12/20/17 Reflection

When Luke was a baby, I served the Elaine, AR United Methodist Church for two years. One of the older men talked about his wife, saying “She left me.” It took me a little bit to realize this was a euphemism for “She died.” I now know that it FEELS like that, even if it’s not really the same thing. If she HAD just “left me,” I could go find her or she could come back. As Sarah said, “This is dumb!”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sarah’s Tribute to her Mama

A note: I am naturally resisting switching verb tenses. In this writing, I oscillate between past and present. This grammatical “error” jars the writer and the reader–this jar is intentional, to remind us that this is wrong. A college senior should not be writing a eulogy for her mother.


Lynette Little actually accomplished the impossible. She held a highly respected position in a field that men told her is not open to her. In her 16 (!) appointments, she developed a fierce community of folks who loved one another, raised up children, fights with one another over carpets and money in board rooms, professed to serve the poor, and sings with a loud voice. She comes down firmly on the side of the marginalized, and gently led some marginalizers sitting in the pews to repentance. People bent to her without realizing, because she loves them so obviously. The amount of Grace needed to serve a church, the most messy of holy spaces, is inaccessible to most; and she has It.

At the very same time, she anchored a family. She nurtures intensely individual connections with each of us and thus connected us with each other, our four piece unit. A day at home almost always included a family breakfast over waffles and bacon; then just us two riding in the car, going on an adventure–which usually just meant riding in the car and pausing for coffee and antique shops; then coming back to eat dinner all together with a movie afterwards. That’s the shape of our lives: a shape disrupted now.

At the very same time, she holds dear friends dearer as years progress. A snapshot of her commitment is that she drives hundreds of miles every month to Jackson while we lived on the coast to participate in her dream group. She and her best friend delight in daily interaction over Facebook Messenger, and they will always share that they went together to family revival and north Mississippi to choose a house. Countless friendships have flourished in church foyers after worship while I was itching to go eat lunch.

The tether that binds us changed shape as I grow up. I stayed glued to her by necessity as a baby, as she brought me with her to work. I attached myself by choice as a child, “let’s read another book, Mama”. I handed her the one end of the rope as I depart from the dock as a teenager and a young adult. 100% of the time, she said go and have adventures, and I do. And 100% of the time, I grab the rope and pulled myself back in to shore to relay a detailed account of what happened. Times changed, but the tether is always present.

I cannot bring myself to believe that the tether is chopped now. It seems to have changed shape again. So much of who I am is either carbon-copied from her, or delightedly acknowledged as beautifully unique by her. From the most insignificant love of French onion soup, to deep appreciation of beauty and art, her fingerprints lie on my life, on all of our lives, and always will.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lynette’s Obituary

Obituary for Rev. Carol “Lynette” Little

Carol Lynette Little, 57, a member of the “Miriam Generation” of United Methodist Clergywomen in Mississippi, died on Tuesday, December 12 at her home in Harrisville. Her funeral services will be held at Marvin United Methodist Church in Florence on Monday, December 18 at 2:00 p.m. Visitation will be at the Church from 12:00 to 2:00. Rev. Rebecca Youngblood will preside. Lynette is survived by her husband of 35 years, Jonathan Altman and her children, Luke Altman and Sarah Altman of Harrisville. She is also survived by her sisters, Linda Little Malone of Duck Hill and Guyanne Little Hargrove of Iuka, She was preceded in death by her Father, Raymond Little, and her Mother, Carol Gore Little.

Lynette was a native of Greenwood and a graduate of Pillow Academy, Class of 1978. She was also a graduate of Millsaps College (BA, 1982, Sociology) and of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (Master of Divinity, 1986).

Lynette served United Methodist Churches in Meridian, Union, Philadelphia, Corinth, Lula, Friars Point, Coahoma, Bovina, Edwards, Benton, Midway, Petal, Florence, Pelahatchie, Ocean Springs, and Rexford over 30 and one-half years. At all but three of those churches, she was the first clergywoman appointed to serve as pastor. She met resistance by standing firmly in her size seven shoes and standing at her full height of 4’11.5” with a fierce determination to show God’s love to her neighbors, no matter what. Her husband planned to present her with a sweatshirt for Christmas quoting William Shakespeare- “Though She Be But Little, She is Fierce.” No truer words were spoken.

