Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Isn't she lovely....

Mom continues to battle on (as usual). She's the most wonderfully stubborn woman I know. After reading a beautiful tribute to mom written by a dear friend tonight, I wondered whether others might enjoy sharing their wonderful memories of mom with us.

For those who would like, we have set up this blog to share memories that we can read to mom while she is in the hospital. We know she will love to hear anything you might contribute. We especially love fun memories of her....stories of her creativity, joy, spunk, spontaneity, tenacity, adventure, beauty, compassion, and faith. If you would like to contribute to the blog, feel free to leave a comment in response to our post here that expresses your memory(ies).

We are so blessed by all who love us and particularly mom so dearly.

P.S. If you have any pictures of mom that you would like to email, we would love to post them here. Just email them to me. :-)


  1. I don't know you but I do know that you are an amazing woman because of the beautiful daughter you have. I hope to meet you someday. My prayers are in constant battle for you!

  2. Debbie, do you remember skiiing in New England? Those are my earliest memories of knowing you and Hamp together....how it was so cold... "The Annex" at Sugarloaf, where it was -29 degrees, where the floor slanted, and where the T-Bar tore up my parka, and you fixed it (how you did it, I'll never know!) ....at Stowe, how you and Hamp always waited for your Dad (and for me), and how we had to walk down through the rocks. There's nothing I'd trade these memories for now, except to hear you laugh about them again. God bless you and your family. -Duff

  3. Debbie,
    I have never been in a group of people that you were in without being drawn only to you--your sparkling eyes full of--mischief?--and certainly kindness--and your ability to make me feel like I am the most important person in the room, maybe in your whole LIFE for those few minutes. The way you have loved my daughter as if she is your very own for all these years--I have even been jealous at times of the way Erin adores you! The way the girls love to climb up in your bed and share stories and secrets with you. The stories of you in various hospital stays and how you have ministered to everyone on the staff, learning their names and their children's names and their stories and their needs, and then setting about meeting all of those needs that you could, even when you were very sick. I have a photo of you and Hampton serving a gourmet dinner to our Rhodes kids before a formal--you look so beautiful in your "waitress" attire, with a smile as big as your heart. What wonderful years those were, for Erin AND for me (Las Banditas, anyone?)! God bless you for being His good and faithful servant and showing us all how to do it (now, if only I WOULD).
    We love you and are praying for you and your precious family--
    Nancy VanCleve

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  5. What a precious picture...Debbie, you are really something special. Knowing you most through your powerful, courageous, tender and compassionate daughter has made me so grateful for your uncanny strength to love and to laugh. As I was praying for you this morning, I came back to one of my favorite memories of you that I think about all the time. Some of the Rhodes girls were in Nashville and you and Hamp took us to dinner. There was a lot of laughing and probably a number of riddles read from hand-held devices by Hamp. I sat next to you, it feels like it was a Steak-n-Shake? I wish more than ever now I could remember what we were talking about. What I do know and have always remembered about that one tiny moment -- a pretty ordinary moment, really -- is your attentiveness and desire to know who I was, an incredibly lonely and hurting college kid at that moment. Debbie, you looked at me with more compassion, you asked me more questions, and you listened with more belief, than I knew what to do with. What has stayed with me most, however, were your words, which have come to be incredible tools in ministry for me -- I remember you telling me (as milkshakes were flying past us -- you have an amazing way of making someone feel like the most special person in the room) that it's okay to be afraid of things, and that if we are just able to *name* what we are feeling, it won't have the same power over us. Years later, I still share your words with hurting and lonely college students today.

    I remember you laughing a lot that night -- your beautiful laugh! I love knowing that I am just one of so many to whom you have listened and spoken, for whom you have cared, and among whom you have shared your unique sense of joy and faithfulness to God. It is one of my greatest privileges to be counted among those who know you and I can't wait to read more about those who have been loved by you. My prayers are for you, Debbie - we are fighting on your behalf. May you find refuge in Him as you continue to fight.

  6. Oh, Mrs. VanCleve, that formal was so much fun! Debbie, do you remember creating flowers in my hair that night? You took strands of hair and twisted them to look like roses and painted them with red hair paint. It looked great and when you had finished fixing our hair, we sat around the dining room table with our dates while you and Hamp served all the courses for dinner. I recently went through college pictures and came across the ones from that night. It was a great evening!

    After that I assumed that if you had such a talent for doing hair, then it must have rubbed off on Keely, so each time I had a formal or even moderately necessary event, I would sit dutifully at her feet while she tried to recreate what you had done. (Just so you know, she did a marvelous job and I often received compliments from strangers on how well my hair looked.)

    I love you all so, and prayers, love, and delicious moments of laughter go with you.

    My love, Susan

  7. One of my favorite memories with Debbie is from sophomore year of high school. In typical fashion, Debbie had taken a bunch of us out for an adventure on a snow day in the 4-wheel-drive sleigh (read: Land Cruiser/Crusher). Long story short, we were at Percy Warner Park, and Kim Rogers (a friend of ours) had driven there in her new Mitsu Eclipse. It was parked in front of the Crusher, and when we went to leave, somehow Debbie had put the Crusher in gear without being fully seated, and accidentally hit the gas (hard!). Unfortunately, the driver door was still open, and as the Crusher lurched forward, Debbie slipped out of the seat, half in, half out. To our further dismay, she accidentally hit the gas harder. The Crusher proceeded not only to hit the shiny red Eclipse, but to drive up onto the hood, providing the new ride with some exciting new curves and angles. The best part was that after all of our initial shock (and Debbie's profuse apology to Kim), Debbie led us in a round of laughter that made it seem like we'd just been on the best Disney ride ever. We spent the next hours recalling how awesome it was that the Crusher had actually monster-trucked the Eclipse. Hampton comforted Debbie by saying, "That's okay, baby. Now it's just a partial Eclipse." What a couple. What a woman. I am so very blessed to call her my mother-in-law.
    "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue...Her children rise up and call her blessed" Proverbs 31.26, 28

  8. p.s. (from keely)...the reason her door was half open was because she was leaning outside of it to throw one last snowball at one of the boys. mark holyfield, i think.

  9. Duff, I love those stories! Mom always says it was so cold that day that she started crying on the chairlift and her tears froze to her face. :-)

  10. Okay, I just laughed so hard at the "partial eclipse" bit that I almost spit out my coffee. Nicely, done, Josh.

  11. Debbie,

    How special you are to so many! I am not sure I can even put into words the ways you have touched me - my head is swirling with so many wonderful memories.

    I love your spirit! You are one in a million!

    I always think about when you, Hamp, and Keely took in my sweet husband (who turned 30! yesterday) in and treating him like a son. Here was a kid who had just lost his dad and you picked him up, taught him, guided him and loved him. Seth's family was there, but you filled in those holes when he needed it. I love to hear him tell me many memories of you all - the good, the bad, and the ugly! ;) He even showed me around your house the night we stayed.

    Speaking of spending the night, I will never forget when all the banditas and their husbands or boyfriends stayed at your house for Erika's wedding. You and Hamp had bought extra blow up mattresses so we would have a place to sleep! What fun that was - we laughed and laughed! When played pranks and re-lived a lot of old ones. Hamp never ceased with riddles, most of which had been tried on you - but you wouldn't even give us a hint! You even insisted that we all go McDonalds for breakfast before we left on Sunday! Truly, none of us wanted to go....

    One other memory that I must share.... the day our wedding came and we thought that you were not going to make to Birmingham. I knew when I saw you arrive that you had made Seth's day - our day. Many had gone to great lengths to be with us - our families and our friends. I knew for Seth having you there, along with his mom and brothers, was so special! I loved seeing his face light up when he saw you after the service!

