Episode 6 of my podcast is a tribute to my mom, who I lost last month. Below is the text of the eulogy I delivered at her memorial service in Maranatha Baptist Church, in Plains, Georgia. The video of the service can be found here.
Annette Davis Carter was born on November 5, 1952. She died on September 19, 2021 at age 68. She was my mom. Annette lived a remarkable life. She was born in Arlington, Georgia to George and Dorothy Davis, and she met my dad on the first day of school at Georgia Southwestern. My dad saw her across the student center while he was playing spades, and told his friends to turn around and look at that pretty girl that just walked in. He told them he was going to marry her, and four years later he did.
On his second day of college, my dad found out that he was in the same math class as Annette. She failed her first exam, and my dad hAnd the very next day, my dad found out that he was in the same math class as Annette, so he sat right behind her. She failed her first exam, and my dad helpfully offered to tutor her. My mom didn’t object to seeing more of this kid from Plains, and she agreed that she needed some help in math. This was strictly educational, and didn’t have anything to do with the fact that tutors were allowed to stay in the girls’ dorm until 10:00. My mom got a B in that class, and my dad got a C. My mom loved that part of the story, but if dad was around, none of us ever went to mom for help in math.
Up until two weeks ago, my parents had been together since that math class. They dated while my grandfather Jimmy Carter was the governor of Georgia, and she went with my dad on the presidential campaign. The whole family was involved with the campaign, and each family member was in charge of a different state. My mom and my dad had some of their best friends from college join the campaign, and many of you are in the room right now, and they drove all over the country campaigning door to door to get Jimmy Carter elected. And they really irritated my grandfather by causing him to take a day out of campaigning to get married, but they did it anyway. On April 6, 1975. They were married for 46 years.
My parents enjoyed being newlyweds alone together. They liked hosting friends and entertaining, which they did for about 8 years before they had me. My mom had three boys. I was the oldest, then they had Jeremy, and then Jamie. After Jamie, my parents stopped trying for a girl. My mom was a homemaker, and she was devoted to raising her three boys. My mom ran us to school, summer camp, soccer games, doctor’s appointments, restaurants, and friends’ houses. Even though we would often drive her crazy, she loved her boys more than anything. One of her favorite new-parent stories came out of my preschool graduation. Someone told her the wrong time for our class graduation, and she showed up right as it ended. She didn’t get to see me walk across the stage to graduate from preschool. Annette collapsed in a pew in the back of the church sobbing that she missed the big event. My teacher, thinking quickly, told us that the first graduation was just a practice, and we all lined up and walked again for my mom.
My favorite story of my mom was on my dad’s 60th birthday. We also liked hosting friends and entertaining, so I invited my parents and my brothers up to my house to celebrate. His present that year was a copy Goodnight Moon, and a birthday card that said “Happy Birthday, Grandpa! Love Josh, Sarah, and Baby”. My mom and dad were sitting next to each other on the couch, reading the card together. And before my dad finished reading it, my mom snatched it out of his hand, clutched it to her chest, immediately started crying, and she tackled my wife Sarah. My dad was at first shocked and confused that he was left out of his birthday present surprise, which seemed like a big one, but he put it together half a second later. I never saw her so happy.
My wife and I had another son, and my brother Jamie finally gave her a granddaughter. She loved her grandkids with all her heart.
Jamie and I formed relationships and moved out of their house after college. My brother Jeremy lived at home. For the rest of Jeremy’s life, he stayed up late hanging out with my mom, almost every night. My brother Jeremy died suddenly 5 days before Christmas in 2015. My Jamie and I formed relationships and moved out of their house after college. But my brother Jeremy lived at home. For the rest of Jeremy’s life, he stayed up late hanging out with my mom, almost every night. My brother Jeremy died suddenly 5 days before Christmas in 2015. My brother’s death changed our family forever. I didn’t know anything could hurt that bad. My main comfort through all of this is that my mom no longer misses Jeremy.
These last few weeks have been extremely hard. Even though we had a little time to prepare, it didn’t make it any easier. There’s no way to prepare for losing your mom. We are all heartbroken all over again. I’m looking forward to the time when I can focus on the memories of my mom that I like a lot better.
For example, In the obituary, we wrote that my mother loved a white elephant gift. White Elephant gifts though were a year-round affair in our house. Dad would call us on Valentines’ Day and ask “What do y’all want for Christmas?” We’d laugh, and my dad’s annual ritual was throwing in the towel. “I can’t stop her. It’s no use.” My mom would start setting out presents in June. By the time December 25th finally rolled around, you couldn’t hardly walk into the living room, let alone get near the tree. And they weren’t all prizes. One bag might be a jar of salsa. One bag was almost certainly socks. I got a bag of air once. I got pickles a lot. My mom was offbeat. For her, Christmas wasn’t only a time for giving. Christmas was a time for fun. We’ll be silly. We’ll be ridiculous. We’ll make each other laugh. It was really funny to her for Jamie and me to drive away with a car full of random stuff that we didn’t know what to do with. It was also immensely satisfying to her to get our kids really excited. She never forgot anyone. Every single year, she bought toys for distant cousins that I didn’t even know I had, but those cousins, maybe fourth cousins, twice removed, would have a present from Annette under the tree on Christmas morning.
My mom would hide Christmas presents in her office. And I was looking in her office just moments after she died, and the first thing I found was a small, handwritten note in a bowl on her desk. I found the symmetry a little astounding. It stopped me in my tracks.
The note itself is not dated, but I knew immediately it was written on April 24, 1991. That was the letter she wrote me when she gave me my brother. And now that I have Jamie, I don’t have to do this alone.
Goodnight Mommy. I love you too.