When did it begin, to where I am…

Walking into that house that cold cloudy February afternoon at 1006 Apple Drive, I never dreamed my life was about to take on a new meaning, new direction… Because I could see the line of cars parked in front of my house as I inched closer down the street, I knew something was terribly wrong! It was, I didn’t belong there anymore… Opening the front door I could hear voices inside and instantly it seemed, my Uncle was standing in front of me. “Your mom passed away today.” My knees buckled under me and I broke into sobs. Quickly I went to my bed, sat down and thought, “what will happen to me now?” I had no idea that 40 years later I would try to explain how I went from nothing…became a something (to God) and now sit here searching the tiny corners of my mind to explain, why Jaye does what she does.

Some of these words are in my book I have written. I go into greater detail of course… however in order to write my blog today I find myself in need of tracking backwards to a day and time my world began to fall apart. Not easy to recall even to this day. It was difficult to draw the picture of a very frightened child years ago for a reader to “get it.” I suppose it will always feel as though a dew of some “foreign ugly” wraps itself around me when I explain as best I can that we all can at different times of our lives go through one or more of the worst experience any human being could possibly imagine this side of hell! Your mom passed away! Hell!

Often and probably more so lately I have been asked. How do you do what you do? Sometimes I believe people think I always had in my control some sort of mighty super power to keep my shoulders straight, my head up high and speak so confidently to the many many I had to watch walk to deaths door. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

My Dad died in 1967. Way before many of my readers were born. My mom died in 1971. Both died from cancer! Our lives flipped upside down. Instantly! If we were scared, we were scared alone. If we became afraid, we battled that fear alone. If we became sick, again the battle became our own. If we cried…yes friends we cried alone. There was nobody to sweep back our hair, pull us into their tender strength and assure us that everything was going to be alright.

I was alone!

Of course there was the five Mattern children… Struggling with everything we had in us to hang onto what we could to solidify normal, yet due to circumstances beyond our control one by one we lost that control and each of us spiraled into our own journey into success and failure.

To this day I read NOTHING about cancer. It is a subject I avoid. I in fact will not wear a pink ribbon during whatever month it is to bring awareness to cancer! It is a topic of conversation I refuse to talk about yet it is a subject very drilled into my mind that in an odd way I can tell you how it strikes and how it destroys. I often must remind myself that the survival rate for cancer today needs to be applauded. We have come extremely far in cancer research but in my mind I often feel angry due to the fact I can not make what was, to begin again today. Today there is hope! Forty years ago there was none yet that is what lodged itself into my child mind!

The list of men and women in the past 7 years that I personally have known and I have loved beyond anything I could have ever imagined is quite lengthy. The men often would sit down with me. The homeless men… and they mentally would speak of a list they have made, who would die next. 

Of course at first I thought they needed more entertainment yet I myself thought about the same thing…who would die next. One in particular was always at the top of all of our lists yet he is still alive today. Men and women that never actually made the list at all are now gone. So the author and finisher of all of us…the only one who does know the beginning and the end…God, it’s His list and therefore the predictability of the ending is written only by the Master.

So where do or did I come in? OH right, God called me into the ministry! I actually had no desire to be in the ministry. I went through years trying to sort my whole life out which took me down several strange twisted dirt roads. The kind of dirt that suddenly stirs up puffs of red clay on a hot dry August day in Alabama when the soft wind blows. There is no escaping it…it clings to everything and worst of all you begin to taste it in your mouth. I became a suicidal alcoholic drug addict. BUT God!

I came into a relationship with God about 27 years ago and my life began to turn…for the better. I married a man that was called into the ministry and when it came to hospital visits… or funerals? There was no way I was doing either! However here I am 23 years later and I do it all. How did that happen? God…

Somewhere, somehow he took my crooked path and He made it straight. I stare into the eyes of death and I no longer want to run away. I hold the hands of dying men and women, scrap their bloody bodies off of cement and see things I once never imagined I would see. The whole time I feel nothing but love and compassion racing through my entire being for human beings I will love into eternity.

Where I go and what I do is very filthy, but I have never refused to sit on an overturned crate yet. I climbed through the woods smelling the air for a dead body. I’ve had to help so many men put their clothes on either because they were too drunk or sick to dress themselves. I’ve taken blankets and covered men passed out under a bridge in 20 degree weather and I have carried others off the walking bridge in the middle of summer to a shade tree so they won’t cook in the hot summer sun.

I play make believe with Don in a nursing home and sing “Sunshine on my shoulders…” He laughs and I dance….Yesterday we didn’t sing. He won’t be with us much longer. Yet I keep meeting new friends at the nursing home…it won’t ever end.

Then there is Eric…When I closed my eyes last night I saw Eric and he was dead…It made my stomach turn. He has AIDS, staph infections that even made the EMT’s come out of Eric’s apartment the other day gagging. Yet when I see Eric or any others I don’t see the ugly I see the man! The one that cries, the one that knows they have failed, the one that is ashamed because they have let so many down. The ones that call me Mama, Ms. Jaye! 

When I got up to leave Eric the other day I did something and Eric made a comment and said “Are you afraid to touch it?” He wasn’t being smart, he actually wants to know if he’s scaring anyone. I really was being careful about touching his wheelchair. We had just brought it from his apartment. It hadn’t been cleaned. But when we stood to leave I walked over to Eric and bent down, kissed him on his forehead and told him that I love him.

Look if I am getting in all the way I might as well be real and forget it no longer is about me. Never really was. It is about letting God love people through me. God will take care of me. He will take care of Missy. There just is no turning back now…

So How Do I Do IT? God helps Jaye do it. He helps Freddie and Missy do it. He helps us all do it if we let Him. I can not do anything apart from Him! It is He that makes me love what others see as filthy, useless lepers of society. Jesus liked the leper. The truth, so do I. Do any of you honestly have any idea how honored I am to be chosen by God to do what I do? I have seen and heard things that most will never know. The men on the streets tell me things that nobody else knows. We have a bond, a trust and I am extremely careful never to break it. Rule number one that they learned quick was “Don’t lie to me…”  It has worked over the years and now I hear things I wish I never heard. There have been times I raise my hand and remind them…I’m a girl!!!! Please don’t talk like that around me. They say their I’m sorry and the subject changes.

For what it is worth this is my story and I am sticking to it. My life fell apart many years ago now and pieces went everywhere. But God above collected all those fragile slivers and mended me all back together. I do have a way to go but today I regret nothing that I had to go through. Without it I could never do what I do for God. It was what made me who I am and I thank God all the time for allowing me the pain.


5 Responses to “When did it begin, to where I am…”

  1. As always, another excellent blog post. None of us would be where we are today if we hadn’t gone through what we did back then. For good or ill, it’s molded us into the people we are now. Our parents live on through us and what we bring to the world. Keep up the good work, Jaye!

  2. A good blog post, as usual! None of us would be where we are today if we hadn’t gone through what we did back then. For good or ill, we’re the people we are today because of our parents. They live on through us. Keep up the good work!

  3. Beautiful post. I remember that day in 1971, certainly not as you do, nor Jaye, nor Mark, but I remember it. I’m very happy that road has brought you to where you are today.

  4. Truly amazing and inspirational blogs. God is working through you… We always “share” your stories with our family and friends. God Bless you and your family!

  5. Very touching. God indeed is the potter and we are merely the clay, able to mold and reshape anything that seems broken beyond repair.

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