    You are so special to so many! So special to me and Seth! We love you dearly! You have these two prayer warriors on your side!

    Love, Elizabeth

  12. There are not enough words to describe all that I hold in my heart for you, your baby girl and your amazing husband! You are my second mom and the center of so many special memories from when I was little till now. You taught me how to have fun, but stay out of trouble; how to hope when everything seemed hopeless; how to laugh when all I wanted to do was cry; and most importantly, you loved me no matter what!

    I long for the days when we played Miss Hannigan, went to the park to work on Tennessee notebooks, went rolling...and left Amy behind!, the school mornings when I had spent the night and you braided my hair like PollyAnna, food fights in the whole house with pumpkin insides and frosting, trips to Florida, Disneyworld, and Hawaii!! I could spend hours telling stories and remembering all the fun stuff you did with us. There is no one like you!! I thank you for always making me a part of your family and loving my family so well. We are so blessed to know you!!

    Debbie, I love you with all my heart and will always tell your stories to Aubrey and Boone and laugh at all the great times! I am so thankful that they got to meet you. I can't tell you how much it meant to me when you came to see them both at the hospital and at Mom and Dad's! Of all the visitors we had had, my heart jumped for joy when I saw you come through the door! I know how hard it was for you to get there, but I couldn't imagine you not being there to meet them!

    We are praying for you, Keely, and Hamp!!! I love you "MOM"!
    Love always,

  13. Peggy O'Neal PedenJanuary 14, 2009 at 9:32 AM

    Like everyone who has known Debbie, I have so many wonderful memories of her. I remember her opening her home and her studio to a bunch of women, letting us come into her creative space, messing up her stuff. She was infinitely patient and gracious, teaching us gently, honoring our trying.
    I remember her constant kindness and good humor, which had to have come from the core of her soul, because she had many days even then, in the mid-nineties, when she had reason not to be so cheerful. I remember her saving herself for days when Keely had an activity that she wanted to share or see.
    I remember her sense of fun, her exuberance, her joy, and I would love to share that again.

  14. Dear Debbie,
    So much of my childhood was spent writing letters back and forth with you. I still have all the cards you ever sent me...I always wanted your beautiful handwriting. And one of my most treasured possessions is the bible you gave me for my sixth grade graduation...You wrote the sweetest inscription, where you told me I was athletic! Probably the first and last person to ever make such an outlandish statement.

    One of my favorite memories is when I got to be the waiter for the New Year's Eve Titanic party. I felt so cool being there with all of Kim and Keely's friends. I certainly had no shame considering I was wearing a paper chef's hat that you made especially for me. But we sat in the kitchen (or third class dining) for a long time talking about God, family, and friends while making orange pomander balls. To this day, when I smell one of those, I think of you.

    You truly are one of those special people that has made me into the person I am today. You strengthened my faith and showed me the foundation on which to stand. You saw in me gifts that I did not see in myself. You taught me to find hope in the most dire of circumstances, something to which I cling today as I face my own battles. I am better for knowing you, an angel God gave me on earth.

    I love you always.
    XOXO, Kelly

  15. My memories of Debbie are very few & somewhat sketchy due to the passing of time. Debbie, you will always be pictured in my mind through two filters:

    First, I worked with Hampton for a short while helping him build a nationwide database of promising high school athletes. Hamp was always so detail-oriented, analytical, composed, on-task, warm & friendly but business-like at work.

    Knowing that often God unites complementary people in marriage - I always imagined you to be light-hearted, affectionate, fiercely protective of your children, dedicated & desperate for everyone you love to be safe, prospering & vibrantly alive.

    Secondly, after viewing you through Hamp, I also have only fleeting memories of short conversations between us. We were both busy parents & active in so many things inside our church & outside our homes. But you were always able to be cheerful which caused your countenance to radiate. The God-breathed beauty the world saw in you was dramatic.

    Blessings on you & your family as we all treasure each breath you take!

  16. I can't look back on my childhood memories and not think of you. I have had so many good times with you and your family. I will write about the few that stick out the most to me.

    I will have to start with our trips to the beach. I can remember us sitting around the fire laughing and singing. I liked crabbing with our nets and flashlights. I was so worried that one would bite me. Keely and I wouldn't be but a few seconds in the water, and you would come up behind us and tickle us. We would jump and you would just laugh! My favorite memory from the beach was when Mom was walking up the sand dunes. You and David took our video camera from me. You two were coming up with your own version as to what Mom was doing. I will spare my mother the details, but know that we all still laugh about it to this day!

    I know you will remember playing "Annie". You would put on the soundtrack to the movie and pretend to be Miss Hannigan. Keely and I would be the orphans running away from you. You would chase us all over the house. Oh, that was so much fun!

    I remember our lunches together after church on Sundays. A few or more families would get together and go out to eat. If I was lucky, I would get to go home with you all and play with Keely afterwards. I recall one Sunday in particular that I did get to do that. Before we went home, you had a stop to make. We pulled up to a very run down looking apartment building. I remember wondering what we were doing there. You and Hamp said we were there to help someone. We were there to bring food to a family whose refrigerator had stopped working. I think back on that as one of the many times you have helped someone in need.

    You are always ready and willing to make a difference. There are many that have been lucky enough to have been a part of that. Those of us who were with you while you were doing this, and those that were on the recieving side of things.

    I love your beautiful smile. You could walk into a room, and light it up with that smile. It always makes me feel so special.

    I look at you and I see someone who has lived each day to the fullest. You are an amazing woman. I know that I am one of so many that have been blessed to have you in their life. Thank you for being such a big part of mine. My family is so lucky! I love you and am so grateful for you. Big hugs!
    Katy Mikesell Tate

  17. Sweet, spunky, courageous, creative, joy-filled, other-centered, christ-loving, compassionate, wonderful, life-giving, determined, awe-filled debbie! your impact on our lives is more magnificent than you'll ever know. you teach us so much as we watch you live and love and laugh. in this last day and a half, i wish i'd kept count of the number of times the woman working the desk in the ICU waiting room has come over the intercom to tell everyone to quiet down in respect for those who are gathered there. as people come up to see your precious family, something miraculous happens--despite the deep sadness over your pain and the intense moments we spend anticipating good news, there are moments when joy breaks through and floods our hearts and the entire room and as people begin sharing stories and memories of the wonder of a woman you are in so many ways and to so, so many people. we laugh hard, delighting in the ways that you are always leading the charge to love more deeply and laugh more richly and live more fully than most of us thought possible. as i hear stories, some old favorites and some brand new to me, it occurs to me that the very best of your unique spirit very much lives in your incredible daughter, and because of that, those who know her, too, know the debbie who decorates buffalo shaped bushes for Christmas and throws Titanic parties and wades just a little too deep in the cold ocean on crabbing adventures and pushes all rules aside in order to love others extravagantly, especially in times of need.

    i'll never forget meeting you for the first time as you were busy helping keely and amanda move into their dorm room freshman year at rhodes. i was terrified to be moving in almost directly across the hall and was so grateful for the gift of being drawn to the commotion around me as keely and amanda's dorm room transformed into a beautiful, welcoming space with matching bed linens and all of the creative touches that make a girl feel at home when she's really not at all. your kindness reassured me and perhaps spoke even more powerfully than the verse printed across keely's blue t-shirt that I was among believers when i was with you all. the friendship that began that day is among the greatest of god's blessings in my life. Thank you!

    How fun it was to look for the moon together through Hamp's telescope, to sit at your kitchen table and eat bacon and pinwheels on Saturday mornings spent in Nashville, to cook hot dogs on the beach (a surprise you organized for us, for sure), to go to Phantom of the Opera in a limo, to be on the receiving end of some of your creative genius, to worship together, and to crawl into your bed and tell the stories of our lives because you care about them as if they were a part of you. You love us all as if we are your own, sort of like it says in scripture about how a mother hen gathers all of her chicks under her wings. And though you have more children than the stars in the sky because of the impact of your great love, it's been especially sweet to watch you become a grandmother. Salem dances when you enter the room! It's amazing to see her delight in you. I think there's something in all of us that dances like Salem does when we see you. We love you so much.

