When Faith Meets Family ~ In Memory of Ethel, Matriarch Extraordinaire

The Bible speaks of family in its first book. God, no doubt, created us to be in relationship with Him and for the purpose of family. Therefore, when we think of what ‘love’ truly looks like, we should think of GOD first, and then Family. Although I grew up with a strong sense of family with great parents, a beautiful sister, aunties, uncles, cousins, etc., during my formative teenage years, God saw fit to allow me to land in the comfortable loving space of Ethel Marie Ballance’s family…

As fate would have it, my relationship and later marriage to her baby boy would cement the love she showed me, however, it was sustained by something else. You see, being a woman of tremendous faith, fairness, focus and no doubt, favor, she saw me with her heart! She saw me through a lens of family—referred to as a daughter-in-law, but cared for much like another daughter. As life would later render me no longer being her “legal” daughter-in-law, the love in her heart; the love in her eyes; the love in her smile; the love in her hugs, and the love in her spirited demeanor, showed me that the word, “legal” was a mere formality. You know what?? In Ethel’s world, that really didn’t matter. Why? She knew the importance of Faith Meeting Family….

Well, the most loving (and entertaining) expression of Faith Meeting Family was in her kitchen! When I tell you that the movie Soul Food had to have been created by somebody watching Ethel’s kitchen experience, I’m not joking. Lol. We all gathered on 1st and 3rd Sundays to have a fabulous meal— always spread like a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Yeah…Glenda’s famous fried chicken and cornbread!!! Then, there was sliced ham, roast beef, corn and butter beans, collard greens, potato salad, rice, stewed potatoes, sweet potatoes, string beans, any kind of meat entree, cakes, pies, and sometimes cobbler—just to name a few. If we were even a little more blessed on that particular Sunday, Aunt Lorraine’s pig-pickin’ cake showed up on the scene! Of course, none of this happened without our Ethel supervising the kitchen. Lol. Everything had to be just right—perfectly prepared and perfectly displayed. Everyone knew it and everyone obliged. They had to, or she would let you know real quick—straight, no chaser! That’s why my safe haven was washing dishes only. Lol

So many memories of this beautiful woman from my vantage point. So many great memories that started when I was 15 1/2 years old. Wow. As I sort through the ole days, and now thinking of her exit from this earthly place, I’m heartbroken, yet smiling. I’m smiling because who else other than the Ethel Marie Ballance, born on February 27, 1925 (same year as my dad), would exit in the manner in which she lived. A woman of tremendous faith, she was so strong and independent. She never needed anyone to think for her. She was a woman of intellect and action. She decided; She chose; She was aware of the consequences. She never minced words…she thought it; she spoke it. Don’t like it? Oh well…It was her authentic truth. In that, in the hours leading up to her passing on September 29, 2020, she decided, she instructed and she spoke. She decided not to interfere with God’s will for her life. She instructed her children, as she always did, in nothing but genuine motherly love. She spoke of her readiness to journey to Heaven. She did that, as her Faith met Family for the last time on earth.

What a life well-traveled? What a life of hard work and perseverance? What a life in the community-proclaimed name, LA, raising her very own ‘Eight Is Enough’? What a life of siblings and grands, great grands, nieces and nephews, neighbors, friends, church leaders and members who loved, adored and respected her? Even Khloe (her Klorey) loves her Grandma ‘Ettell’ and will miss jumping in her lap. What a life of showing that each birthday should be celebrated–all of them, no matter the age? What a life well-lived, showcasing how Faith Meets Family, every single day?

You are (not were) loved, Ms. Ballance–always will be–by me and so many! You said, at my birthday/retirement celebration in 2018, that you loved me and that I’d always be your daughter-in-law, and that’s true. You are, and forever will be my mother-in-love. Thanks for accepting me into your home and your heart. Thanks for continuing to love me, without judgment. Thanks for letting me be a part of your legacy of Faith Meets Family. We are all numb, but we all know where you are–where you destined to be–in the arms of Jesus. Rest in Power, perfect Peace, and in the precious Presence of The Almighty. I love YOU so much.

P.S. I see and hear a little more of you in Kelsey each day. ❤

Lisa B

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