August 11, 2000
Emerywood Baptist Church, High Point, North Carolina
Genesis 2:7, 18-24
Today will be a first for me and for you in this setting. My initial year in High Point I arranged what I thought would be some rather special programs. They were for our Wednesday evening church suppers. I printed a list of the upcoming programs on sheets of paper and placed them on the tables one Wednesday afternoon. After the dinner, Betty Keaton told me that Edie Bridgers wanted to see me in the kitchen. Edie was holding one of those sheets in her hand. She pointed to a particular program and said, "Oh my, Harold, you and Jig aren't going to both talk on the same program are you? Some of these young mothers have little children that will need to get home and go to bed." Consequently when Jig spoke, I would not. When I spoke, Jig would not speak. With apologies to Edie, we will happily break our promise to her today.
My privilege is to share with you some of the life history of Edie Hamrick Bridgers. This is an intensely Biblical thing to do. The unique narrative from Genesis is insightful. Whereas the creation of man is told briefly, in a single verse, the creation of woman is described in six verses. This fact is extraordinary in light of the generally nondescriptive character of the Biblical narrative. It is only with the appearance of woman that creation is complete. Far from being a subservient event, God takes the initiative to provide a very special creature to keep God's family members headed in their individual directions.
Without the history of women like Edie, we would have no sacred scriptures, no completeness and no direction in life. We applaud Abraham as the founder of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Yet that story is about the mothers, Sarah and Hagar. They saved God's promises by directing the lives of their children. We applaud Moses as our lawgiver. But two midwives disobeyed the civil authority and let him live at birth. His mother, Jocebed, built a little ark, a tevak, and cast him upon the waters of the Nile. An Egyptian princess adopted him, educated him, and gave him his name. Without these women, Moses would not even have been a footnote in ancient history.
Obviously the story of the birth of our Lord is in Scripture not just to enable us to know what happened at that first Christmas but to show us in the story of Mary how God continues to work with us in life. The mothers are the saving links for the promises of God. The mother and wife is always the real star of God's story, whether we as a supporting cast of actors and actresses recognize it or not. It is the mother and wife who keeps everything in order, making it possible for everyone else to have an easier passage in their lives.
I look out upon Edie's spouse, Jig, and her children, Jock, Sam, Carl, Raymond, Barbara, and Holly. They exemplify personal and professional prowess in the military, medicine, art, business, architecture, and television production. Consequently the history of Edie Bridgers is more than a few dancing silhouettes of memory that flicker briefly in a memorial service. Who she was and what she did provides a continuing backdrop to the journey of the human spirit. Her story should always initiate for us the sheer delight of fresh breezes from the hands of God as we live our days.
Edie Hamrick was born in 1918 in Cleveland County, North Carolina. Many of her relatives, some of whom are here today, still live around that area. In a way, Edie was born amid and raised on cotton. She picked cotton from an early age and was placed in a family in the Boiling Springs area, that knew hard work, heightened religious awareness, and charity. Her grandfather operated a store and gave much of the land for Boling Springs Junior College, which is now Gardner-Webb University.
During the depression this same grandfather Hamrick fed students of the college from his store supplies and the harvests of his fields. Her father, Carl Hamrick, was responsible for rebuilding the First Baptist Church in Boiling Springs during that same depression. He was a candy salesman and the church had extended itself to the point that its members were told that no more loans could be given to the church. Carl Hamrick went to the candy company in Virginia and borrowed $5,000 as a personal loan so the church could be built.
That was unheard of during the depression. It would be the equivalent of one of us today taking out and paying off a personal loan of $1,280,000 to build a Baptist church. That's some of the heroic lineage of Edie Hamrick. She grew up among hard working, gentle, and kind people. Today Hamrick Hall is a grand building on the Gardner-Webb campus and houses its Broyhill School of Business, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. It stands as tribute to some of the family influences that helped shape Edie's early life.
Edie Hamrick lived at home until she went off to college. She finished two years at Boiling Springs Junior College and completed her final two at Women's College in Greensboro. She was an industrious, bright, and athletic young woman. Following college she served as a teacher and girls basketball coach in Western North Carolina.
