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Rediscovering Mama - Ronda Rich

It is my strong and abiding philosophy that good springs forth from the midst of whatever bad happens to us. In the recent days that now trail behind me as time spent sweetly, I have luxuriated in the good that came from the water line break that practically demolished my childhood home.

It was shocking to see the devastating damage and all the material possessions lost, many of no value monetarily, yet invaluable to my heart. Though I had bought the house to use as my office, and though most of Mama's possessions had long been dispersed to family, friends and the Goodwill, much still remained. There was the bedroom suite she had purchased as a new bride, after working three years in the hosiery mill, as well as helping her aunt in her boarding house, and diligently saving every penny possible. She began her job for a wage of 10 cents an hour and eventually worked up to 25 cents hourly.

"Your daddy said, 'We'll need to buy some furniture, so I'll make arrangements to make payments on it.' We went down to the store and picked out everything it took to furnish our little apartment, and when it came time to settle up with the man, I just took the money out of my purse and paid for it. I had $345 and your daddy had no idea. You could have knocked him down with a feather when I paid the whole bill."

"Why didn't you tell him you had money saved?" I asked.

"I just didn't."

"Why?"

She shrugged. "I didn't want him marryin' me for my money."

I can understand that.

It was the beginning of a successful partnership, financial and otherwise. Daddy labored to make the ends meet, but Mama kept them tied. In a hard knot.

Also severely damaged was a prized, hand-made, antique china cabinet that Daddy bought on the one-and-only vacation we ever took. We had traveled to Pennsylvania for two weeks to visit Daddy's sister. While there, he bought it from her next-door neighbors, whose Italian grandfather was the superb craftsman on the cabinet. Daddy had it shipped home.

The sofa that Mama bought two months before her final good-bye, the one she was so proud of, was soaked beyond use. And the little desk that, for over 60 years, had held our family treasures and odds and ends, including photos and letters, was completely destroyed. Sadly, there would be no saving it. Ironically, it had been one of the few pieces of furniture that I had strongly wanted from Mama's estate. I can still hear her saying whenever I was looking for something, "It's in yonder, in the desk."

The insurance company, without complaint or balk, did whatever necessary to aid in making things right, though nothing would be the same again. It took two weeks of drying out with multiple, massive machines before construction could begin. Once the water was dried up, professional movers came in, packed up all things personal and professional and stored them in mobile units moved into the front yard.

After five months, it was time to move back in and unpack. I began the process as one usually does with these type tasks -- resolutely, but not enthusiastically. The process took me away from other obligations as well as work that provides wages. It started out as a mundane task, but turned into something of extraordinary value. To my surprise, it became a journey of sweetness and discovery, one I shall chronicle for you in the weeks that lie ahead.

As I rummaged among the boxes, I found stories that will speak to many of you. What surprised me most was not what I found of Mama in the remnants that remained of her life.

It was what I found of myself that was the most eye-opening.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know About Faith." Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.