    I'm praying for you, Debbie! You are such a treasure!

  18. Oh, I hardly know where to start. You mean so much to me, Debbie.

    One of my favorite memories of you happened before I even met you! I was a scared 18-year-old heading off to college, and that summer the most gloriously huge package arrived at my house. It was filled with notes from Keely (my future roommate) and you (I love your handwriting!) and the most beautiful array of fabrics I had ever seen. These fabrics would be our room decor. There were several other great gifts in that box, and I could picture you filling your cart at Target with every fun thing a college freshman could ever want. I knew then that I had ended up with the best college roommate ever! I expressed my appreciation so inadequately then, but I hope you know how incredibly special and loved I felt before ever meeting you.

    And that feeling of being wrapped in your love continued all four years of college and beyond. As so many others have expressed here, you treated me like your own daughter. I used to love going home with Keely on the weekends...even when you were sick or surely in pain, you would stay up until 2am talking with us, bake us the most wonderful breakfasts, and oh! the mashed potatoes!

    I cherished every bit of insight and encouragement you offered. And I was fascinated by your sense of adventure, curiosity, and mischief...qualities my-rules-following-self desperately needed! I am deeply grateful for these same qualities in your daughter and for the many adventures we shared because of your spirit in her.(motorcycle in Italy! stealing a pig! water balloons from our dorm room window! endless pranks as Las Banditas!) I always felt so honored to be Keely's hesitant sidekick. :)

    I also have to tell you how much I learned from observing the beautiful ways you loved your husband. Your adoring smile, words of admiration, and kind, thoughtful actions would shape the way I aspire to love my own husband. I could listen to you tell the stories of your romance with Hampton a million times!

    You love so extravagantly, Debbie. I feel extremely fortunate to be one of the many, many people on the receiving end of that love. Even in the difficult times, I cannot be in your presence without experiencing joy.

    love always,

  19. I remember the first time I met you, Debbie. You came down to Orlando to visit Keely and Josh and during your visit you took the RTS library staff out to lunch at our favorite sushi place. Technically we were supposed to be having a meeting about some sort of library business, but we spent most of our time just talking and getting to know each other. One thing that stands out in my mind about that lunch was the way that you showed genuine interest in our lives and in our work. Even though I had only just met you, you expressed such a genuine interest in everything about me. I also remember that you just exuded creativity and zest. I wish I could remember specifics about our conversations, but I do remember leaving with a lot of joy in my heart and fish in my belly. Thanks for that special time.
    Michael Farrell

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  21. It has been such a pleaure to get to know you through Keely the past few years. Whenever I've been around you, you've drawn me in with your magnetic personality and your love and warmth toward me, someone you barely know. I'll never forget your proud exuberance as we impatiently waited for Keely, Josh and Salem to come out of the terminal on their way home from Ethiopia in 2006 and how you immediately showered your precious granddaughter with your love. And in later visits, how little Salem reciprocated with great love and excitement about being with her precious Bubbie. -- Amy L.

  22. Keely,
    How well I remember how amazing your mom is! From talking to her in the garage at the other house while she blow torched trays for a wedding party, to hearing her laugh as she told stories, to marveling at the paintings around the house, to watching her stand up and balance against the counter when she began to use the wheelchair more often. I remember her dancing with your dad at your engagement party, and I remember her on your wedding day when she didn't know what in the world she would wear, but beamed as she sat in the front row and celebrated as you married Josh. I remember when your parents would visit Rhodes and how much fun we had. I think often of their laughter and pure glee at putting us on an RV and praying as we travelled west that we would have fun and make it home safely.

    You have amazing parents and I love them and you.
    I am listening to my radio right now and the song is "It Is Well With My Soul." Keely--all is well with her soul. The one just before it was "Be Still My Soul" and that is my prayer for you and your dad.

    May God's extensive grace and peace be with you even when you can't feel it.

    Reading back through the comments I saw Amanda's about the wonderful breakfasts we had. I think my favorite dish of your mom's, though, was that incredible corn casserole she made before we went west. Gosh, that was so good!

    love to you all,

  23. Debbie,
    If I had to pick one out of the many fun times I shared with you, it has to be getting you on the beach.
    We had decided to have a cookout at the pavilion over at the beach. We bought a small grill and were geared up for hamburgers and fun. Of course, Nancy and Hampton were in charge of all the details of getting all the needed supplies over there. You and I were out to have fun.
    So we took off first to get a good spot. Nancy, Hampton and the girls were going to meet us over there. It didn’t take you long to start working on me once we were out of the driveway. You wanted to be on the beach and not in the pavilion away from the sand and surf. You worked on me pretty good getting me go against “the planners”. I kept asking you.... how mad is Hampton gonna get? After we talked about our joint love of the ocean and how hard is was for you to be that close and yet so far away from the sand, you had me.
    We took off for the last boardwalk, farthest away from those that would be looking for us. There was a park bench blocking us from driving the cart down towards the beach. I thought we were done at the point. You assured me that I could lift it and remove the obstacle. At that point there was no turning back.
    At the end of the pier I asked if it was far enough. You gave be a look and said “get real”. So out of the cart and on your butt, step by step we got you to the sand. You had me hurry with a blanket and get things setup. About that time my phone started to ring. I looked at the caller id and said….it’s your husband. You took the call and explained that there had been a change in plans and where they could find us.
    As it turned out, we had a fabulous meal and a wonderful time. You even got it the water after much discussion with Hampton and Nancy.
    We laughed about what fun we had on our way back to the house as Hampton and Nancy watched for our next adventure.
    You are in my prayers and I look forward to laughing with you soon..

  24. Debbie,

    another FAVORITE, more recent memory: this summer, I LOVED being with you after a great weekend in the mountains with the Banditas(!) as you played with Salem (who does indeed dance when you're around!). It had to be at least 100 degrees outside in July. Amanda and I went out onto the front stoop with you, who had more energy than the two of us, who were sweating sitting still. Never one to miss a moment of fun, you pulled yourself out of your wheelchair and onto the ground to be with Salem. Anyway, Salem was absolutely loving the water hose you used for the plants so you and she got absolutely drenched -- i mean DRENCHED -- just playing and laughing while Amanda and I just tried to sit still and not sweat too much. Amanda and I were drenched, too, but it was a different kind of drenched (we were just sweaty). I'll never forget how sweaty I was, how much fun Salem was having, how much you laughed, or how still Amanda was sitting.

  25. I'll also never forget you dancing with Hamp at Keely's engagement party -- you were so beautiful! And you talking about Josh and Keely on their video!

  26. Hello, Debbie, Hampton, and Keely.

    I realize, Debbie, that you do not recall the first time we met. I was about to start my undergraduate years at Vanderbilt and you and (then, little) Keely dropped by the office.

    I was immediately and permanently touched by your genuine pleasure at meeting me, a total stranger with whom you had time to exchange but a few words -- but I instantly sensed that Debbie Pitts is one of those rare people who truly cares about other people, does not consider meeting someone new a mere "social nicety" that is part of good etiquette, and you have expressed true warmth toward, and interest in, me and my life every time we have communicated since that introduction.

    Keely, you may recall me by name only. We have not seen each other in years, and you were a little girl (destined to accomplish great things because of your innate intelligence, talent, and compassion -- and because you are the daughter of Debbie and Hampton). Over the years, however, I have eagerly followed your triumphs, courageous victories over adversity, and the milestones of your life.

