Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | October 13, 2010

Edith Henderson Bowden 1918-1986

September 15, 1918 to October 13, 1986

From an op ed I wrote to fuss at Sissy Christian Methodists in 2004 and praise my Mother.  Today is the day she died and went to Heaven.

Here are excerpts that are appropriate.

from my op ed… “Methodists? Well, Bless Their Hearts”

This Mother’s Day I wonder what my Mother, Edith Henderson Bowden (1918-1986), would say about her beloved Methodist Church. She might say, “Methodists? Well bless their hearts, too many of them are lost.” Her look, ‘The Look’, would speak more.  Anytime a Southerner says, “Well, bless his heart”, substitute the words “That stupid idiot.” Or stronger words.

She would loom over them – at five foot four – and with that pointed finger raised and aimed, Mama would’ve set them straight.

I teased her on her death bed that she was not a Methodist but the re-incarnation of Jean Calvin. She laughed and said, “Well, bless your heart.”

My Mother was the kind of Methodist who taught her kids Sunday School at our breakfast table. She intertwined the Bible and family lore into a single string of life lessons. She held her spatula like a professor and instructed:

  • You can handle anything in life – no matter what. The Lord will never give you a burden you can’t bear.
  • You can control physical pain. Don’t cry, just grit your teeth.
  • You failed/came in second/were hurt/lost/etc. for a reason. God is preparing you for greater tests ahead.
  • God has a plan for your life. It’s to do for others. It isn’t about you.
  • Moderation in all things.
  • Life is supposed to be hard. Life is seen through a veil of tears.
  • Easter is the happiest day of the year.
  • All good things come from God. Always give thanks.
  • Better to do without than to have ill-gotten gains.
  • Be kind and respectful to people who serve you, have less, know less.
  • It’s not what you have, it’s who you are. Character counts.
  • Your name is all you really have in life.
  • Many things are worse than death, like shaming your name, your family.
  • This is the day the Lord has made, rejoice in it – every day. No matter what.
  • The answer to the question is in the Bible. It’s the Word of God.
  • And more…

The Word of God was clear and convincing in her life.  Her personal closeness to Jesus gave her such courage. The doctors didn’t figure out what killed her until the autopsy. Later, they wrote me a letter praising the remarkable grace and courage she showed. My Methodist Mama never complained. Cancer, painful bursitis/arthritis, and stroke never brought a whimper.

When we first saw my father’s body in the funeral home, she laid hands and said, “This is the house he lived in.”

Methodist discipline ruled her life as much as joy, joy, joy powered it. I heard her curse twice – when she said, “Hell’s bells!” I was shocked and became very obedient.

Mama’s outwardly gorgeous, Southern lady – from such humble but proud circumstances – elegance would compliment her inner beauty to strengthen her message. Like Jesus, the tough love of right over wrong was bathed in lovingkindness and incredible power.



  1. Thank you Jim, for posting this. What wonderful, moving words.

  2. Good one.

  3. Thanks so much. I’d call her a steel magnolia, but steel isn’t tough enough.

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