Miss Mittie brightened her world

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mittie Crum Cook Mason, 89, passed last weekend after a long and charmed life spent entirely in Wilcox County, save a few years at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute.

To say that she was a character would be an understatement. To say that her children gave her a goodbye ceremony worthy of her reputation would be an absolute truth.

She grew up at Cook Hill in the Possum Bend community of Wilcox County, the youngest child and grandchild in a large family. She never lost her love of that place, and until she took to her bed last fall, every afternoon drive included a pass by her childhood home.

Determined to live her legacy, her children asked the minister for an upbeat service. But before the service, they drove Miss Mittie by Cook Hill one more time.

“We can do this part,” my friend Felicia said at the visitation, “but that. That was hard.”

Felicia’s brother Tom presented the eulogy.

“I come from a long line of men who cry,” he said as he began. “So my apologies if I do.

“Mother, on the other hand, did not believe in crying in public.”

Indeed, Miss Mittie believed one should put on a happy face and make everything right in the world.

“Mother never left home without pouring herself into a girdle, strapping on the fake bosoms she’d worn since her mastectomy in the 1960s, putting on her lipstick and a smile,” Tom said.

She also was a veteran Sunday School teacher, and had volunteered her talents for 45 years at the First United Methodist Church of Pine Hill, right across the street from the home she shared with Mr. Harry, her husband of 64 years. The one thing she thought Sunday School should be was fun!

“Mother believed Jesus loved children and wanted them to have fun,” Tom said. “She also thought He liked it better if church songs had a little honkey-tonk in them.”

Many Sundays, he said, just as a somber song was being sung in the sanctuary of First Methodist where we were gathered earlier this week, the lively sounds of “Do Lord,” with Miss Mittie jazzing it up at the piano, would be heard from the Sunday School assembly below.

On Monday, Miss Mittie’s children (sans girdles and fake bosoms) put on their happy faces and brightened up the world. After the funny stories came a request – that the congregation would sing her favorite Sunday School song.

And so, with instructions we were not to sing the words in the book, but the ones Miss Mittie had used for decades in Sunday School, the congregation attempted a rambunctious version of “This Little Light of Mine,” accompanied by her nephew at the piano, who threw in some honkey-tonk improvisations in her honor. I think she would have been proud.