Johnnie Lee Lemons Batson
November 17, 1942 – April 18, 2016
There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place,
and I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord.
There are sweet expressions on each face,
and I know they feel the presence of the Lord.
(The Imperials, Sweet Spirit)
Johnnie Lee Batson, of Springfield, Missouri, Christian, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and artist, passed away peacefully, surrounded by her loved ones, on Monday, April 18, 2016. She was born November 17, 1942, in Cassville, Missouri, to Richard and Mary Lemons, and was 73 years of age at her passing. She was a member of the Mission Hills Church of Christ of Springfield, Missouri.
So many words for just one woman. But what do they all really mean? All the words in the world could not begin to scratch the surface of who Johnnie Lee truly was. She was an artist, a musician, a craftswoman, a lover of all things beautiful, a servant of Highest Good, and the epitome of all things feminine – the home, the heart, the canvas, her family, her faith – with just enough orneriness to keep things light. A devoted servant to the end, her greatest pleasure was to do her duty – to her heavenly father, her earthly father, her husband, her home.
So many hearts have been broken by her passing. She leaves behind her husband, Jim, three daughters, Wendy Ford of Ozark (Larry), Joanne Miller of Springfield (Cliff), and Mary Batson of Kansas City, the precious memories of son James Batson (deceased 2008) and parents Richard and Mary Lemons, her beloved and many-talented grandchildren, Rachel, Austin, Philip, Amalia, and Megan and their families, including one very special great-grandchild, Rowan Elise, her brother Dick Lemons (Kansas City) and countless extended relatives and friends. Her family was the sunshine of her days, the starlight of her nights.
Each person whose heart she touched will carry that memory forever, be it of a jar of buttons, a collection of roosters, the smell of fried chicken, or the horror of pickled pigs’ feet. The image of her son carrying her across a flooded country road to get her to a doctor. The sound of her voice in song, her fingers in melody. Early morning coffee. Late night chats. Sunday morning prayers. Saturday afternoons at Eureka Springs or Silver
Dollar City. Texting like a teenager, and Mama’s first selfie. Swearing her younger brother to secrecy about teenage escapades, not wanting to be a negative influence on her children. Rowan’s little bell and delicate touch. Bouncing on the piano bench as she rode the ivories through “Splish, splash, I was takin’ a bath…” Making that first (ok, maybe second) batch of fudge with each year’s first snowfall. Holding the “spotlight” for the little girl who wanted so badly to be a ballerina. Popcorn and hand-and-foot.
Yellow ribbons and family barbeques. Bird Island and blizzards. Garnet and the Madonna photograph. Pin curls and permanents. School buses and early morning polkas. Care packages, full of care and the occasional mystery object. Miles and miles and miles of
crochet thread, twisted and curled and knotted with love into so many different forms and fashions. Drawing out goodbyes, just one more thing, one more thing. Letters to Mama Lemons – every morning, every day. The party dresses she remembered from her childhood, how they made her feel so beautiful. Little brother Dick and that irresistible snow bank – then running for her life. Grilled cheeses and lumpy gravy. Divinity and extra taste-testers. Special trips and matching rings. The official family backscratcher and guardian from all things slithery and scaled – they didn’t call her “Dead-Shot Johnnie” for
nothing. She was terrified of flying – but when duty and friendship called, she braved the air, to go to the aid of one special western friend. Sitting up with sick little ones, deep into the night, so much care, so much love. Nursing not just her family, but so many of her friends, through their trials, through their times. Always up for an adventure if it brought her closer to her children, her grandchildren – she tried the Harley, she tried the scooter, winding up with pictures and war wounds to prove it, and then she bandaged and doctored the skinned knees and head wounds of all the others. And she was ready for it again: She was DETERMINED to make it to that bluff for that wedding, sweet girl. She really was. She even had her shoes all picked out and ready to go. So many memories, so much beauty: She truly walked the Beauty Way, like her Cherokee ancestors.
Each day she crafted yet another thread in the tapestry that was her life, one brilliant shade after another, each person, each place, each thought, each memory, shaped with care, wrapped in love, woven in memory. She wore no label lightly. Mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend, she dipped not one toe into the waters of life, but plunged in deeply, with all she had. Upon his departure, beloved son James counseled, “Finish the Race.” And so she did. Maybe she didn’t cross the finish line first, in a blaze of fanfare and glory. Maybe she came across much later, limping as the darkness fell, timekeepers long gone home. But she never stopped. She never gave up, in spite of the blisters, in spite of the pain, in spite of every valley, every fog bank, every mountain pass. And when she crossed that line, the angels sang. And that was more than all the glory of this world.
We will miss you, Mom. We already do. But when the final race is run, we’ll see each other again, and we’ll look in each other’s eyes, and smile. Yes, “farther along, we’ll know all about it.” And so it is, sweet Little Momma, “My girlfriend,” Liz, White Fawn, she of the bleeding, broken, precious heart. You have fought a good fight, you have kept the faith, and you have finished your course. Rest easy, sweet spirit.
And yes: “Roses are red, my love, violets are blue. Sugar is sweet, my love, but not as sweet as you.”
Until we meet again – with so much love,
All your little ones