In Memorium: Mrs. Irene Cooper
Mrs. Irene Cooper passed away Sunday, July 1, 2007.
For we know that if our earthly house of [this] tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. II Corinthians 5:1(KJV)
I always called her "Mrs. Cooper." I don't know why, maybe because my Mom always said to be formal in calling older folks by their name. If they wanted you to be less formal, they would tell you. She actually did tell me to call her "Irene"; but, for some reason, I never did. She had a title: my mother-in-law.
She confessed about five years ago,that, in the beginning, she had some slight suspicion of me; although, when asked about it, she denied the conversation. This could have been part of our bantering which was always with a little "tongue in cheek."
I will miss her. In the later years, I would breeze though on my way to somewhere and spend the night. We had some great talks discussing a variety of issues.
Since the Coopers were strict Southern Baptists and Dr. Cooper had been a pastor for over 60 years, there were thoughts and mentalities. I always tried to be a little outrageous especially about social issues. More than likely, Mrs Cooper, would mostly smile and make some wry comment with no intention in debating me. However, she would hassle me good naturedly about not staying longer and I'd always say the same thing, "When you're not around much, people always love you."
Eating was always a big deal for Mrs. Cooper as it is with most southerners. I use to laugh and have said it over and over through the years, "I had never known anyone, who, after having just finished this gigantic meal, would be planning for the next one.
As a country boy, I knew all about southerners and eating. When my Mom spread a table, she could have fed a military post. With Mrs. Cooper, if you were having pork chops and there were five people eating, there would be five pork chops. Years later, eating out was always the option; and, because I loved good country faire like collard greens and black-eyed peas, she always planned on eating at that type of restaurant when I visited. We went to a place called Pauline's which had fine country cookin'.
We truly celebrate Mrs. Cooper's life. Honestly, Having been a pastor, I can appreciate what it meant to be the kind of person she was. For her, in most situations in life, it was "show time." She was the preacher's wife. I have joked throughout the years that her children got the "gene"-not as good as their mother-but they got it.
I often tell a story about her, which I'm not sure is true, but close. Once she was working the crowd standing in a receiving line.(The exact event escapes me.) I got in the line. When I came to her, I said something outlandish like, "The Russians have landed." She looked at me and said, "I am so glad to see you. Thank you so much for coming." She allowed that I had made it up and went on with her duties.
When I was preparing a few remarks for her service, I picked up a Bible, her Bible. The bookmark opened to the ever familiar passage in Proverbs(Proverbs 31:10) , "Who can find a virtuous woman, for her price is far above rubies."
Years back, I became emotional when her generosity first became reality for me. I had orders for Vietnam and it was something I wanted to do. It was the event of my generation and I had to go. We were poor as church mice and it seemed we owed everyone we knew. I didn't know what I would do about Jackie and Meg. Where could they stay? How could we afford it? Then Mrs. Cooper engineered an out: Meg and Jackie would stay with them while I was in Vietnam.
I will never forget what Mrs. Cooper told me. "You go to Vietnam and be careful and come back home safely. We will take care of Jackie and Meg and don't worry." It was a great year. They thrived and Meg tells me she has such fond memories of her year with her Grandparents.
I think I am prepared to say it now: "Irene, thank you, I'll miss you." JDA