I sit at a desk in Hamlin, Texas today, overwhelmed. When I think of my mother-in-law, and try to gather my thoughts for her memorial service, it’s almost impossible to know where to begin. She was so much to so many.
To her students at Hamlin High School, she was Mrs. Cowan, the world’s greatest teacher. She was great because she was gifted, she cared about the kids, and because she worked at it.
Cel would stay with us every summer, on her way to or from a math conference, and always excited about a “new” way to teach students. She never rested on what she knew, but was constantly looking for new ways to help her kids learn math. Her class wasn’t easy, but Cel made it fun. Her students knew she cared about them, believed in them and they were always encouraged by a couple Jolly Ranchers.
To the Sunday School class she led for decades, she was Cel, a sweet, shining example of what it means to follow Christ. Those who were in her class considered her a second mom. They loved her, were encouraged by her and she took care of them through all kinds of life events.
She was the picture of a faithful member, and supported her church in all kinds of ways. She loved the staff and friends at church, taught Awanas, and participated in just about everything that happened at FBC, Hamlin.
To too many to count she was Cel, the fun-loving, sweet and great friend. She was part of one of Hamlin’s most dynamic duos ever, Joe and Cel. To be with them, at a meal, party, event or on a trip was always lots of fun.
To her 9 grandkids, she was Mimi. As a grandmother, she was hands-down the best of the best. Each one has a special relationship with her. They all knew, if they ever wanted to commit any transgression, from sneaking candy for breakfast to murder, do it at Mimi’s house, where she’ll protect you from your parents.
To her kids, she was Momma. She raised them, put the fear of God in them, pushed them to be their best and loved them like crazy. At times, those 4 drove her to a place where they thought she was actually crazy, but each of them always knew she was their biggest fan. Cel loved each of them dearly.
To Joe, her boyfriend from Hamlin High, and her husband for more than 50 years, she was simply Cel, the love of his life. I never saw Cel struggle, until Joe died this summer. That she couldn’t really accept or move past his death is a beautiful picture of marriage. These two were one, and they belong together, which is where they are right now in the presence of Christ. That’s as it should be.
To me she was my favorite mother-in-law. Because Celia has 3 brothers, Cel always introduced me as her “favorite” son-in-law. She addressed all her notes to me, as FSIL (favorite son-in-law) and signed them YFMIL (your favorite mother-in-law). And you know, she was. She was my favorite.
One Thanksgiving years ago, Cel celebrated with my family in Austin. She noticed my mom served mashed potatoes with our turkey.
Tradition in the Cowan & Albritton houses didn’t include mashed potatoes in their holiday meals, but turnips (yeah, I got tricked once). Cel asked my mom why she served mashed potatoes and my mom told her mashed potatoes was one of my favorite dishes.
I never went to another Thanksgiving or Christmas meal at Cel’s house that didn’t include mashed potatoes. I never asked, she just did that for me every year, to make sure I knew she loved me.
I’ve watched Cel in lots of situations and around hundreds of people. Over all that time, I’ve seen Jesus again and again, in my favorite mother-in-law. Everyone who knew Cel had a special relationship with her. In some way, she touched students, friends and family, and they all knew they had a special friend in Cel.
I will miss her greatly, but I am overjoyed to know she is with Jesus, and Joe. And I look forward to the day I will see them again.
“We know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God Himself…” – 2 Corinthians 5:1