May 12, 2009

Moon over Yusufiyah - a special glow.... [Robert Stokely]

0900 11 May 09: Christell Pitts Stokely, born April 21, 1928 died at age 81 Piedmont Fayette Community Hospital.
No person has ever been born who did not have a mother,but I was fortunate to have a Momma and the best to say the least.

Chris Stokely was as sweet a woman as ever were. She was a devoted wife who did not work outside the home and was there for each of her children every day. But, she worked harder than if she had an outside job. Taking care of three boys who could find a lot to get into and prone to break a lot of bones along the way. I was youngest of the boys and our sister came eight years after me, completing my Mother. A fifth child, William Thomas Stokely, was an "unexpected' but happy pregnancy. He was born February 28, 1963 and died during child birth. In the years to come, his death would have been prevented with the invention of the fetal monitor which alerts doctors to the need to do a C-section when the baby is in distress prior to birth. I shall never forget holding his tiny hand in his tiny casket. Each February 28 Momma and I would spend time remembering William Thomas - it was our private bond, one which I think was ironic since it would be me who would one day bury a son. In another ironic twist, William Thomas Stokely was given the first name of my great great grandfather - William G. Stokely who was a SGT with E Company, Florida Cavalry in the Civil War. Even more ironic is that William Stokely (actually spelled Stokeley then) died as a prisoner of war in Federal custody at Camp Chase Ohio, two months before the Civil War ended. Mike Stokely was a Cavalry Scout with Troop E 108 CAV 48th Brigade Georgia National Guard and was KIA 16 August 2005 in Iraq. Broken hearts understand each other.

But, in all this, there were many many happy memories and much to be thankful for. Chris Stokely lived a full life, always making the best of it when times were tough. She was the best cook - I often said I would rather eat her food cold than anyone else's hot. She cooked for several years for the Wednesday night Supper at her church with 100 - 150 eating. A fresh home cooked meal prepared on her stove and served hot - I don't' know how she did it but she did. Folks signed up to come eat, even carrying out food. More came to eat than stayed for church - I guess they thought eating her food was heaven enough and no need to listen to the preaching that was to follow. The Church finally made it a rule you had to stay for the preaching if you came an ate. Attendance went up and Momma cooked for the church late into her sixties.

Momma was an expert seamstress - she could hand sew the finest fabrics with the most difficult hand cut patterns. She could look at a dress or gown in a window and make her own pattern. People traveled 40 miles from north Atlanta well to do neighborhoods - wealthy at that - to bring her fabric to make their custom to fit evening dresses and gowns. To say Momma was industrious and handy is an understatement. And her ability to bake and make desserts, especially her own recipe of Divinity candy - sorry so many of you all missed out!!!

Momma had heart and she had courage and she could make friends with anyone. She knew how to be tough in spirit without being rough on the spirit. She made boo boos better and made the scary sounds of a dark night go away. She was was funny and witty. Once while taking me and some of my friends for a baseball game to play another school she inadvertently turned down a one way street. A police officer happened to be right there and waved her to stop, telling her "M'am, did you know this is a one way street?" to which she replied with charm "I'm only going one way." The policeman laughed and given it was a quiet street and we were almost to the end just waved her on.

She buried her husband of 40 years when he was but age 62. In her late fifties, she had a lot to "figure out" since my daddy handled most of the money and business of the family. She came up to speed pretty quick and did right well for herself. You would think burying a son and husband would be enough, but then, she buried a grandson. August 16, 2005 it was tough to break the news to her of Mike's death in Iraq. But she handled it this way - from her wheel chair she reached up and pulled me to a hug and said with experienced loving confidence "Son, you'll make it, you will...." With full-time oxygen and other health problems she came to Mike's Memorial Service, sitting there for an hour and half up on a stage in front of a thousand people, and then greeting many afterwards. A few days later she demanded to make the 70 plus mile ride to go to Mike's funeral service, even to the graveside as hot as it was on August 27. A year later, as I went by to see her, she asked what I had planned for the rest of the afternoon. I told her I had my trailer hooked up and going to work on Mike's grave and plant new sod. She looked me in the eye and said "I am going with you - you might need some help." It was good to have her along that day and we talked as I worked. Two years later she rode in my brother's car as part of the 140 plus motorcycles and thirty or so cars that were part of the "Ride to Remember...." to raise $25,000 to endow the Memorial Scholarship in Mike's name at Georgia Military College. Then she helped host a BBQ lunch for 500 people after the ride, staying until everyone was served and full. Chris Stokely may have had sit down due to her medical problems the last few years of her life, but she didn't sit life out especially when time came to be there for her family, especially to honor and remember Mike.

Now, she is the first to see Mike again for our faith led us to believe that there is a God and there is a heaven and our faith in Jesus will re-unite us there along with William Thomas.

Sad but in a very sweet way, the Moon over Yusufiyah has a special glow tonight.....

Robert Stokely
lucky son of Christell Stokely
and proud dad of SGT Mike Stokely
KIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah Iraq
USA E 108 CAV 48th BCT

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