    You inspire me, Keely, just as I have been inspired by your parents ever since meeting each of them, who have had a positive influence upon my life that goes beyond what either of them could possibly imagine -- basically by simply being who they are.

    Hampton, you have always made time for me, despite the fact that you do not have time to spare, not to mention the personal challenges that you, Debbie, and Keely have faced. I thank you for every moment, bit of advice, and kind word -- for caring about me and making that fact abundantly clear.

    Debbie, you have always amazed me. I have made my living using words, from documenting software to my feeble scripting and programming efforts, but I know that any "inspirational" words or quotations, no matter how sincere, always end up sounding trite and shallow.

    I do want you to know -- Debbie, Keely, and Hampton -- that you do remain in my thoughts and that you are in my prayers. At least I know that I am in the company of many other people who share the same love and admiration for you.



  27. Weslee Edwards HillJanuary 14, 2009 at 2:20 PM

    It has been so long since I have seen you all but when Mom told me that you were in the hospital I had to let you all know that we are praying for you...all of you. Since I was older than Keely I didn't get the opportunity to develop the relationship with your family that I would have enjoyed. One of the things that I see in my mind is how beautiful you all are. Not just outward but (and especially) inward. You all were always kind and had smiles on your faces. You all seemed happy to be wherever it was you were and with whomever you were with. I remember your laughs, now that I think about it, and how contagious they were. Thank you for the rays of sunshine you all share with the rest of us. I will be thinking of you all and praying too!! Much love: Weslee

  28. Debbie, I remember a mission trip to Michigan, I think Detroit, into an area we probably should not have been...and you and MaryLea decided to put a library together in one week!!! Plus cook food for a crowd. Once you came back from the grocery store in tears of either fear or delight as you had inadvertently broken in line and were afraid of being shot--not unlikely in that neighborhood! Did I ever thank you for your willingness to go and work and love on teens? If not, thank you. And thanks for the cross necklace you made with wire and hung on a braid of yarn. I still pull it out and wear it, remembering your precious giftedness that you were so eager to share. Much love to you all, Cj

  29. Our first experience with you was in November 1977 when we first came to FBC Nashville. We had a Sunday School party at Thanksgiving where you made up the most incredible clues -- not easy ones, mind you -- for a scavenger hunt. What incredibly creative people you are. You had us driving/running all over downtown Nashville and a Franklin cemetery and rowing out in a small pond to find the next clue. God kept everyone safe while having the most fun we have ever had. We even took home a turkey as a prize!!! Our love for you has grown since that time -- raising children together, Sunday School, children/youth choirs, our children's weddings and our grandbabies. I have never seen Debbie without a huge smile on her beautiful face, no matter what the circumstance. I love you, Debbie. You are a treasure and wonderful blessing to me. -- Susie Edwards

  30. Dear Debbie,

    The Overbys have so many wonderful memories of you and your family, especially revolving around BA. I remember when you and Keely came to our new front-yard-to-be to help us at our improvised groundbreaking. Thank you for always being so encouraging to everyone in our family. My first memory of meeting you and Hamp was a young marrieds Sunday School party at your house when the two of you put together the most creative and fun scavenger hunt I have ever done. I knew you were special then, and that impression was reinforced many times, like when you were at the Lee's house, helping to repair something under the house. You have a way of bringing grace and elegance into any setting.
    Thank you for sharing yourself and God's love with so many. Much love, Andrea

  31. Debbie,
    We will never forget being greeted by two angels dressed in overalls leaning against a white picket fence as we moved in our house from Nebraska. You made us feel so welcome and took our child into your arms as though he was the only child in the world.Sean thought it was "Neat" to have two playmates living nextdoor to us.You were always ready to help us at anytime. Some of the fondest memories were you taking your time at Wildwood Swim Club to play games in the pool and seemingly never tiring. You were the most generous person with your time, invitations for plane and car rides and having pizza with us.One of the fondest memories was on Halloween when You and Hamp ,being the only couple around us at that time without children
    dressed up in full costume opened your garage to the neighborhood to a scary maze. IT WAS AWESOME!!!I think we were the first ones in the maze and the last ones out. You and Hamp were the best neighbors,ever!!
    Debbie, You have always given so much of yourself to others. When you were volunteering at Childrens Hospital every week You would come home with your puppets(I am sure very exhausted) to find Sean running down the ditch and up the hill to greet you in your drive. You always had time to give him a warm smile and a big "BEAR HUG" He stills talks about the bear hugs. You never ceased to amaze us with your bubbly personality and energy.
    Debbie, in our eyes you are everything God wants us to be while we are here on this earth You are truly and angel and an inspiration to everyone. We feel blessed to say we know you and you . You are so special to us.
    Please know that You, Hamp, Keely are in our thoughts and prayers.
    We love You
    Kay,Ray and Sean

  32. I just wanted to post a note to say everyone is in my prayers. I do not know Debbie very well, but had the pleasure of spending some time talking to and playing games with her at Corey and Erin's baby shower. She has a very joyful spirit! I had made a cake for that shower and if she told me once, she told me 20 times how much she loved it (so dear)! I believe she even took some leftovers home with her. So, anytime that she would like some more of my strawberry cake, I would be glad to make it for her!
    Thinking of you,
    Casey Hershbine

  33. Debbie-
    you are simply radiant. Your joy shines thru your smile and, and those lucky enough to be in your presence even for just a moment, leave feeling warmed thru and thru by your compassion, zest, and your genuine ability to make the person you are with feel like they are the most important person in your world at that moment. Others have said that, and it is so true. Every time I have been with you, i leave feeling treasured. You are like a warm cup of hot chocolate on a frigid day--You take the chill out of life, provide warmth to the soul and provide such a comfort to those who get to sit with you for a while.

    Today in my Community Bible Study group, we were to talk of somebody who has been a pillar of faith in your life. I chose you, Debbie, and had the privelege to share for a few minutes about your amazing faith and what an amazing beauty you are. To prove your creativity, i wore a necklace you made for me years ago. It's a beautiful long rope necklace with cross wrapped in wire with a beautiful stone in the middle. I have cherished it all of these years and love having something you made with your hands just for me.

    Many of my memories involve your creativity and zest for life. I remember as a child being in awe of keely's room! it was so colorful and lovely, and you had painted most of it yourself with the awesome black and white checked flooring, colorful walls and furniture pieces. One day I got to see your art studio and was just amazed that one person could be so creative and talented!
    Another memory related to your creativity was from high school. You were a guest teacher for a while and we were painting clay projects and firing them. We were all to create a fish. Well, all I know is that you probably had to hold back that wonderful laugh of yours, because mine was so awkward and so horrible. It was hideous, really. :) But, you made me feel like a million bucks. I think i even hung it on my wall for a while, im embarrassed to admit. ha

    I was so honored that you came to my wedding. I know it wasn't easy. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I loved seeing you at Keely and Josh's engagement party dancing with your jewel of a husband. That is a memory i will never forget.

    I could go on for hours, and with stories of Hamp and Keely as well. You are three of the most amazing people, examples of how God wishes for us all to live, love, and enjoy life. You all inspire me to live life with your zest and love, no matter what comes our way. Debbie, I am honored and humbled to know you. Such an amazing servant. Thank you for your faith, strength, courage, humor, compassion and love. Continuing to pray.
    Laura Harris Penney

  34. Debbie,

    I remember the first time that I met you like it was yesterday. I was sitting in a Rhodes dorm room early in our first semester of college. Keely had told me that her mom was in town and wanted to eat lunch with us at the Rat that day. I have such a vivid memory of you standing in that doorway when I first saw you for the first time. I will never forget the way your smile lit up the room and hearing your voice for the first time. For the first time, I experienced the way that everything changes when you're in the room. I am so thankful that it would it be the first of so many. I can see the way the light came through those long windows and remember looking at you and knowing I had never met anyone like you before.

