take.”
Momma taught us kindness. She loved us fervently and protected us, but was never unkind or cutting. She had an aristocratic Virginian dignity that, when aroused, could quietly remind you of what you were doing, and your need to “back off,” if you were wrong. Momma told us in later years, repeatedly, to not let ourselves stoop to the level of those who would abuse us and say all manner of evil against us, without cause. She taught us to hate the evil but love the soul of the one in sin. She told us, “You don’t want that person to help send you to the bad place, do you?” She taught us to pity the evil doer and get about the business of going to heaven. Her kindness was demonstrated in the care she took to make things by knitting, embroidery, and cross-stitch. Her love for the beautiful shows in the legacy of her glass collection. She was gentle, loving and kind and such a classy lady.
Momma taught us what being a godly wife was all about. She and Daddy were married for 45 years. What a love story! He truly found is “million dollar baby, in the five and ten cent store,” as the old song goes. She worked at the candy counter and he worked at the plant. She was from an Episcopal background, he from a Christian Church background. They dated and much of that dating centered around going to meetings and church services. He taught her to obey the truth, and she did. She told her parents that she was going to be baptized and become a Christian, and they were very upset. She stated, that if she loved them more than she did Christ, she was not worthy to be a Christian, and she must do what was right. They strongly disapproved, but she obeyed Christ, and never looked back in regret. My dad later realized his baptism was not right and obeyed Christ. From the beginning of their married life, Wiley and Wilma Adams had deep spiritual roots. Momma recognized early that the young man she loved so much deeply wanted to serve God by preaching the gospel. She watched his pride and pain, when his younger brother went off to learn about the Bible at Florida Christian College. He didn’t see how he would ever be able to be a full-time preacher. After all, he was older, had two children and a promising career going for him in research at the plant. But his sweet wife knew where his heart was and wanted to help him to do what they both wanted him to do. Others thought them frivoulous but they knew what they wanted to do and they were going to do it. So they both worked to pay off everything and save to go to college with two children. After two years at college they had another child (me). Many times during their time at FCC, they would discuss whether they should continue. She would say: “Wiley, we haven’t missed a meal yet, have we? The kids and I will be alright. Let’s not quit now, we will always regret it.” So they stayed and finished and she was so proud of her “preacher man.”
She was the ultimate preacher’s wife and more preachers’ wives would do well to stop hindering their talented husbands from preaching the message, and start helping and encouraging them.
Momma taught us how to be happy when abased. Momma never whined about not having things. She would do without so we could have nice things. There were times when things were very scarce, but she sheltered us from her concern. She firmly believed that if we put the kingdom first, we would make it and, you know, we always did. She was Daddy’s best ally. They were a team, and in a different way now, always will be, even though she is at rest. When a congregation asked Dad to come preach for them, they got the best. Momma was an excellent teacher of young children and young ladies, but never sought the spotlight. She was a confidante to many, and carried the secrets of many people to her grave. She was honorable and trustworthy and the heart of her husband trusted in her. They walked with one another often and in the last few years had developed a system of filing problems, which helped them to cope with the stresses of life among brethren.
When I got the call, from my brother-in-law, to come to Tupelo, Mississippi, because my momma had suffered a severe stroke, my heart felt as if it would burst. Before we left Texas, I paused alone and prayed that Momma would not have to suffer pain or be in a vegetative state. As we drove 12 hours to be with her and Daddy, I felt as if my world was coming apart. It was unbelievable that the lady we had vacationed with two weeks earlier, and who had been so full of life and fun, could now be at death’s door. Not knowing whether she would be alive or not, we arrived to hear that she was alive, but unresponsive. I went in to see her and tried to get her to respond. I tickled her foot, and squeezed her hand and told her I was there with her. She showed some response, but it was obvious that the stroke had taken a tremendous toll. Even through all of this she was able to respond with tears. Her heart rate raced when she heard that all of her children were there, even her oldest son. I spoke to her and told her how much I loved her as did, my sister Paige, brother Keith, and brother Art. The in-laws Jim and Carla also had time to speak with her. My three sons spoke to Mamaw and told her they loved her and later came and told her good-bye. When her pressure suddenly dropped, the family was quickly summoned and told by the doctor that her time was short. So we all gathered around her and held hands, and as a family, waited on our momma. Her family was together, as she had raised us to be, and we were facing things head-on, as she had trained us to do. Finally, Daddy leaned over and kissed her and told her she could stop fighting if she wanted to go wait on the other side for us. Within a few minutes, she had done just that. She slipped peacefully and painlessly away to the only one she loved more than us. One of my sons, stated it like this, “Mamaw is helping Jesus get things ready for the family to come ever.” I do not know if that is the way it happens, son, but I like the thought.
At the funeral, the song, “Send the Light,” was sung congregationally. Even the family sang, just as she would want us to do. The song was one she cherished, and will continue to be an anthem for our family, as we go out to preach the gospel, with a firmer resolve than ever. Her favorite song was the “New Song”; it was sung superbly by all. The funeral director stated that Momma’s funeral was uplifting to him. He didn’t even know her well, but she had the same effect on him as she had on others. She could lift you up, when you felt your lowest.
Momma’s death shows the urgency of being prepared every day. She walked with her Savior in a daily way. She was prayerful and penitent. She studied and read all of the time. She enjoyed life, especially family times. Oh, how she loved to see her kids and grandkids. We knew we were loved because she expressed it to us so well. Each of us carried our special pouch of cherished memories. These will keep us going. Her wit and sense of humor and beautiful smile will be cherished by us all. We will never eat a Christmas dinner without thinking of her. That is as it should be. As brother Andy DeKlerk said at the funeral, “Go to your garden of memories and visit with her a while.” We will certainly do that often.
But, she would want all of us to know, as she stated many times, when she was among us, “Your race is not over until it is finished.” We are not finished, and God being our helper, we will wear ourselves out, as she did, serving God and helping bring lost souls to Christ. Send the light and let is shine. In doing this we will honor God first, and Momma and others we love second.
Young ladies who may be reading this: Please, if you are a preacher’s wife, encourage him to preach and stand beside him in his efforts. You may not get a degree, and you may not go down in earthly history, as some great woman, but you will go down in the spiritual hall of fame, as a virtuous woman, just as Dorcas, and my momma, Wilma Adams.
It is my birthday. Thirty-eight years ago through much pain, and waiting, my sweet momma brought me into this world. For the first time she will not be there to wish me happy birthday. It hurts and I feel empty, but through it all, Momma has given me a gift. The assurance and hope that she is in the better land, and that we, her family, can also be there too, if we live and act as we were raised to do. Thank you Momma, and until we meet at his feet and sing the “New Song” together, we will continue to “send the light.”
You loving son,
Stanley, August 26, 1990
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 20, pp. 622-623
October 18, 1990