The family thanks Dr. Olivia Hightower of Gulfport Memorial; Drs. Barbara Craft, Natalie Sheehan, and Sophy Mangana of UMMC; Drs. Bora Lim and Horiana Grosu of MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the staff of Hospice Ministries for their care for Lynette over the last 16 months.

Memorials may be shared with the student financial aid fund of Millsaps College or with the Scholarship Funds administered by the Mississippi United Methodist Foundation.


DEC 18. 12:00 PM – 02:00 PM

Service starts 2pm following visitation

Marvin United Methodist Church

211 N. Church Street

Florence, MS, US, 39073

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lynette’s Last Day

Lynette’s last day: Luke brought her some coffee. He spent a couple of hours happily sharing with her his knowledge of video games and pro wrestling. Sue Deer from Rexford stopped by with some vegetable beef soup. Lynette had a pleasant conversation with her about the previous night’s Christmas Program. The Social Worker from Hospice Ministries came by. She had a pleasant conversation as well, though Luke came quietly into the room and stood right behind the social worker. I was about to introduce him when she looked around and became startled. Evidently, she’s easy to scare.🙂 It was a laugh for all of us. Barbara and Andy Anderson from St. Paul Ocean Springs came bearing ice, potato soup, and satsumas. Lynette enjoyed talking with them as well. A durable medical equipment delivery man brought a nebulizer for her breathing treatments. She was pleasant and friendly to him. The hospice nurse and home health aide came. The aide gave her a bath and got her clothes and linen changed. The nurse did her assessment. Lynette was able to help them and engage with them too. We drained her pleural catheters to relieve the fluid around her lungs. The last thing Lynette asked the nurse: “Am I OK?” The nurse said “yes.” Her O2 sats and blood pressure were good. Hospice Ministries has an inpatient facility. The nurse’s opinion was that Lynette did not need it yet. She was not “acute.” I left Lynette with Luke and went to Florence to get some wipes, bendy straws, cups, and banana pudding. More important, I went to Sonic to get Lynette some crushed ice. She had been craving some crushed ice. I brought her the ice and warmed up some potato soup. She was happy for the soup but purred with pleasure over the crushed ice.🙂 I made spaghetti sauce for Luke and me. After supper Lynette and I watched “The Good Doctor,” her new favorite show. She was drowsy, but drowsy was her new normal. I asked her if she wanted a pain pill. She did and I gave her one. I went to sleep in the room within hailing distance of her bed. I woke up at 7:00 thinking she had just spent a quiet night and decided to let her sleep. When Luke couldn’t wake her at 9:30, then I couldn’t we called the hospice nurse, but I already knew.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

December 12, 2017

Tuesday, December 12, 2017-I woke up after a good night’s sleep. Lynette appeared to be sleeping as well. I let her continue and went about getting my breakfast and coffee. Luke came downstairs about an hour and a half later. He DOES not like to let people sleep if he wants to talk to them.🙂 He said, “Daddy, I can’t wake Mama up.” She didn’t look distressed at all, but she was not responsive. I called her Hospice nurse, who was on her way to attend to other patients. The home health aide was on her way to us for Lynette’s bath. The home health aide arrived first. She did what she could to examine Lynette. She said “She’s expired.” I don’t care for euphemisms about death in general. That one sounds like Lynette had passed her “sell by” date, which was certainly NOT the case.

The hospice nurse arrived and confirmed that Lynette had died. Evidently, some time during the night, she had just breathed her last. She was home, surrounded by love. I absolutely know there are worse ways to die, but it was still “Too Soon.” I knew the general death protocols from my own time as a hospice chaplain. The Simpson County coroner was notified. He allowed us to release her body to Chancellor Funeral Home. The nurse expressed her surprise that she had died so soon. She, like me, was expecting we’d have several weeks at least with Lynette at home.

