Friday, March 27, 2009

Bright Sunshine

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.


Anonymous said...

"Sunshine on a cloudy day" That's how I greeted him every time I saw him. Rest in Peace friend.

Judy S said...

This is a beautiful tribute. I know that his family will appreciate it very much. He did bring sunshine into a lot of lives.

Sheryl B said...

Thank-you Bruce for such a meaningful tribute to Tommy.
He was a wonderful cousin who
always thought of others first.
We all could take a lesson from

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute! So TRUE! He would brighten your day even when his was so bad! He is in a much better place walking with the angels!! Lots of us could take a few pointers from "Ol Shine"

sherry said...

I didn't know Sunshine had passed on to a better world. He was always so kind and thoughtful to our family. The last time I really had a chance to talk to him, he called about the extra newspapers because he thought I might want them. Lane's obitituary was in the paper and he thought of calling me. I really appreciated it and remember how much Lane loved talking with Sunshine. They are catching up now! Thank you Bruce for always writing such wonderful things about the people we love in Reynolds and Taylor county.

Terrie Morrow Robison said...

I'll never forget the first day of my senior year at Taylor County High School. I was so nervous walking into what I could only imagine was a landmine - where most of the kids had grown up together and where I knew I was going to stick out like a sore thumb. But out of nowhere, a bright face appeared. He introduced himself to me and told me his name was Sunshine. I laughed and asked him was he serious and he assured me he was. It didn't take me long to realize why they called him that. He was definitely a bright spot in my life when I needed someone to lighten it up. I'll never forget his kindness to the "new" kid. I didn't see him as much recently as I should have, but whenever I did, he always smiled and brightened my day. I'll miss you Sunshine - the world is definitely a little dimmer today - but I know Heaven is a lot brighter!!

Anonymous said...

Sunshine was one of a kind. He had a heart of gold and was a true friend to my son and me. He was always there for Jerry, especially after Jerry became disabled. I truly believe that God had a special place reserved for him in heaven. I'm sure he's up there renewing friendships and having a wonderful time.

I believe Tommy would agree with this statement:

I look at life as a gift of God,
Now that He wants it back
I have no right to complain.

Cindy Moulton said...

Bruce, sometimes it is hard to come up with adjetives to describe your writing. This is wonderful! Tommy's smile about this would have been as bright as sunshine and as big as a rainbow! He did love life! Once again, I feel very blessed to have known him and can see the impact he made on the lives of many people. Marcia, you said, "I have lost my best friend." I know. One day, you will meet again and I will meet mine. We will all have a wonderful party on that 'glad reunion day'!

Thank you, Sunshine. I will see you later, Buddy. And, thank you, Bruce. God has blessed you with the gift of speech and writing. I am glad you are his vessel. Love ya'll.

Stephanie said...

Being the eldest of five, I remember sitting under that tent in the cemetery. It will be forever etched in my mind. Even going to the train station in Macon to pick up a mother that you will never see again in this life and not having the chance to say goodbye or that I loved her. I've always felt a desire to make sure all of my siblings were taken care of which was done by my grandparents and lots of aunts and uncles. Tommy had a special place in my heart and the tribute that you wrote, Bruce, was so beautiful. I didn't think when we were growing up that Tommy would be the first to see our Mama again. But, he has had breathing problems all of his life. When he was two, I remember him going into a convulsion and turning purple. My mom called the doctor and he told her to pick him up and turn him upside down by the bottom of his feet so he could catch his breath. We did and it worked. He had a battle most of his life, but he didn't let it keep him down. I look forward to seeing him and my Mama but most of all Jesus, our eternal father to spend eternity with for all the ages. Thanks again for taking the time to include Sunshine in your column. His older sister, Stephanie