Saying good bye to one of the greats <3


On Friday I shared about the obituary we saw of someone we knew only through casual encounters in her place of employment and how she impacted our lives. 

Today I am asking you to bear with me as I share the passing of another woman this past week who changed the trajectory of our family’s life. 

When John was in 7th grade we felt the stirrings to consider the possibility of enrolling our third child in private school for a variety of reasons. Thus began a series of visits to the school, athletic events and much prayerful discussions. It was also during this year that we had moved my Alzheimer-stricken father, my dementia-ridden aunt and my exhausted mother to various facilities in Decatur from their home in Kentucky. 

I was an emotional mess as we navigated having children ranging from college to 7th grade and three elderly people suddenly needing me as their advocate. It was in this state of being stretched thin that I first met Mary Dickey. Actually the day I met her, I had Sarah in tow as we were considering changing her to attend Decatur Christian School as well. 

Thus I found myself in the front office of Decatur Christian School one afternoon when Sarah had a half day from public school. DCS was in session so arranged a visit to their school which was holding classes. It was early fall and I remember she was wearing shorts but we had thrown a pair of pants in the back seat in case they asked her to dress according to their code. Mrs. Dickey kindly requested that we do change in respect to the other students.

What I am about to tell you is one of my high-ranking most embarrassing moments of all time. I was nervous anyway and trying to make a good impression. I was fresh off of daily visits to my mom and dad that would involve my volatile father giving me a good vent of his frustration that we were not taking them home and believe me, the man could use some colorful language. I am not blame free of using a choice word now and again, but I do feel my guard was particularly down as I was now hearing it on the daily and I was worn out. That’s my excuse but I take full blame for what happened.

There I stood in this small reception area, apologizing for not having had her change before we got there and suddenly out of my mouth came these words: “But I figured what the hell, maybe it will be okay to wear shorts.”

I am not sure whose eyes flew open wider, Sarah or the secretary behind the tall desk, but Mrs. Dickey didn’t even blink or flinch. I immediately stammered my apology to which she graciously said she didn’t know what I was talking about, hadn’t heard what I said…and this way to the little bathroom where Sarah could change. 

And that was the way she always was to me. Over the years I had opportunity to do large and small volunteer projects, teach a few classes and coach cheerleading under her leadership. The latter job was one I would never have taken in a million years if she hadn’t looked at me one day and asked me to pray about something and would I consider doing this. I never was a cheerleader, nor did I ever want to be one. It was John’s senior year and I knew most of the girls already. But I did it only because she asked me and God laid on my heart to say yes. 

It was challenging in so many ways, and I certainly earned the little bit of salary that came with it. I was blessed by the young women I got to know, but the greatest gift of all was the times I sat in her office while she taught me how to lead. There have been so many times in my life as a mother, wife, employee, teacher and writer where her calm voice has come to my memory dispensing some wise advice. 

Because of Mrs. Dickey I learned to avoid “pot-stirrers” and make the “peace-makers” my closest associates. I learned about loving and supporting and being firm with young people. I learned that it is not my goal to be popular with them, because they don’t need me as a friend. What they need is a responsible adult in their lives who cares deeply about the character of their hearts and is willing to be unpopular out of that love for them. 

One of my favorite chats with her was the day she told me I was spinning too many plates. As in all of her advice, she came to it from lessons she had learned the hard way. She was so kind as I sat, worn out and weary, in the chair across from her desk. She shared about her own seasons when she was like the old circus act, running from stick to stick to keep the plate above from falling and crashing. And then she prayed for me. Prayed for me to know what was mine to do and what I needed to delegate and what I needed to let go of. 

She loved our son and appreciated his humor. Not all teachers had along the way, but she recognized it as a gift and allowed him to use it to emcee the chapels in his last few years at DCS. She also appreciated his intelligence and heart.

She came to all the games and events and without fanfare allowed the kids to be who they were while holding them to a high standard for Jesus. 

One of the best examples of her transparency and integrity is an interesting story that I will close with. One year I had paid some fee for John, but kept getting notices that we hadn’t paid. I wrote another check and moved on. Much later, in fact I think it was maybe even the next year, she called me into her office to tell me she was going through files and she found the check and apologized that it had been her fault. I thanked her as I took the check and then I told her how much I admired her because she could have just destroyed it, but instead she had wanted to make sure I knew it was her error. 

I can still see her looking across her desk at me for a minute. She shook her head a little and she said she needed me to know that the very thought had crossed her mind. But she had resisted the temptation and had done the right thing. I realized that she had faced two temptations and had not given in to either. She could have destroyed the check and she could have accepted my praise and skipped me knowing what had transpired briefly in her heart.

That confession impacted me probably as much or more that anything she ever did. I realized the importance of acknowledging our temptations to each other and I do believe the reason she was so gracious was because she knew the grace of God so tangibly in her life. I know that her example led me to be transparent in my own life and to desire truth over what others might think of me.

Yesterday at her funeral I spoke with a former student who claimed her as mentor. We listened to a eulogy from a man about our age who worked alongside her for many years who referred to her as his mentor. I claim her as one of my great mentors. My guess is that many teachers, staff and students claim her as mentor. And we all know that she mentored us out of the time she spent in prayer, study and conversation with God.

She lead well because she followed well. 

Thank you Mrs. Dickey.

Rest in peace <3

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  1. Just beautiful, Laura. As always with you, lessons to be learned and followed in your writings. Thank you, Sweet Laura!

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