I always appreciate being remembered.
Blanche Madelyn Graves Williams
October 14, 1923 – April 24, 2015
As tribute after tribute poured forth celebrating our mother’s life, Everett Junior, Allen, and I were made conscious of the impact she had on so many lives. Mama was loved, respected, admired, and appreciated. She was celebrated as vibrant, articulate, energetic, and resourceful. She graduated, with honors, from Bennett College, Greensboro, NC, the first in her immediate family to achieve this distinction. She spent much of her life recruiting young women believing her beloved alma mater was the place where each one could obtain a quality education.
Mama was a gracious and caring woman. She loved people and modeled the qualities of a true friend: she was kindhearted, loving, and understanding. She was a patient – and sympathetic – listener who eschewed judgment in favor of compassion or a kind word in the place of unsolicited advice. She was tolerant and accepting of others. She understood the importance of discretion and kept confidences. “You don’t know how people sleep,” she often admonished. I eventually grasped the significance of her sagacity. She was Blanche, simply Blanche.
Oh, how she loved her family! One had only to inquire and she lit up sharing the latest news on their accomplishments. Her relationships were intimate, special, and cherished. We all knew Mama loved us – deeply, unfalteringly, and unconditionally. We all have our favorite stories about time spent with her. I came to appreciate her even more as a, wonderful, and adventurous, travel companion. She was Blanche, simply Blanche.
Mama was confident, capable, the epitome of the Bennett Ideal. She didn’t shrink from a challenge. Although her undergraduate degree was in Sociology, when the principal of Lincoln School in the all-black town of Allensworth, CA came calling, in need of a classroom teacher, she stepped up and a career she hadn’t dreamt of materialized. She retired thirty-five years later having taught in Oakland, Seattle, Santa Ana, and Fresno. She was Blanche, simply Blanche.
I knew her as Mama. She was my rock – even when we disagreed. I am, now that she has made her transition, more keenly aware of the extent of her influence over my life. She was – and is – my most enduring role model. There was never a blurring of the lines in our relationship – she was always my mama; not my best friend, my good buddy, or the sister I never had. She relished the gift of being a mother. She took immense pride in the achievements of my brothers and me. Throughout her life, this mother of three nurtured, encouraged, and supported each of us, enthusiastically sharing with others our gifts and talents.
Blanche Madelyn Graves Williams possessed a formidable intellect. She was a brilliant woman; erudite, illustrious in her own right, very well educated, yet modest. She married an itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church right out of college. For fifty-four years she lived the life of the preacher’s wife. It was a role in which she thrived. Mama was an author. Most of her books were training manuals for various commissions within the Women’s Missionary Society of the AME Church. She developed a curriculum she taught to newly-wedded pastoral spouses on the art of living in a fishbowl while fulfilling the expectations of a demanding profession. Her masterpiece, I Tried to Tell You, is an autobiography which has delighted family and friends alike. Mama, she was Blanche, simply Blanche.
I miss her laugh, her calm counsel, and our Sunday night telephone conversations. She would invariably ask, “Let’s see now, who have we heard from this week that we both know?” It was always a joy to share news with her or to answer her question with something worth talking about.
I always thought my mama would live forever – it’s what I wanted. And when I think about her, the following passage comes to mind: Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies…Her children arise up, and call her blessed…Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates. Proverbs 31: 10, 28-31 KJV.