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We Remember "Mama"

Charlotte Lindsay Roscoe Riley truly loved the Lord her God with all her heart, with all her soul and with all her might. She was never shy or ashamed to talk about Jesus to other people. There was nothing more important to her. If you knew her, more than likely, she ministered to you. Her grandchildren, especially, often fell into the path of her tenaciousness. She continued to witness to us long after we had grasped the concept of Christ as our Savior… she just wanted to make sure we got it. In truth, her influence on our own spiritual lives cannot be measured. Our lives have been blessed each day by her heartfelt prayers.

We, her grandchildren, called her Mama. As grandmothers go, she had her own special "style". Her heritage to us was "time spent". We knew her well, our relationship was not formal and there were few things off limits to discussion - which, of course, was not always a good thing … peace and tranquility often had to compete with enthusiastic dialogue in her household. Mama was predictable, yet full of surprises. She could conjure up in you every emotion known to mankind in a single weekend visit. She had an easy quick contagious laugh but could never remember the punch line to a joke - which, of course, would make her laugh and end up being funnier than the joke itself.

Mama's interest in people often led to a question and answer period - or perhaps better referred to as the third degree - upon one's arrival at her home. She enjoyed learning new things through others. She was outspoken and her caring nature often led to opinions being shared. Heaven forbid, should you get in her way when she was convicted about something. Heaven help you, if you were the one she became convicted about! …

The recent deaths of Ann Morrow Lindbergh and Dale Evans, both of whom Mama admired, reminds us that this generation of women were indeed women of conviction. The times in which they lived seemed to require it. They all lived through extraordinary change. These were women of great fame and tragedy. The fact that they both authored many books is an indication that they were no different than Mama in their desire to share the experiences of their generation. In recent years Mama especially wanted us and our children to remember her life and appreciate how significantly different life was not so long ago.

For example, this past January, Mama sent a note expressing her desire to order five classic toy 1932 model Ford "jalopies" … one for each of her five youngest great-grandsons. With that request, she included this note:

If you haven't already ordered a classic car for Porter, please order this one. His Great-Granddaddy, Grayson, bought one of the 1st '32 Model Fords that came out. We did all our "courting" in it and often had another couple in the rumble seat. We rode off in it on our honeymoon to Kilgore with my luggage in the rumble seat. We married in '33 (the last day) and in '34 when I was pregnant with your Mother (about 8 months) a friend needed a ride home and the car wouldn't start. I knew if the car wouldn't start, all you had to do was give it a push. We lived on the top of a hill on your great granddaddy's uncle's oil lease so my friend and I gave it a push. It started and suddenly started rolling down the hill with me trying to hold it so I could get in. Do you get the picture? There was a big boiler down at the foot of the hill. That's where the car stopped…… Do you blame Grayson for getting upset? Mama

Often her focus would be on children. Mama began her work with children at nine years of age by playing the piano for a children's Sunday school class in Marshall, Texas. She played by ear and could often play a song after hearing the melody only once. After she married our grandfather, Grayson Roscoe, they moved often, as work required, in the 1930's oil boom. Frequently, she would play the piano in the different Sunday schools and even bartered for dancing lessons for daughter Pat. In 1951, Mama and Granddaddy moved to Odessa, Texas. Mama founded a private music oriented kindergarten as there was only one preschool in Odessa at the time. Her goal was to enrich the lives of children musically and academically. The school started with twelve students. One of those students, Hack Hestand, will be giving the eulogy today. Upon her retirement in 1975, the school experienced significant expansion structurally and enrollment had reached 100 students. Mama's kindergarten was recognized as the premier preschool in Odessa. All this to say that its success was due to Mama's creative insight and her love of children. As one of the earliest businesswomen in Odessa, Mama reached her goal of greatly improving the quality of education by providing a strong academic environment for Odessa preschoolers.

In the late 70's, upon moving to Emerald Bay, Mama was one of the founding members of the Emerald Bay Community Church. The members met in the clubhouse and sometimes on the golf course in their golf carts at dawn. These were rewarding years for both Mama and Granddaddy as they helped build this lovely community.

Several years after Granddaddy's death, Mama married Floyd M. Riley, a devoted husband and friend with whom she shared ten rewarding years of companionship. Mama and Floyd shared a strong faith, which provided Mama with a sense of affirmation and comfort.

Having described these accomplishments, it must be said that one of Mama's proudest moments was when she caught a nine pound eight ounce bass. This amazed Granddaddy because in reality, Mama was afraid of the water and couldn't swim. So when she and Granddaddy would go out in his bass boat, she would sit on the bottom of the boat directly behind his chair, usually with a big hat on. She did not abide by fisherman's protocol and she would spit on the bait for luck. It must have worked because she always managed to catch the biggest fish. She also insisted that she "hooked" a thirteen pound bass as well. But as we all know … the one that got away doesn't get mentioned in your eulogy …

One of Mama's many notes, written on the back of some old torn envelope, says … "If you feel there is distance between you and the Lord - guess who moved?" Her relationship with Jesus Christ sustained her and strengthened her. It was a simple uncomplicated faith that motivated her at her core. She was not about to move away from the Lord nor was she afraid of death or the thought of how she would spend eternity.

One of Mama's favorite preachers was Billy Graham. (Many year ago, after a revival in El Paso, she sought him out at a motel in hopes of introducing him to one of her students … but that's another story …). Dr. Graham wrote a message in the November 1997 Decision magazine entitled "How to Get to Heaven". In the article, he explores the questions Why are we here? And where are we going? He talks about what Jesus said about the cost of getting to heaven … that respectability is not enough, money is not enough, religion is not enough. You can be absolutely sure that Jesus lives in your heart. Not because of anything you have done but only because of Jesus, his love for you and his willingness to die for you. If Jesus Christ is not Lord of everything in your life, he is not Lord at all. Mama knew where she was going, that her sins were forgiven. She had assurance that when she died, she would go to heaven.

Skip Ryan, Senior Pastor at Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas said: We spend so much time preparing this life to be more comfortable as if it will last forever - yet it is like a puff of smoke compared to time and eternity. In some ways the cold blast of death is refreshing. Faith shows us that there is an eternal future. That really it is what we must think about when we face that "unwelcome guest". For Mama, death was not unwelcome. The opposite was true, as she looked forward to spending eternity with Christ.

Fortunately, we can easily say that none of us had words unspoken with Mama. We knew where we stood. Her love and devotion stand with us always. We have crossed over a milestone; life will be different now. It will be void of quick notes of advice, targeted newspaper clippings, early morning wakeup organ recitals consisting of The Aggie War Hymn, The Good Ole Baylor Line and the Eyes of Texas and late night chats with her on the floor, feet up in a chair. And of course, we will miss the ever-popular chocolate pies, as will most of Emerald Bay. But there will be stories to tell our kids, such as the chocolate pies sliding off the roof of her car as Mama and Eloise Wolff rushed to deliver them fresh and hot. Then there was Mama's surprise at discovering a single piece of chocolate pie in a secluded closet, months past Thanksgiving, apparently hidden by a forgetful unnamed grandchild with hoarding tendencies. These and other stories usually have punch lines … and whether we remember them or not … we will always remember Mama.

Summing up 87 years of life is impossible but a task worthy of our efforts. We appreciate your support and participation. Thank you for being here as we celebrate the life of Charlotte Riley. She would delight in this gathering, as do we.

Ken Hankins, Jr.
Ann Hankins Kennedy
Grayson Roscoe Hankins

Ecclesiastes 7:1 The day one dies is better than the day he is born.

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