May 2nd marks the birthday of someone special to me. She was one of the women who impacted my life in a monumental way. This day I pay tribute to one of God’s soldiers gone home, my aunt, Doris Marie Lockard Rayhill.
I never really called her Doris Marie unless I was trying to identify her to someone. To me she was my Aunt Dottie.
But the first name I called her was “mommy.”
You see my cousin and her first born, Danny, was born a year and a half before me. He was the big brother I never had and the one this little girl tried to imitate. He called her “mommy” – so I called her “mommy.” I called my own mother, “Mother,” naturally.
It wasn’t until I got to elementary school that I learned the other kids did not call their aunts “mommy”.
The two of us had a talk about it. I explained that I needed to call her something else because the kids at school didn’t understand. She told me about a pet nickname her mother had called her. It was “Dottie.” She was my Dottie ever since.
Dottie was my children’s church director, and she was my first pastor. I wish I could tell you how we children really had church in the basement of Faith Temple Church of God, how our spiritual foundations were laid stone by stone each Sunday morning.
I learned about Jesus’ love from the stories she told us. Stories like: The Little Red Hen who gave her life for her chicks; Snowflake, the lamb that kept wandering away from the shepherd; Barney’s Barrel; Why the Chimes Ring; and Miss Bump.
Those precious stories explained the gospel in a way a child like me could understand. They still touch a tender place in my heart when I sometimes share them with my own grandchildren.
In children’s church we learned to sing What a Friend We Have in Jesus, I’m Glad I’m a Christian, Ti’s So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, and Trust and Obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. Those songs became themes for my Christian walk.
In the basement of that old church, I learned the books of the Bible, was encouraged to memorize Scripture, and could do a Bible drill with the best of them.
When I grew into a teenager, Dottie was my choir leader at Dixie Valley Church of God. And she led us to worship! We sang some good old gospel songs: “He’s the Lord of Glory,” Walking Up the King’s Highway,” “Here Comes the Bride,” and “Getting Ready Today, moving out tomorrow, gonna say ‘good-bye’ to all earthly sorrow. I’m looking for that mansion there. I see the light, I’m almost there.”
I wonder if her spirit was singing that when she departed this world in September 2008?
Dottie became my mentor when she decided the youth needed to be taught how to become leaders. She put me in charge of directing a play, The Missing Christians, a story of the rapture and those left behind. There were other young people who were challenged to take on leadership roles. What a bold venture for her and what confidence she put in us as she stood in the shadows and watched us take off and grow.
Years later, a group of women gathered weekly in my parent’s basement for Bible study and prayer. Once again I was privileged to sit under Dottie’s teaching, this time as a young adult. I watched and listened as the Word of God seemed to pour forth out of her mouth. Through her years of faithful study and hiding His Word in her heart, she had become a reservoir of living Truth that became the Bread of Life and Living Water to us.
I soaked it in, and one day I thought to myself, “I want that!” I never aspired to be a teacher, but I longed for that knowledge of God that only comes from knowing His heart through His spoken Word.
When my dear Mother went home to be with Jesus in 1983, Dottie and I grieved together. We both loved Mother so much.
That first Christmas without Mother was when Dottie gathered my little family in, Sweet William, our son Travis, and me. We had always been in her heart, but from then on she included us into her own immediate family for holidays and family events. And there we remained.
As the years passed, she continued to encourage, support, and pray for me.
When her health began to fail, I was honored to serve her and care for her at times. She would always thank me, sometimes try to pay me. She didn’t grasp that I owed her so much more than money could ever repay.
What a great woman of God she was. Not perfect as none of us are, but truly a follower and disciple of Christ.
A Scripture seems appropriate for my Aunt Dottie. First Corinthians 11:1 says, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” That’s what she did and what she taught.
Hers was a life well lived. I am a life that was changed because of her.
Happy Birthday Aunt Dottie.
If you had a special person in your life, I would love to hear from you.