    You have the indescribable gift of making everyone feel like they are the most important person in the whole wide world. Your daugher, my closest friend, shares that gift with you. I can remember being in restaurants and watching you work your magic with total strangers. I have never, truly truly never, seen anyone love people better than you. I can honestly say there is not a day that passes that I do not think of how I could love, serve, or treat people in the way that I have watched you do so many times.

    I have so many wonderful memories of coming to your house. Coming home with Keely was one of my favorite things about college and not just for the mashed potatoes and cheese grits. Mostly for the late nights and then mornings that we would pile in your bed, Keely right next to you while you tickled her arm. We'd beg you to tell us stories that we already knew because they have never lost their wonder or joy.

    When I think of being in your home, I hear the sound of laughter. I hear you and Hampton laughing in the other room, sharing something together. I will never forget that sound.

    I have so many more memories to write. I will do that soon.

    I love you.

  35. Debbie,
    While I have only that the chance to meet you briefly, just reading these memories and notes has been a blessing in itself. Having the chance to read these stories and hear about the amazing impact you have on those you love so well has made me feel closer to the Lord than I have in a long time. Thank you for the joy and blessing you are to those you barely know!

  36. Debbie,

    You are such a strong and wonderful person. I always remembered you had such a sweet smile. You made the room so much brighter. You and your family are in our thought and prayers. Stay strong! Love, Stephanie Lowry Goddard

  37. Debbie: I have loved the wonderful talks we have had about everything from the kids to life, love and happiness. I love your smile, your laugh, and your surprises! Your wonderful daughter has blessed us and helped fill our family and son with happiness and joy. Our wonderful times in Florida together were some of the best I can remember. You always made it so wonderful. Jeanie and I, and of course our entire family love you and Hamp deeply. I am sorry I cannot leave Europe immediately. I am happy Jeanie was able to get back so quickly to be with you and the entire family that is there with you now. Thank you for being in our lives. We are blessed to be your family. God Bless. Paul

  38. Dear Debbie,

    Keely asked us for funny stories so here are a couple. Many years ago, you and I taught pre-school Mission Friends together at FBC. I loved it because you were magical with kids and could actually do the crafts in the leader's guide. One Wed night you decided to bring your food processor, sort of a novelty at the time, and grind up crayons for the kids to iron between two sheets of waxed paper. The colors were beautiful, but the food processor was an icky mess and totally ruined. I was upset for you, but you laughed it off as"no big deal" and didn't seem the least bit upset!

    Then there was the permed hair which left us all speechless. You came to Mission Friends right after your hair was permed. You had long hair at the time so it stuck out about 18 inches from your head and kind of flopped in mass as you walked. As luck would have it we had to take our pre-schoolers into prayer meeting for some kind of performance that night. I promise you, there was not a soul there who could take their eyes off of you. I couldn't quit laughing after we left the room. You assured us that in due time your hair would calm down and it did!

    Now for thoughts from my heart. Debbie, you are the closest thing to heaven on earth that I have ever known. I didn't know it was possible for anyone to be so caring and selfless. The focus of conversation has never been on you but always on that person with whom you are talking. God has given you so many remarkable talents and gifts which you have freely given to everyone who comes in contact with you. You have loved our children and loved Jim and me so well. I can honestly say that I am a better person because I know Debbie Pitts. I love you with all of my heart.
    Carol Ann

  39. Dear "Mrs. Pitts" (for some reason, I can't seem to call you or Mr. Pitts-or AB's parents-by your first names)-
    While I have spent less time with you than the other Las Banditas (certainly my own fault and loss), the moments I have spent with you have been full of grace. I'm not sure how God managed to wrap up the charm of the South, the twinkle of Santa Clause, the hands of Mother Teresa, and the heart of Mary into woman...but He did. I still remember that first time I spent the night at your home (and how much I loved the pillow topper on Keely's bed). You, Kee, Jen, Hamp and I went out to dinner, and it was such a joy to see you, Hamp and Kee interact. I must admit...I was a little bit jealous and was secretly wishing that I had been an only child. Every other time that I have been around you has been equally filled with delight. Your presence fills a room...because your heart is just that big. Why you have had to suffer is beyond my human understanding, but just by these blog posts alone, it is very clear that God has used it His glory.
    As the post above notes, we are all better people for knowing you and I am so very thankful for the friendship of your daughter! You remain faithfully in my prayers.
    Much love,


  41. Dearest Debs,
    When I first moved back to Nashville and met you at FBC, I thought you were the most beautiful girl I had ever seen! Little did I know then that you are just as beautiful inside as out.
    I remember you and Pam coming to Baptist Hospital to visit me in 0 degree weather when Elizabeth was born. You wore a Davy Crockett-like cap... so styling as always!
    My Apple-pectin with Earl turned into a large bush instead of the model-look, like yours!
    Partying at your fabulous home has been the treat of treats!! I'll never forget those scavenger hunts that truly became the "measuring bar" for fun! Didn't you and Hampton have some terrible accident with toilet paper and water that kept you up until the wee hours redoing some clues?! No matter what it is, if Debbie Pitts is involved, it will be fabulous and fun!

    I'll always remember the incredible love and support you have given to me and my family through the years. Even when you aren't feeling well, you have been there for visitations, services,and Grace's wedding. Your presence means more than you can ever know. Just yesterday, my brother was talking about the fabulous basket full of goodies that you and Keely made for my Mom when she was sick! What joy you bring!!
    You are THE best penpal that I have ever had!!As I have always said, YOU ARE MY INSPIRATION. I know you can't write back at this moment but it doesn't matter because the all- important words have already been spoken. You know that I love you and I know that you also love me. Even more importantly, I know your heart and your faith and that God is holding you in the palm of His hand.
    Love,hugs,and kisses to you, dear friend...

  42. Debbie,

    You have provided my life with so many memories that it is nearly impossible to write in such confinement of the presentation. Your words have meant so much to me and have been embedded in my thoughts for 17 years. Whether you are telling me to love Jesus with all of my might or even scalding me to tell me not to smoke “left-handed cigarettes.” The fact is that you have loved me through all of it and I have loved you. We have not always been in close proximity to one another, but there has never been a day that you have not entered my thoughts and hugged my heart. You have nurtured me and guided my earthly path to always face Jesus.

    It is very rare that the radiance of one person can shine through so many to reach so many. There are so many folks that have been touched by you and have gone on to touch others with the same grace and peace that you first touched them. Your “spiritual family tree” would confuse most NASA scientists and, maybe, even Hamp.

    It is hard to think about my memories with you without automatically thinking of the lessons I learned through those situations. So many times, I can remember your smile and in so many different circumstances. In health, you have smiled. In sickness, you have smiled. And even when you had to tell this boy the worst news he had ever heard, you found a way to make both of us smile. You’re amazing. Each smile you grace us with, you teach a lesson. You teach us to be comfortable in our own skin, regardless of what anyone thinks of us and even how we think of ourselves.

    There are so many stories running through my mind and I am laughing so hard thinking of most of them. Stories from the first time you gave me a ride home when Dad was in the hospital and you took me to Taco Bell on the way. Four, yes four, burrito supremes later we were in the driveway and your jaw was so far open that a moose could have run in your mouth. It was those rides home that began to mold me into a man. The rides home turned into rides to church. The rides to church turned into the greatest ride I’ve ever had…my walk with Jesus.

