Friday, March 27, 2009
It rained in Taylor County Ga all day today. The sunshine disappeared sometime Thursday afternoon when word spread that Tommy Mattingly had passed away.
I’m not sure who gave “Sunshine” Mattingly his name but whoever did pegged him very well. Sunshine never met a stranger in his life and he brightened up many a day for a lot of folks who crossed his path during his short 45 years on earth.
Although Tommy could brighten up most anybody’s day, the sun didn’t always shine brightly in his own life. In fact, he probably experienced more dreary days than most folks I’ve known.
But he would never let you know it.
I first met the little boy who would become known throughout Taylor County as “Sunshine” when he was just a baby boy. The night before I met him, I had ridden over to the train station in Macon with my dad and Sunshine’s Uncle Dennon to pick up Sunshine’s mother who was coming in on a train.
We rode in the hearse.
His mother, Patricia, had walked through her garage a few mornings earlier wearing a night gown. There was an open gas can in the garage. When the night gown brushed against her car, the static electricity ignited the gas in the can and the gown she was wearing. She never had a chance.
This young mother left behind five small children. These little children ended up moving back to Reynolds to be raised by their grandparents. And there were some aunts and uncles who greatly contributed to the raising.
I always felt close to the Mattingly kids. Although I was a young teenager myself when their mom died, I was never able to escape that mental image forty years ago of five little children sitting under that tent at the cemetery with their young mother’s casket in front of them.
I watched Sunshine grow up and I always made a point when I saw him to stop and talk and let him spread a little of his sunshine on me.
Sunshine has suffered through many physical problems the last few years. More than most 40 something year olds ever experience.
Not long ago I was about to walk in a store in Warner Robins and I heard some yell “Bruce Goddard” as I walked toward the door. Sunshine was sitting in a car. I must have visited with him at least 15minutes that day standing outside his car.
The last time I saw Sunshine was at Ft. Wayne Store in Reynolds where he worked behind the counter. His color didn’t look good and I was thinking it must be difficult for him to be on his feet all day working. But, typical Sunshine, he never let me know he was not feeling well.
Despite his own troubles he was determined to keep spreading the sunshine.
When I heard about Sunshine’s death, I couldn’t help but think about that horrific scene at Mt. Olive Cemetery I have carried with me most of my life. But then I thought of a much better image of Sunshine being introduced at the Pearly Gates to a Mama he never had an opportunity to know.
The sunshine definitely disappeared in Taylor County yesterday afternoon.
But it was shining very brightly on the other side a millisecond later when this Mom got to embrace her boy.