Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wisdom for the Age, from an Angel.

Let me tell you about Estell Wilson King.

She was born in Union Springs, Alabama on August 14, 1911. Her parents had eight children, and Estell was the sixth of these. 

Her favorite scripture is Galatians 6:7.  "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps as he sows."

She is one of the founding members of Starr Baptist Church here in Montgomery: it was given birth in her home in 1962.The years of service and prayer she has poured into that congregation long ago entitled her to be referred to formally as a Mother of the Church.

Estell  worked as a nurse for 40 years, 30 of which were spent as a private nurse for members of my Upchurch family. Her path and my family's crossed when my great-grandparents, Austin and Samuella Roche, required nursing care in the last years of their lives. After their deaths, she cared tenderly, in turn, for my grandfather and grandmother, my great-uncle and great-aunt, and my father's sister

When she celebrated her 100th birthday last year, her son Roy compiled a book about her that included commendations from Governor Bentley, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, the Montgomery County commission, and even NBC Today celebrity Willard Scott. 

That book also included these notes about her life:

"She was active during the Montgomery Civil Rights Movement and purposefully participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955. She provided room and board to out of state clergy in town for the Selma to Montgomery March. And she volunteered her nursing skills to assist those in need of first aid as marchers arrived on the Saint Jude Campus on March 24, 1965. In 2004, she was selected as one of Montgomery's Seniors of Achievement." 

She is a woman of many remarkable gifts. The one she most generously bestowed on us, and which we still feel, was love. The booklet from that party last year included not only that list of accomplishments and commendations, but showcased this letter from my mother, written on behalf of the whole Upchurch family. 

"We first came to know you in the early 1950's and our love and admiration have grown stronger and stronger with each passing year. You have cared for three generations of our family. Estell, you became a friend and confidant to all the children and grandchildren and even the great grandchildren.  

We shared many good times, lots of laughs and many tears. You held the hand of many as they passed 'through the valley of the shadow of death.' I know that their final moments were made more comfortable knowing that you were close by to hold a hand or wipe a brow. 

How do you thank someone for that kind of love and care? There is no way. We will each try to make our own lives better, remembering that we have traveled many miles with Estell King. We have all come in contact with one of God's Angels on Earth. 

Happy Birthday to you from all the Upchurch Family. The mere mention of your name brings smiles from all of us."

Estell Wilson King and Jean McCord Upchurch
August 13, 2011

When Sally and I went with Mama last year to Estell's home on Holt Street to spend her birthday eve with her, the two of them spent most of the time lost in stories together, stories about the funny things that happened (and there were many) over the many years Estell cared for Grandmama. They commiserated over the passage of time, the ravages of age, the goodness of God, and there was so much love that flowed between the two of them in that place I could almost have held it in my hand. When we left that day, we were sure we had just seen Estell for the last time, that the visit was our opportunity to see her again before she'd most certainly be gone. 

We were sure of so many things that day that turned out not to be true in the way we thought they would be.  Mama was gone from us just over two months later. 


Sally and I went to see Estell today, on her 101st birthday. Her son Roy had told her that she was to have company, but not who the company might be. She has recently suffered a stroke, and dementia has a light finger on her shoulder, but she knew who we were, she remembered our visit with Mama last year. 

She grabbed hold of our hands right away, and would not turn loose for love nor money. I lost count of the kisses, wish I had a dime for every time she looked hard in our faces and said, tenderly, "So pretty. So, so pretty," and wouldn't take a million dollars for even one of the hundred times she said, "I loves you. I loves you." 

Eleanor, Estell, Sally
August 13, 2011

When it was time for us to go, we asked Roy to take a picture of us together. He'd been kind enough to do that last year, and we joked with him and Estell that we wanted this one as a reminder of how much we had aged and how little she had. As we tried to get ourselves into the same position, sister Sally said, "Estell? I'm not sure we're going to be able to get back up once we get down! How do we do that?" 

Eleanor, Estell, Sally
August 14, 2012

Estell said, "You just gets up."

A whole lot of people spend a whole lot of energy trying to get to the truth of life, when all we really need to do is look to Estell:  You reap what you sow, and you just gets up."


  1. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul.....and you are aging better!

    1. Thanks,Kathy... I assure you, photos can lie!

  2. The date on the last photo is 8-14-2012. I can't stop reading it and wish all your blogs could be put in a book form. You have such a wonderful gift. Love you, loved today. I think Mama is very pleased.

    1. Thanks - date is fixed! I think Mama would have been pleased, too. And I'm just sorry I got out of there without a picture of Estell's socks!

  3. Such a beautiful story you have shared with us. We are so fortunate to have someone this wonderful in our lives, and you certainly have.
    Thank you for sharing with us.

    1. Thank you, Teresa. I really appreciate your taking the time to read!

  4. This touches my heart in such beautiful ways.

  5. Sharon Olive WilliamsAugust 14, 2012 at 9:18 PM

    Such a beautiful true tale & tribute. You've a true God given talent with writing. Use it. Use it every single day. Not only does it cleanse your own soul but the reader's as well. Write on & on-