    I have grown to be a man of Christ with a wonderful wife. Through our time together, you have taught me to be successful in business, a loving husband and a man that is constantly learning about and helping others. Even though so many people made me feel different, for something that I had no control over, you never made me feel that way. You have always heard what I had to say and have always questioned me about how every situation can make me better. You taught me to ask myself, and others, hard questions in order to learn the most about myself, or others. It’s much easier to quietly disagree with someone than it is to ask them and understand why they say what they say or why they do what they do. Nine times out of ten, I have learned that by the time the questions/answers have all been voiced, I may not completely agree with someone, but I must respect them. It is one of the most precious gifts you have given to me.

    Over the years, we have laughed together, cried together, and everything in between. You will never fully understand the shift you provided in my life, nor the amount of love I have for you. Thank you for all you have done and for what else I have to learn from you.


  43. My Precious Debbie, My soul Mate, My Partner in Crime,
    We have been a part of each other's lives for 33 years! Wow. I woke up early this morning praying for you and remembering all of our wonderful times together. From the moment Hugh and I rang your doorbell the four of us became bestest friends. My boys have always thought of you as their second mom and Keely the sister they never had. For some reason, Debs, I cannot sit here and write all the places we have been and all the years we have shared because my tears will not let me see the computer screen.
    I hope to do that at a later date. Right now the most important thing for me to tell you is how much I love you, I adore you, and I miss you, my sweet Debs.

  44. Debbie,

    I cannot thank you enough for all that you and Hamp have done for and given to our family. I loved every chance I got to hang out with you and am honored by the many occasions you guys sacrificed to come be with us. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall to witness some of these stories but I feel like in some ways I've been able to be present just by being around Keely! We consider you a part of our family because we have felt for years that we are a part of yours. Thank you for making us feel that way.

    My favorite memory of you Debbie was watching you dance with your husband at Keely & Josh's engagement party. I felt like I was watching a hollywood love story.

    We love you very much and are forever grateful for your love!


  45. Dearest Debbie,

    From the first day we met, I felt like we were friends. As everyone knows, you have a way to make everyone feel special. You, Hamp, and Keely are the three most special people I have ever known.

    I want you to know how much I am praying for your recovery and for comfort for Hamp, Keely and all the family and friends that love you so much.

    Love & Blessings,
    Linda Coss

  46. I don't remember a specific story, but I won't ever forget a Debbie Pitts hug! Debbie, you totally committed to every hug you ever gave me. And I know others who say the same thing. Your hugs are legendary! So, I was trying to figure out why.

    I know I didn't earn that sort of affection, even for a moment. And your hugs were never just polite. I know you gave hugs when you didn't feel good yourself.

    I guess here's what it comes down to for me: Debbie Hugs were a physical representation of acceptance and grace. Where else do you find that in our world?

    Where else do you find moments of unconditional acceptance? Where else do you find a person in pain and suffering, who still reaches out specifically to try to take someone else's pain away? Where else do you find such a wellspring of joy that can spread itself into others in just a fleeting moment?

    They may have been "just hugs", but I swear I learned a lot about Jesus through those hugs.

    -Andy Ross

  47. Debbie,
    You are an amazing woman of God. The fruit of the spirit ooze from you - even in the worst of circumstances. Planning FBC Youth Camps with you and Hamp are wonderful highlights for me. One year at Doublehead, I remember visiting with you over dinner and how in the midst of 200 teenagers and crazy counselors I felt like I was the only one in the room. Your complete attention was focused on me. Thank you.

    You are dearly loved,
    Laura Chapman

  48. Dearest Debbie,

    There are only a few years of my life which I have not had the immense pleasure of calling you my friend. Ever since then you have always been a ray of eternal sunshine in my memories as well as my soul.

    As a young boy, I thought you were just the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Always sporting a smile and a laugh who could throw a snowball with the best of us. To share just a moment with you made anyone feel special.

    As the years have gone by, I now realize just how much of a rare treasure you are and that your true and infinite beauty resides inside.

    You, Hamp and Keely will always be a part of my heart and I want to thank you for the kindness and grace you demonstrated in yours. May God grant me the opportunity to share what I have learned from you. Words will never be enough.

    I love you Debbie!

  49. Debbie, you may not remember me, but when we first moved to Wildwood over thirty five years
    ago, my son Joe cut your grass. I'll never forget the kindnesses that you and Hamp showed him. May God be with you. Lou Bryan

  50. Debbie, Keely and Hamp,
    I have so many wonderful memories with your family, but one really sticks out from the rest. We were on vacation with you and the Sloan's in the Bahamas, and I managed to get very burned - probably on our first day there! I'm not sure if Keely also got burned, but I think she did! I dont recall the pain or discomfort from the burns...all I remember is the most wonderful days spent with you and Keely doing everything but lying in the sun. You made us take a bath together in baking soda water, and I remember Hamp came in to check on us and we screamed for him to leave!! Then you took us out and bought us huge straw hats and big, long sleeve rugby shirts to wear around. I have a picture somewhere that I am going to find. It is one of those pictures that is etched in my memory...I of course had to have the pink rugby.

    Thank you for always being a light. Your smile is so beautiful and your heart even more beautiful. I love you. all three of you. And I pray that God comforts all of you right now.

    Emily West Sutherland

  51. If ever the word SUNSHINE could be conveyed in one person, Debbie Pitts would be my choice. As I have read many of these posts, the constants have been "YOUR AMAZING SMILE", Your Christ-like qualities, Your Gift of sharing, your incredible beauty, your gifts,...on and on... All attributes we all would love to have said about us, and so beautifully given to one we could all have as a true FRIEND in our lives. How blessed we have all been by your touch. I remember one Easter when you were on the flower committee at First Baptist with me, I had this wild idea to have a tomb with the stone rolled away, and this humongous floral arrangement announcing the ressurection. I could deal with the flowers, but I could hardly take a breath, til you had brought from home a hand painted tomb with bolders and the backdrop for a visual depicting the resurrection that would not demand a spoken word, but said volumes within itself. I was moved by its power and yet you took the humble back seat and said it was nothing...just a "15 minute whipped it together "....but the passion you had to do everything to its Zenith was in everything you did. You were always willing, always gracious, and that unbelievable positive smile just made everyone feel great, whatever the occasion.
    I remember the grand parties you and Hamp had and your gracious sharing of your home. If there was fun or creativity, DEBBIE PITTS was at the root of it... tirelessly giving and creating so others would have a wonderful experience..and always at the backseat position when the credits were given out. Truly, you are a giant in all of our eyes... An example that we all should strife to be ...and a love that we are so grateful to have shared with ... You are a dear dear child of God...and precious in all our sight.

    !youfferv I just pigjt lit out asked a

  52. Precious Debbie!

    I love you so much. I love you for all the FUN we had through the years. You taught me to love the ocean… to not be afraid… to ride on a toboggan behind a jeep…. To eat cinnamon toast on hot dog buns when there is no other bread…to make jewelry…to see the beautiful banners at church every Christmas... I LOVE YOU. I’m so thankful for God’s promise and gift of eternal life in a perfect body. You will live in my heart forever! Love, Leslie D.

  53. Sweet Debbie,
    I have struggled to know what to say...how can I possibly convey to you the impact you have had on my life? And as I have struggled to find the 'right' words, I am struck by the irony, because the truth is that I could come to you with blubbering incoherent sounds and you would still make me feel like I was saying the most important things you had ever heard. That is just who you are, always making the person you are speaking with feel like the most valuable person in the world. You are such an amazing listener.

    I can not remember a time in my life when I did not know you. I remember as a little girl thinking that Keely's mom was so beautiful and being mesmerized by your colorful jewelry (which you had probably made yourself!). I remember your smile and your infectious laughter. I remember how you always took an interest in my life and remembered the details I shared with you. I remember thinking that whenever you were around things were always more fun!

