Emily Williams column

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 16, 2011

Paper airplanes flew in remembrance of beloved Bible teacher

On December 7 Batesville was covered in a beautiful snow. It didn’t last long, but it was the kind of snow that makes children excited.

“Is it Christmas?” my three-year-old son, Bailey, asked when he woke up to find the neighborhood covered in soft, white snow.

A few nights before, Bailey had asked if Santa could bring him snow for Christmas.

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“I am not sure if Santa can, but you can ask God,” I had told him.

A few days later we awoke to snow.

I was reminded of my own childhood when later that day I attended Mrs. Marjorie “Margie” Pettit Lightsey’s funeral services at Batesville Presbyterian Church.

I was about my son’s age when Mrs. Lightsey was my Sunday School teacher.

It isn’t always easy for an adult to explain God and Heaven to a small child, but Mrs. Lightsey made it simple. God was love.

The church had looked especially beautiful with the snow covered steeple when I arrived there.

As I stepped in I immediately saw familiar faces, Mr. and Mrs. Kilgore showing me where to sign my name in Mrs. Lightsey’s guest book.

Mrs. Honnell offered a basket full of candy, appropriate at this funeral because Mrs. Lightsey always gave candy to her Sunday School children.

 Memories of being raised in that church flooded my mind as I grabbed a few Tootsie rolls.

I sat by myself on the back row until a sweet voice, asked, “May I sit here?”

 The lady introduced herself as Mrs. Lightsey’s neighbor. I found out she was the wife of the Rev. Ed Woodall who would be helping officiate the services.

My hands nervously opened the program as I tried to sit still, feeling again like a little kid.

“Mrs. Lightsey would have loved the snow today,” I whispered to my new friend.

I glanced at the program and my eyes immediately read lyrics to “Hymn of Promise” as music filled the sanctuary.

 “In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, apple tree; In cocoons, a hidden promise; butterflies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”

How appropriate for a snowy day.

  I tried to sit still, feeling like a child with my candy in my clammy hands.

I stifled the impulse to make an airplane out of my program, thinking to myself, “What am I doing? I am a grown up and should not be making airplanes and making noises with candy wrappers during church services.”

 The congregation started singing, “Jesus Loves Me” and the mood in the sanctuary immediately felt light hearted.

“Mrs. Lightsey used to make paper airplanes for us after Bible School,” I mentioned to Mrs. Woodall.

 As I started singing along to “Jesus Loves Me” just like we sang in Bible School 25 years ago, I saw a paper airplane fly above the congregation and sounds of children’s voices.

Rev. Melodie Pointon, pastor of the church,  told the congregation she once asked Mrs. Lightsey how long she was a Bible School teacher and she responded, “over 80 years.”

“Mrs. Lightsey remembered all of her children she taught,” Rev. Pointon said.

“Mrs. Lightsey was a true example of love.”

 Growing up across the street from the J.P. Hudson ballpark and Mrs. Lightsey’s son and family, I was very close to her granddaughter, Sandra Lynn Lightsey Bright. My memories of the ballpark are entwined with remembrances of Mrs. Lightsey and and her sons who managed the park.  

I remember eating snow cones after every game, and working in the concession stand was my first job.

 Mrs. Lightsey was known for riding her bicycle to church, the grocery store and around town until she was 80 years old. Her family had brought her bike for display at the church.

I always admired her liveliness and energy. She was definitely a child at heart.

My grandmother died when I was only a few weeks old, leaving me no memories of my own grandmother. Mrs. Lightsey was a pure example of a grandmother’s love.

Rev. Pointon explained that Mrs. Lightsey kept a  calendar with prayers and notes of accomplishments her “children” had made.

 “She prayed for every one of you,” Pointon said.

I was glad Mrs. Woodall sat next to me, because I failed to bring my tissue and I felt immature with a wet face and nothing to wipe it with.

 On the back of the program, listed with the survivors, were “a flock of Batesville Presbyterian Sunday School Children.”

And among Mrs. Lightsey’s accomplishments listed was: “Creator of the Presbyterian Jet.”

 For a moment I was a child again.

After the closing prayer Rev. Pointon said, “Now, everyone make sure you get a Presbyterian Jet if you didn’t get one at the door and get more candy if you like, because you know Mrs. Lightsey was never stingy with giving candy to her children.”

As the service ended, the organist played “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

Her example of love and teaching the Bible with such simplicity when I was a child left a mark on my heart forever.