On December 31, 1987, my wife Debbie and I were busy getting our home ready for a New Year’s Eve dinner party when the phone rang. The news was not good. We were informed by my brother Pete that our beloved stepmother, whom we affectionately called “Mama Kat,” had been rushed to the hospital with what was believed to be a brain aneurysm. We immediately dropped everything and headed to Wesley Long Hospital in Greensboro.
Mama Kat was the one who finally did what was thought to be impossible. She was the catalyst that pulled a family together that had been scattered to the four winds by disputes, unfaithfulness, abuse, and abandonment. She just had a way to speak to you that opened your eyes to the truth. Her kind words were the salve that helped to heal old wounds. One by one, she had our estranged family members gathering for Sunday meals, birthday parties or any other special occasion.
The family waiting room was filled to capacity with family members and loved ones. We waited and prayed through the night for a word of hope from the doctors. However, those words of hope never came. Instead, it was bad news –– Mama Kat was gone.
I turned away and found a corner where I wept uncontrollably. I had lost the person who had meant so much to me and I felt I had never had the chance to tell her how much I loved her. Then I felt this urge to go back home. Not the home that Debbie and I shared, but the home that I longed for — Mills Home (MH) in Thomasville, and Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH).
My four siblings and I came to Mills Home on August 5, 1960 –– I was 10 years old. We had lived in extreme poverty. Our mother had gone through tragic hardships and was unwell. With five of us and one on the way, we needed help. I remember the first night at MH was the first time that I had ever slept between two clean sheets. It was a new world. I was clean, there was good food, and every day there were devotions and prayer. MH became my home. My family grew as the children became new brothers and sisters.
The saying goes that one can never go home again, but I knew that night that I was only a phone call away.
Michael C. Blackwell, president of BCH, had only been serving as president for a short while and I had never had the opportunity to meet him, but I had heard him speak. He answered the phone on the second ring. Between my sobbing and blubbering, I told him who I was and how much this lady meant to my family and to me. I was in desperate need of consoling.
That mellow baritone voice on the other end of the phone prayed with me and for my family. His prayer helped me get through that day and the days that followed as we bid farewell to Mama Kat.
Since that time, I have had many conversations and visits with Dr. Blackwell. I am so thankful and proud that BCH has had such a strong and positive leadership role in the lives of so many others just like me. In his closing remarks to us at our annual reunion each year, he always says, “We’ll leave the porch light on for you.”
I found that to be true as he is always available and Dr. Blackwell is just a phone call away.
Today, I own Knight Services and provide landscaping maintenance for clients throughout central North Carolina including the MH campus. I know what it is like to need a helping hand, so I founded the Knight Flight Foundation that provides free air transportation for people to surgeries and back to their homes. The need to return home will always be paramount to me.
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