    Debbie, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for you. Thank you for allowing the Lord to use you so mightily in my life. I truly believe that it is largely because of your generosity and kindness that I am who I am today. Thank you for believing in me and encouraging me. It is because of you that I decided go to Brentwood Academy, which changed the course of not only my life, of the lives of my brothers as well. Thank you. And of course, it is at B.A. that I met my husband! So, I thank you for that as well! :)

    Thank you for being the epitome of a woman who "is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come". I can think of no better example of that verse. I have watched your life and witnessed a woman who loves so very well. You are committed to pointing others towards Christ and bringing out the best in them. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to have learned from your life. I am honored to know you and humbled that you allow me to be your friend. You, Hamp and Keely will always have a special place in my heart and be a special part of my journey.

    I love you,
    Melissa Rosenbaum Platt

  54. Amazing Debbie,

    You are of the most loving and godly people I know! I will always remember you and Hamp working with the high school students at FBC. You put so much time and energy into teaching and praying so that each student would truly know and fall in love with their Father. I will always remember you and Hamp creating the "Big Game" for Camp. You are so unbelievably creative, and you invested so much energy to make sure that all the students would truly have an incredible experience. I remember you and Hamp driving all the way to Camp one year (when you were not doing well physically) just to make sure everything was working according to plan. You even trained apprentices in Amy & Derek to take over this highlight of Camp each year. Thank you for investing your life in the precious students at FBC. It is worth celebrating to see what God is doing in the lives of these amazing students today. So many are serving the Lord all over the country and all over the world. You passionately invested your life in Christ and in leaving a legacy of faith. Thank you for so faithfully shaping the lives of so many precious children of God; and in turn, impacting the lives of so many through them today. God blessed us with the most incredible students during that time and thank you for modeling Christ for each precious one of them.

    Also, Debbie, you greatly impacted my life, personally. I remember, the first time I ever visited you in the hospital. I came in to check on you, and you said, "Oh Jeff, you didn't need to come by, you have too many things to do, but since you are here come sit down and tell me about how you and the students are doing." I remember thinking, "Here you are in the hospital and what you were focused on was how other people are doing." This made a huge impression on me. Then, you said, "Don't worry about me. There are many people in the world who have greater problems than me - I am really blessed." I will never forget that visit. I saw Christ in you that day, and God spoke to me through you. In life we will all have difficulties (Jesus told us that), but it is how we handle those difficulties that truly reveals our character. Your character is Christ! You give God glory in the good times and the difficult times - thank you for modeling Christ for me.

    Then, recently, Debbie when you and Hamp showed up at the Atema's for dinner that one night in order to help us, as a young church, buy a building. I remember you coming up the driveway in your wheelchair and as you came in, everyone there who knew you, our eyes filled up with tears. Your presence was such an affirmation of God's presence. I know you were not feeling well, but for you to make the effort to come - wow - your support meant the world to me and to all of us there. Thank you for your encouraging words that night and for your investment in God's young church. Once again, you allowed Christ to shine through you and to use you in a mighty way for His glory! I can never thank you enough for the confidence and assurance of God's Presence that you gave me that day. Thank you for being such an inspiration and for modeling Christ once again.

    Debbie, you are truly a woman after God's own heart. You, Hamp, Keely and Josh are so special to me. I love each of you very much! Please know you are in my prayers - our God is with you. Thank you for making the most of every opportunity God has given you. Thank you for making a difference in my life, and in the lives of so many, for the glory of our God! Thank you for living out your faith. And, thank you for loving us all so well! May our God bless you and keep you. You are truly His!

    In Christ,

    Jeff Simmons
    Philemon 4-7

  55. Beautiful, Precious Debbie...You have always held such a special place in my heart. I don't think that a day goes by that I don't think of you or that your name doesn't come up in some conversation that I am having. I will second Mandy's note that you have always and will always feel like a second Mom to me. I think back on all of the wonderful times that we shared that will serve as some of my favorite childhood memories...trips to the beach where we would go crabbing, head up to the roof to watch the stars, go bikeriding, etc. I have told stories to Avery about how much fun Aunt Nanny, Keely and I had at your house playing Miss Hannigan and keeping an eye out for Hamp to come around the corner in his infamous mask. How lucky were we as little kids to have a grown-up to take us rolling, tell ghost stories in the graveyards, and "run out of gas" in Percy Warner Park.

    More than anything I know how special I always felt when I was with you. There have been many in my life who did not have the blessing of knowing you personally but know of a wonderful woman named Debbie. I know how proud you are of Hamp, Keely, Josh and Salem. They are loved just as we love you so. I pray that God hold you all in his loving arms and comfort you as only He can. May God bless you for all that you mean to me and my family. I will carry your beautiful face and warm heart with me forever.

    I love you!

  56. Good Morning Sweet Debbie,
    Today is going to be a tough day for most of us and a glorious day for you, so we have been told. Of course, as Keey said. you have always outsmarted the doctors. I woke this morning very early and had a pity party with lots of selfish tears. Once that dam was broken the flood came and I could not stop it. However, I know that tears cleanse the soul, and I do feel cleansed. I guess that is why I can write to you, my sweet angel, Debs.
    As I picture you this morning, I do see a beautiful Debbie (don't argue with me as you always do) because I see the heart and the soul of you. That has never changed, your heart is so pure, so giving, so selfless, so compassionate, so loving, and that spells BEAUTIFUL, Debs.
    I guess by now you have realized I am struggling to tell you good-bye. I really want to, because I want you to be able to see Jesus, to dance for Him, to worship Him, and to bask in His glory. In fact, that has been my prayer most of this week. But.......now that it's so close, I want to take it back, I don't want to loose you.
    Last night, after a really tough afternoon at the hospital,I turned on my radio to drive home, the song "I Can Only Imagine" was playing.
    Some people believe in coincidences, however, I know that this was a gift from God to me reminding me that when you get to Heaven and see Jesus you will truly dance for Him, worship Him, and bask in His glory. I will cing to that today.
    My favorite poem still sits on my wall where we hung it together many years ago. I read it again this morning "Footprints". Today, Debs, I think I will only see one set of footprints.
    I love you with all my heart, body, and soul.

  57. Thank you, Keely, for gathering in these memories, blessings, and joys of Debbie's life. My life, while we lived in Nashville, came to the edges of Debbie's life, and yet I feel as moved and blessed by that intersection as those who've written so movingly of years and years shared together. I came home from FBC Nashville one day with a double ribbon, provided to help us remember to pray for Debbie and Vicki. I took those pink and blue ribbons home, and tied them to the handle of a jewelry box, and they remain there today. They have continued to catch my eye and to prompt a prayer almost daily. And the thought I have today is that the only treasure in that jewelry box is tied to its handle. May the God who created you with delight and with purpose love you today. May He touch the broken places in your heart and make them to heal. May He generously bless you with His peace -- so far beyond our understanding of it -- and there, may you find comfort, rest, and joy.
    Privileged to pray for you and with you,
    Susan Lanford

  58. Dear Pitts family
    The three of you touched my family in so many ways. Debbie was generous in her praise of Kaysie's artistic ability, she was always there to encourage and give a hug. For me debbie awakened a long forgotten love of flowers. I will never forget walking into the BA library and seeing the most beautiful flower arrangement I had ever seen. Debbie had made it for awards day and I can still remember its beauty. She told me I could do it and it gave me the courage to try. Debbie was a strong mom figure to Kim all through highschool always with unconditional love and sound advice and pointing all of toward our Lord Jesus. For Kelly, Debbie was the one she invited to Grandparents day at Oakhill when her real Grandparents could not be there.Debbie and love go hand in hand and we have been so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful angel in human flesh. The years and life separated us physically but Debbie's spirit has and will always be a strong part of us no matter where we go. I especially remember her loving smile, warm hugs, and excitement about our children and their futures. She profoundly touched all five of us we are all better for knowing her. We have many wonderful memories of the three of you.I pray all of you are being held in the arms of the Lord and that his love and mercy sustains you.