I had to make the hardest set of phone calls I’ve ever made. The first was to Sarah, who was in her last day of exams at Millsaps. She was to be home that afternoon. As you can imagine, her distress was great. Eventually, Joey Shelton was able to find her in her friend Simon’s dorm room and offer her Pastoral Care. My next calls were to Lynette’s sisters, then to my father, brother, and sisters.

Connie Shelton and Lynette’s friend Elizabeth were already on their way to our house, but came faster once they knew Lynette had died.

By about 1:00, Lynette had gone to Chancellor and the driver for Hospice Ministries had collected their hospital bed and oxygen equipment.

That evening Luke and I met Sarah at Five Guys in Ridgeland for the saddest supper ever.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

December 10, 2017

December 10, 2017-One year ago today, we brought Lynette home on home hospice. By “we,” I mean AMR brought her. Eight days earlier, I drove her TO the hospital in our car. By December 10, she needed an ambulance to bring her home. She was also no longer capable of caring for her own personal hygiene needs. Nevertheless, she was home with me and I was glad. We watched the mid-season finale of Jane the Virgin, her favorite show, together. Whatever happened from then, she’d be near me and I’d be near her.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

December 8, 2017 Part Three

Luke and Sarah arrived. I asked everyone to leave the room except for the four of us. Luke had spent pretty much the entirety of Lynette’s illness trying to know as little as possible about what was going on with her. That is one way of coping. Sarah knew MUCH more about what was happening and actively sought out information, but she didn’t know about the events of THAT day.

I told them that we were stopping all treatment efforts for Lynette and that we would be taking her home on hospice care. Luke said “Do you mean Mama is dying?!” This was totally new information to him. He began shrieking and yelling out his distress. All of us were sad, but things became QUITE intense for about 30 minutes. Eventually, Luke and the rest of us quieted down. Connie Mitchell Shelton and Joey Shelton had joined the group of visitors by that time. Connie and Joey offered Luke and me the use of their unoccupied house in Belhaven. That would keep us closer to Lynette for that night. It was a most welcome instance of hospitality.

There certainly CAN be worse days in a person’s life, but the day I discerned that we could no longer delay Lynette’s death and I had to tell my children that was the worst I’ve ever had.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

December 8, 2017 Part Three

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

December 8, 2017 Part Two

The rest of the afternoon included a visit from an oncologist with Jackson Oncology, the group that sees cancer patients at St. Dominic’s. He had been in contact with Lynette’s oncologists at UMMC and they had reviewed the results of the December 7 and 8 scans. Significant “disease progression” was evident. For the fifth or sixth time, the same sentence was used: “This is a very aggressive cancer.” I finally grasped what they were saying. They couldn’t make it go away and they couldn’t slow it down any more.

At some point during the afternoon, Lynette went down for a “pleural drain” on her right lung. This would be a “comfort measure” to allow us to drain fluid off her right lung, as we already could for her left lung. That drainage process DID ease her breathing, but also caused her pain. She needed a dilaudid injection (at the hospital) or a pain pill (at home) before we tried it,

Lynette’s sisters were coming from North Mississippi to see her. I asked Guyanne Little Hargrove to go to the parsonage in Harrisville to collect Luke. Sarah would be coming from Millsaps. I was about to have the hardest conversation with my children I would ever have.

Lynette was awake and aware of what was going on. I asked her if she was mad at me for “giving up” and asking for a hospice referral. I’m ever so grateful that she said “You silly man. I could never be mad at you. I know what we have to do.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Further Reflection on December 7, 2017

remembered one more thing from December 7 that I want to post before I remember the horror of December 8. As with any hospitalization, the food from the hospital food service is not always to the patient’s liking. That was the case with supper on December 7. I used the new “Waitr” app to order Lynette some coconut (and something else) soup from a nearby Thai restaurant. Lynette and Sarah liked eating Thai food together. Luke and I went along rarely. The last thing I saw on December 7 was her satisfied and loving smile as she ate that soup. I left her with Becky Youngblood, knowing she was in capable and loving hands.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment