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“And I will dwell in the House of the Lord Forever”

The graveside service opened with the minister reciting the 23rd Psalm.  Mary Nell Calhoun Ponder was my mother-in-law for 38 years, but I knew her for almost a half century.  Her passing, while unexpected in its timing, was a blessing for someone who had suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years.
Our relationship was unusual in that we shared the same last name.   Marrying another Ponder has caused several interesting twists during my life.  I received many messages from people that assumed she was my mother because of the name in the obituary.  However, after 38 years as a mother-in-law, she was like a mother to me in many ways.  
Her daughters described her in five words.  She was intelligent, strong-willed, proud, hard-working and athletic.  I don’t think I could describe Mary any better myself.
Mary went to Mercer University and later to the University of Alabama before becoming a high school Chemistry and Physics teacher.   Later, she served as the Field Director for the Girl Scouts in Southeast Alabama.  She worked hard to give opportunities to girls at a time when equal resources were not provided to young females.   
She was smart and insisted on doing the morning crossword puzzle in ink.  It added an additional challenge and she thought, I am sure, that you should get it right the first time.
She was proud of her heritage, growing up on the family farm that is now the Farley Nuclear Plant location. Her mother operated a country store across from Farley’s main gate.
She was athletic throughout her adult life.  She was an exceptional bowler, playing in a league for 30 years.  She became a good tennis player at mid-life and then excelled in golf during her retirement years.  She had six holes-in-one, including every par 3 hole at the Dothan Country Club.  She was competitive and would not give an inch to friend or foe in any sporting match.
She was strong-willed.  She liked to be right, whether it was politics or college football. In fact, I am never sure she forgave me for my wife, Mary Lou, becoming an enthusiastic Auburn fan.  
The passing of a loved one is never easy, even if they have lived a long, full life.. It was a great comfort to her family that she had left specific instructions in a Living Will about her wishes should her body and mind fail her.   In fact, her last gift to her family and friends may be an awareness to not delay putting their own wishes in writing.
For Mary, death has no sting as she has received her heavenly reward.  For the family, they grow closer in their shared grief, focusing only on the good memories of the past.   
She was buried on a hill during a dreary day, with the sun breaking through just as the service was concluded.  Her daughters, son, grandchildren, family and friends joined her husband of 64 years, taking comfort that her pain had passed, her mind was now clear and that she will indeed dwell in the House of the Lord forever.
Dan Ponder can be reached at

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