When World War II broke out, Edie signed up to be a WAVE in the United States Navy. She was stationed at the naval base in Jacksonville, Florida. There she met, what I assume to have been a smooth talking, flight instructor named John Bridgers. They married right after the war ended. They returned to North Carolina and Edie entered her full-time vocation as mother and spouse. Following the peripatetic career of her physician/husband and birthing children, she pulled additional domestic tours of duty in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Eventually the family settled in High Point where for 24 years she contributed so much to her family, her friends, and her church. When the children had finished their education, she followed her husband around the country as he inspected various hospitals. Following retirement, Edie and Jig Bridgers settled in Connecticut where last week this lovely lady, who had helped create easy passages for so many others, was herself given an easy passing into death by her Lord.
Beyond this staccato litany of her history, there are three pictures of Edie that I wish to hold up for our brief viewing. All of you carry mental scrapbooks crammed full of images of Edie but I believe that three images demand attention today.
The first photo is that of an indefatigable and steady laborer. Edie Bridgers could keep a lot of balls in the air at the same time and not let one of them drop. She managed time and responsibilities with efficiency and dispatch. She was quiet but oh so strong. Her strength was anchored in a unique ability to always make the pieces of life's stressful puzzle seem to fit for her and those around her.
Many people talk today about how much they have to do and actually wind up doing very little. She talked little and did much. Her years, like her gardens, were well kept, neat and pretty. Many people can't make time to raise a child. She raised six children. Many people plow deeply into a single spot in life. They hoard one small spot in time and place like a squirrel gathered around a few precious nuts it has buried in a favorite place. Edie plowed as far and wide as she did deep. She moved to places far away at both an early age and an old age. She book ended her life with risk and commitment. She was an indefatigable and steady laborer.
The second photo is that of one who never let the messy world get her down. Life is not predictable. It never will be, no matter how kind, careful, organized, and conscientious we humans try to be. Edie certainly did not live a pain free life. She knew personal suffering. From her knee replacements to the physical ravages of cancer, she was well acquainted with trauma and anguish. Her faith and fortitude were always constant faces peering at the people around her through her personal clouds. She knew how to live graciously in a messy world.
The final photo is one that might surprise some. It will, however, be a recognizable photo to those who knew her best. This is a portrait of a woman with intellectual depth. Edie was as smart as any of the people around her (present company included). She was just never flashy or verbose with her intellect. But she was a reasoned and profound thinker
One Furniture Market in High Point, my wife Diane and I lived in the home of Edie and Jig. For three days we were together before the Bridgers left on a trip. During those days Jig and I would go out on the deck and pontificate to each other for several hours at a time about world affairs. The women would disappear. They wanted no part of that. After jawboning for way too long and lifting enough hot air to fly several kites into the sky, Jig and I would reach our conclusions and agreements. After snorting our way to profundity the first night we boastfully entered the house.
"Jig, what in the world have you and Hal been doing out there for two hours?" Edie asked.
Jig responded, "Humph, we've been having some pretty intellectually stimulating conversations, I can tell you that."
"Well, what did you talk about?" she inquired.
We launched into convoluted articulations concerning our conclusions about politics, education, parenthood, theology and formal logic.
Edie finally said, "Oh, you just decided…" and in one sentence she summed up what it took us two hours to process.
We never told her again what we had discussed. It would have been too deflating to our massive egos. Edie could think very, very well. For nearly three-score years she devotedly lived with one of the smartest and most complex persons one could ever meet, Jig Bridgers. Her influence stands decidedly behind Jock, Sam, Carl, Raymond, Barbara, and Holly. Wise and accomplished apples do not fall very far from their tree either.
Edie's physical presence has gone form us. Her spirit and influence have not. At the Radisson Hotel, Carl asked a pertinent question: "Are many people still around who remember her?" Someone will always be here who will remember your mother. She remains in the recesses of our hearts, minds, and souls.
Not to be seen but to be sensed.
Not to be mourned but to be celebrated.
Celebrated for what she achieved against the odds and for what she placed in us.
She knew the same God who was with her on the dusty cotton fields of Cleveland County still walked with her on the paved streets of urban America.
That same God who sustained Edie in the places of her existence is yet in charge of the place of her ending. What remains for us to do for her is to place in our own children, and grandchildren the same deposit of love and hope, determination and vision, the thirst for excellence that this lovely, lovely woman placed in us.
Hal Warlick in addition to being a friend of Edie and Jig Bridgers is the former Pastor of Emerywood Baptist Church in High Point, North Carolina. He is currently Chair of the Department of Religion and Minister to the University at High Point University. Dr. Warlick also has a long relationship with Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.
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