Sunday, July 30, 2017

Testament to Tammie

Friendship is something that happens quite accidentally. We can look for friends, try to be a friend, and be surrounded by friendly people, but there is something unplanned that leads to true friendship. If we are lucky enough to have a best friend, “one who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24), then we are doubly blessed! My relationship with Tammie began in high school.

High school is filled with young people trying to find their way to fit in. There are the popular ones, the brainy ones, the quiet ones, the kind ones, and the funny ones. I couldn’t make myself popular, but I could be helpful! Being helpful is symbiotic, benefiting both the giver and the receiver. Getting something obviously helps the receiver, but the giver feels important and needed. This became my place in high school, being helpful! I picked up dropped papers, opened doors, straightened desks, and so on. I was not popular but I had my place!

When Tammie arrived she was in a cast from neck to waist as a result of a recent surgery. I saw a need and was soon running defense for Tammie as she maneuvered from class to class, carrying her books and making sure she made it without being hurt in the bustling hallways. She was needy and I was helpful. We were both friendly but I was mainly fulfilling my role.

Our relationship grew to include activities outside of school and our roles continued unchanged for a while. I remained the helper, modeler, and leader giving advice, support, and transportation. Tammie was younger, less secure, and, because of her physical needs, more sheltered. She remained the receiver.

Time passed. Each of us married, the other at our side. We moved away and back and started families. Memories were built through letters and face-to-face. We became equals. I still gave, but Tammie was able to give back. She gave devotion, kindness, unwavering love and steadiness. She dealt with the constant limitations from spina bifida with humor and acceptance. Tammie started to give to me more than I gave to her.

Finally the spina bifida began to take its toll and she started declining more rapidly. Her grace and humor continued through surgeries, strained relationships, and physical deterioration. We talked on the phone nearly daily since I once again moved away. I traveled to visit several times a year. Near the end, Tammie struggled to carry on, but was tired and ready to go; ready to be whole again with her Savior. It was so hard to let go.

Tammie ended up giving back to those of us who knew and loved her in spades! We witnessed her life with all its ups and downs and we grew as a result. I am a changed person because of her. I miss her so and can’t wait to continue our relationship in heaven. Below is the poem I wrote for Tammie’s funeral.

Tammie’s Lessons

You arrived fragile, helpless, needy
We loved you, took care of you
We taught you to walk and talk
We taught you to play and laugh

You grew up slowly, through trials and pain
We helped you, nursed you, cared for you
We taught you to persevere, survive
We taught you to trust and mature

You blossomed into womanhood, marriage, and motherhood
You were a caregiver, teacher, companion
God taught you to be patient, giving
God taught you to be grateful and strong

Your body failed you, you grew weak
You were patient, selfless
You taught us to appreciate life
You taught us to be brave, loving and grateful

In the 70s

At my wedding

Cotton candy at the Dallas Zoo

At my grandmother's funeral

Tammie's wedding

Tammie's tea pot


  1. Thanks for posting this, Jeannine. You pretty much covered the gamut of Tammie's life and who she was to us as a friend. I miss her as well. I came along later in Tammie's life, when she was in high school and I was in junior high, I think. (To be honest, I don't remember how she and I met! Do you? Times like this I wish my Mom was here to remind me!) But I well recall and cherish the many years of friendship that followed. As a young person with a disability myself, it was such a relief and a validation to connect with someone who knew some of the same life challenges I knew. It normalized our experience for both of us, I think. We didn't necessarily talk about the challenges and frustrations that go with a disability, or at least that happened rarely. But we just did it, together. The Head's home became a second home to me during my teenage years. Bob will tell you that I nearly ate them out of house and home; I always seemed to show up at mealtime! But it was at Tammie's invitation! So being with Tammie and journeying through adolescence with her was a tremendous gift to me, a young girl whose options for "hanging out" with peers was limited because of physical limitations. I remember laughter, lots of popcorn, talking about boys, more laughter, watching movies, doing our nails, many meals together, gossiping, and more laughter. Then we each got cars and our world expanded. But still, we grew along with each other as our abilities and our worlds grew, both in terms of relationships and geography. As you remember, I played the piano and you sang at Tammie's wedding. Tammie was strong, stronger than she realized, I believe. And where she lacked strength, she just didn't make a big deal out of that. She just accepted it and lived her life. She also quietly trusted God as her Helper. So my view of Tammie is a bit different. I don't see her as ever being 'helpless' or 'needy'. While things were difficult for her, and she needed help at various stages of her life, she went on. She went to school. She was beautiful. In her gentle, quiet way she just did her life. And blessed others along the way. That is a life well-lived! Jo Ann (Van Wey) Formby

  2. So sweet that we both have such wonderful memories of how Tammie touched our lives. She grew from her struggles where some might have given in to self pity. She did live well and through that life I feel challenged to look beyond any set backs I may have and run the race set before me!

  3. May each of us be able to present to Christ one day a bushel of eternal fruit that even approaches Tammie's contributions to the kingdom.