Christine Ward Hale
1897 - 1988
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
We have come to this hour because of the death of another loved one. Although we are choked with sadness, and that because of the finality of our association together here on earth, as it is with God, there is a preciousness about it with us also. The preciousness of this hour was made possible by the one we honor and to whom we pay respect.
Her name was Christian Ward Hale. She was also known by several other affectionate names, such as, sister Hale, Christine, Tina, Mother, Attie, and since the coming of her grandchildren, “Big Ma.”
“Big Ma” was born March 3, 1897, having then lived over ninety-one years of age, death coming on April 20, 1988. Her life literally spanned one of the most momentous periods of human history, going from the days of the horse and buggy to men walking upon the moon. But we need to be reminded that some of the more important events that transpire on this earth do not make headlines in newspapers, nor will be included in paragraphs of history books. We would insist that her life is far more enduring than such things of the material ventures over which people marvel. She lived her life vigorously, energetically, doing what she did with all her might. Most important of all, she lived her life righteously.
She was born to humble, yet, genuinely refined and godly parents, Dr. and Mrs. J. S. Ward. Uniquely, she attended only one school, Nashville Bible School, that came to be David Lipscomb College, beginning in the first grade and continuing until she obtained the Bachelor of Literary Arts degree.
On October 24, 1908, at the age of eleven, she was baptized into Christ by E. A. Elam in an outdoor baptismal pool between the present Harding Hall and the first Avalon Hall. She was also married in Harding Hall to Clyde Hale in 1925. Much of her life centered around the school to which her father was so attached and where he labored many years.
Her life made a difference, not only to those who lived alongside of her, but to generations that follow after, and will favorably affect those yet to be born if time continues. We wish to talk about her life and those areas of her life where she excelled. Every word is intended as a tribute to her.
“Big Ma” excelled as a friend. She was known for her hospitality, ever serving as a gracious hostess, building her own self-esteem through service to others, opening her home to others even when inconvenient to herself. She was capable of establishing and maintaining longtime friendships. Bennie Lou Reynolds of Atlanta, who has preceded her in death, spoke after sixty years of acquaintance that Christine was the best friend she ever had. Even as her memory faded where she did not recognize her own children, within recent years she readily recognized a childhood friend, Eunice Hammond, and a loyal and beloved cousin, Evelyn Jordan.
“Big Ma” took great pride in her grandchildren beginning with her only granddaughter, Amy, and continuing with her five grandsons, Bill, Stephen, Ward, Mark, and Sam. It is fitting that these fine young men, along with Amy’s husband, Lowell Hagewood, will serve as her pallbearers today.
Each of these grandchildren took advantage of opportunities to do for her in their special way as needs arose, especially during her last years of infirmity. “Big Ma” earned, and she received, their love, honor and respect.
How lovingly and proud she would speak of “my sister and brother,” almost as if nobody else had a brother or sister. She held such love for Robbie and Truman, and their mates, Charles and Mary. She deeply loved their children, the Brewer boys, Neika, and Jimmy Ward. She was known by these nieces and nephews as “Attie.”
She rendered love and service to her Mother and Papa. As a young woman she cared for her mother during times of her mother’s illness. She was a companion with her father as they traveled together across the state when he lectured on bee keeping, going to and from his preaching appointments, meeting him upon returning home from work at Life and Casualty Insurance Company where he served as medical director. One of her favorite expressions was, “Papa can fix it.” To her there was nothing her father could not do. Singularly, each year on her own birthday she sent a gift to her mother. She cared for them until death separated them.
Christine gave devotion, love, service, companionship and support to her Clyde. She served as his co-worker in the Lord’s vineyard. She often spoke of his handsome looks, keeping him neatly dressed for his work. She proved to be a genuine help meet and suitable for him.
In her younger years she was strong and active, unselfishly giving understanding, recognized to be the “power behind the throne,” sharing good years and lean years, standing side by side in the joys as well as the hardships as a faithful wife to a faithful gospel preacher for over fifty years. Her husband did, indeed, as is stated of the worthy woman in Proverbs 31, praise her as a worthy woman.
In this relationship she may have excelled above others already mentioned. Unselfishly she worked hard and sacrificed willingly on behalf of her two daughters, Ann and Rosalyn. She was a keeper of the home, preparing meals, entertaining, sewing, keeping her yard with beautiful flowers she planted herself. Such are the memories her children cherish about her.
She provided a home where love reigned, good examples were set, standards were planted and dignity prevailed. In her role as mother she knew what mattered and she kept her priorities in order.
She was faithful in worship, giving in service, a teacher of children in Sunday School in her earlier days, working in putting out the church bulletin, sitting with the ill, comforting the bereaved, offering words of optimism and encouragement to all round her, sharing her optimism and resolution. She stedfastly upheld the hands of her husband as he preached the gospel of Christ.
We suggest she excelled in the other areas of life because she was such a faithful Christian. She let the way of Christ be the guiding light of her life.
When most of her memory was gone, and physically she could barely be taken to the hour of worship, she could still sing from memory the songs of praise and worship that she had sung since childhood. She was fortunate to have been schooled under such preachers of the gospel as Lipscomb, Elam, Sewell, Harding, and she held N. B. Hardeman as one of the best. These were men who were preacher friends of her husband and father; men of unwavering courage, faithfulness, uncompromising of truth, who preached soundly from a thorough knowledge of God’s Book.
So imbedded in her mind was her loyalty to worshipping God, even as life slipped away she would, when restless, often speak of the need to go to church. Dominant among the words that came to be the last ones she could speak that we could understand were Mother, Papa, school, home, and church. It may well have been characteristic of the difficulty she suffered that she would recall such things. But the point we do not want to miss is that these things impressed her the most. They were the last portions of thought to pass from her.
We shall ever remember “Big Ma” most impressively as one who loved the church, family, school and home. She loved her home with Mother and Papa, Robbie and Truman, on Caldwell Lane. She loved her home with Clyde and her daughters on Graybar Lane. It was because of her love for the place she called home that she remained in her little log house so long, possibly even longer than ordinarily thought to be expedient. But we all knew of her love for home. It was a sad and difficult day, a day long dreaded before it came, when it was necessary to take her from her home, and only then because it was essential for her own welfare.
During her last years, when she was mentally and physically drifting away, years that proved to be a long good-bye, she was attentively cared for by Ann Dearing and grandchildren, until finally other arrangements had to be made. Her closing years were with Rosalyn when she received constant love and care to the last. She died with her daughter holding her hand, finally passing away in quietness after days of struggle, in a place and in a room that she, knowing little else, came to call home.
She always had a desire to be at home, which she considered her palace and heaven on earth. Therefore we come to the inescapable hour with hope, confidence, understandable sadness but with joy for her release, that she is now and eternally with God at home.
Charles R. Brewer was a man of many talents, not the least of which was being a masterful poet. He once wrote lines to a poem called Curtain Call that seem so fitting for this time.
Sooner or later
The time comes to all,
Life’s drama ended,
The curtain must fall.
May the Master then say,
With His hand on your brow,
“You’ve played your part well,
You may go home now.”
(Following these words, Buddy Arnold sang the beautiful song, “Going Home,” after which appropriate and affectionate remarks were spoken by her nephew. Schuman Brewer. Funeral Services were at the Roech-Patton Funeral Home in Nashville, interment in Woodlawn Cemetery, where her body was laid beside that of her beloved husband, Clyde, and in the same plot of other loved ones who had gone before her.) JWB