When my mother starts a sentence with, “Mama always used to tell us…”, I stop and take notes. I’ve learned to keep pen and paper close by during our Sunday afternoon chats. I want to remember every nugget I am blessed to glean from mother at my age. She’s 81 and I’m 55 and I don’t take the time we have left together for granted. We talk about everything and anything. We laugh, sing, share prayer requests, or old memories. “Every tub has its own bottom” was the quote from my grandmother. These words of wisdom referenced Mama giving someone information but we’d have to wait and see what they would do with it. It means we all have to stand on our own and take responsibility for our actions.

‘Every tub has its own bottom’ kept ringing in my ears after we said “I love you” and “goodbye” so I turned to Google. I quickly discovered that it has several variations;

“Every tub must stand on its own bottom”

“Let every tub stand on its own bottom”

“Every tub on its own bottom”

No matter how you say it, its meaning doesn’t change.

It’s about being self-sufficient, taking initiative, and springing into action. I’m grateful to have these words passed down to me. My 99 year old grandmother passed away on New Year’s Eve and I truly miss her voice in my life. Her prayers were faithful and her faith deep. She taught everyone who knew her how to stand. She never failed to share a word of encouragement or chastisement along with the words “Big Mama loves you and you know that God…”

I lived out this proverb when I sang at Big Mama’s funeral on that chilly January afternoon. We gathered early at the church for a family brunch that I couldn’t eat and I had a horrible rehearsal that morning. The rhythm of an old arrangement I’d learned as a teen eluded me and I was in tears. Auntie Beverly said, “don’t worry, it’ll come”. The worship pastor left the organ, came over to the piano, and we finally all got on the same page.


Later, I got up to sing after hearing my brothers and husband give their comments during the service. Breathing a prayer, I remembered Auntie Martha’s words, “You’ll honor your grandmother by glorifying God”. I asked the Holy Spirit to strengthen me. My voice faltered for a second but quickly fell into the familiar sway of Auntie Betty’s arrangement of ‘At The Cross’. I was determined to stand up and fulfill my promise to my grandmother. She had asked me many years ago after hearing me sing at her brother’s funeral.

Glorifying God to honor one of His daughters

“Pebbles, you know what I want” I heard her say and with a hurting heart I sang like never before. With Aunt Beverly on the piano and Pastor George on the organ we had our celebration. I could see my Aunts, Lisa and Toni, raising their hands and singing along in praise. Uncle Otis was smiling and swaying his head to the beat. Many of the mourners began to stand to their feet, clapping and singing along by the second song. It’s not easy to sing at a funeral. Let alone the funeral of a dearly loved family member. I felt the power of the Holy Spirit wash over us at Grandma’s service. Everything was perfect. Everything met the family’s goal of glorifying God and honoring our dear Maxine Shorter Summers.



We are each called to stand up on our own. Big Mama is no longer here telling us what God wants us to do. However, her prayers and her words live on. And each one of us is left responsible for what we choose to do with wisdom she left behind. Because every tub has to stand on its own bottom.




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