  59. Deb,
    i wish i could put into words what being your friend means to me. knowing you has changed my life...that sounds trite but it is very true. one of my favorite memories ( one that is so you) is watching you stand to give a testimony...everyone waiting to hear how you do what you do. and you, of course, turning your talk about you into a talk about others. it has never been about you. ever. you have always given your life away.
    i love you. i miss you. thank you.
    love always, joann

  60. Debbie...you are the most amazing person I know. You can never ask "Debbie, how are you doing", because you are you are always asking all about our family. So unselfish, so caring, so talented.
    One of my favorite stories is when Jay and Blake were about 12 years old. Jay told us he was going "rolling yards with Blake and Thomas. Well, John was very upset and said "certainly not" Jay then told us that Debbie was taking them and she had gone to Kroger to buy 50 rolls of toliet paper! What could we say? They, of course, went, had a blast and it was a learning experience for us of faith and love. Debbie, you have made such a impression of love to our sons that I can never thank you enough for. We love you.
    Claudia, John, Jay and Thomas Gifford

  61. Heaven has opened its realms and now welcomed "home" the most beautiful angel our Lord has ever created! My heart swells with joy to realize our precious Debs is now in the arms of her beloved Savior and dancing with her gorgeous smile on those golden streets. What a sight to behold! Though my heart at the same time weeps with painful sobs at the thought of Debs not but a few miles away from us,it is truly today ALL ABOUT YOU this 16th day of January, 2009 - to God be the glory!!
    Until we meet again, all my LOVE, Mary Lea

  62. Two memories stand out in my mind: I remember when my sister Caroline had trusted in Christ and was baptized, Debbie brought over a birthday cake to celebrate. It made a huge impression on me as I thought about the significance of being born again, and that day being my sister's spiritual birthday. I also recall my senior year of high school, singig "Eternity Serenade" with my friend Anthony Carl one night in church, and Debbie came up to me, hugged my neck, and asked if she could get a copy of the words because they made her imagine a beautiful, heavenly scene. Debbie Pitts is a wonderful woman of God, even now made perfectly well in the presence of our Savior. "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die." -Jesus (John 11:25-26)
    In Jesus,
    Whit Chapman

  63. I have loved reading all these tributes to Debbie. I can identify with some of them since we have known the Pitts since 1982 when we moved to Nashville and joined Dr.Sullivan's class at First Baptist. Many retreats, then youth activities. I was especially blessed by a note from Debbie that I kept for years. She was thanking me for doing snack suppers. This morning this scripture came to mind. Psalm 116:15 "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." I have been and will continue to pray for you. Love, Diane Parish

  64. Keely and Hamp,
    Erin just gave me the news. As I think of Debbie’s homegoing, the title of your initial blog post comes to my mind. I have such a strong visual image of Jesus, welcoming Debbie home with a fond look on His face and saying to the host of angels, “isn’t she lovely?” She was and is, in all our hearts and memories. We are holding you in our hearts and prayers today and loving you so.
    Nancy VanCleve

  65. I am so sorry, I wish i had more memories besides the ones Keely has shared with me and the pictures. I was only blessed to meet Debbie once. Keely and Hamp and Josh and of course baby Say you remain in our constaint prayers here i n Orlando, this is very sad news. I love you very much and I love your mom, too through you!!!! Love, Christina

  66. Our hearts are heavy and we are holding you all in our prayers today and in the days to come.
    Heather and Matt

  67. As it has been said by my two older sisters whom have and have had the great great pleasure of knowing Debbie and Keely and Hamp, I too am so very thankful that I am the little brother who also had the chance to know Debbie because the good Lord put her in our lives. As it was said by them, I too am very honored to say that I could call Debbie "my second mother". As it seems, everyone who had the pleasure of knowing or coming into contact with her at some point in their lives knows of what an amazing, caring, angelic and "beautiful" person she was. I too got to share many time with her and because of that, carry many memories of her, which I still happily carry to this day. Going on Talk of the Town, playing Miss. Hannagan, doing art projects in her studio (just to name a few) and my favorite, going out in the "magic car" that could drive on grass :) She instilled that in me to this day and I love her for that. She was always young at heart and no matter what, she always had a way of making each person in her life feel so very important. She most certainly was a gift from God and someone who will always be remembered. ....We love you Debbie....

  68. We only had the opportunity to be with Debbie a few times, but we feel blessed having known her at all. We're so grateful to know her more through the stories that have been passed on. We grieve for your broken hearts, and pray that you'll have peace knowing she is now whole, complete, and restored.
    All our love,
    Andy and Kelly

  69. To Keely and Hamp, to Alice and Sharon, to Cain, I want to say how wonderful it is to have this place to share feelings and stories about beautiful Debbie. Debbie (and Alice) have made me feel part of their family, with their loving hearts opening to me each time I see them. In my recent struggle with my daughter, I was honored with loving messages from both Debbie and Keely (as well as incredible support from David, Alice and Cain), which meant so much to me because I have only met then a few times, but I felt that they were sending me such deep loving prayer. Their gifts of love have made such a difference in so many lives, because they open their hearts to people. I thought I would share a poem which reminds me of Debbie, by my favorite poet, Mary Oliver.

    By Mary Oliver

    I have been in love more times than one,
    thank the Lord. Sometimes it was lasting
    whether active or not. Sometimes
    it was all but ephemeral, maybe only
    an afternoon, but not less real for that.
    They stay in my mind, these beautiful people,
    or anyway people beautiful to me, of which
    there are many. You, and you, and you,
    whom I have had the fortune to meet, or maybe
    missed. Love, love, love, it was the
    core of my life, from which, of course, comes
    the word for the heart. And, oh, have I mentioned
    that some of them were men and some were women
    and some - now carry my revelation with you -
    were trees. Or places. Or music flying above
    the names of their makers. Or clouds, or the sun
    which was the first, and the best, the most loyal
    for certain, who looked so faithfully into
    my eyes, every morning. So I imagine
    such love of the world - its fervency, its shining, its
    innocence and hunger to give of itself - I imagine this is how it all began.

  70. Keely Dear,
    I have many fond memories of your sweet Mom and Dad. They were among the most kind and thoughtful parents that I have known at Oak Hill School.
    Several years ago, when we went to Hawaii to see our musical performed, your Mom wanted me to look the part,so she spent hours making me a lei with pictures from and titles of the "Hey, God..." books.
    My love to you and your Dad,

  71. There are so many wonderful memories of Debbie. We met through Hamp, who was a dear friend from college, but I quickly grew to love Debbie, because there was nothing else one could do, she was so completely loveable. I haven’t seen her much in recent years, but I have thought of her so often. Just this week at work, I was telling my friends a story about going out to the movies with Hamp and Debbie when we were all in our 20’s.

    I had gone to the restroom while everyone else waited in the lobby of the theater. As I came out, I saw Debbie, who looked at me and started to laugh. I looked down, and saw that I had a long, long piece of toilet paper trailing behind me. I wasn’t sure where it was coming from, and my horrified look made Debbie laugh even harder.

    I saw that the paper was, thankfully, only attached to my shoe, and at that point I started laughing too. The more we laughed, the harder it got to stop, and the two of us finally had to leave the building. We stood outside leaning against the wall of the theater, laughing helplessly and making a scene. I’ve never laughed harder in my life. And I never forgot how Debbie had such a sense of mischievous fun.

    Another time, my friend Susan and I were having lunch at Miss Daisy’s Tea Room in Green Hills. It must have been the very early 80’s. Debbie stopped by our table to say hello—she was having lunch with friends at another table. I wasn’t expecting to see Debbie, and Susan hadn’t met her before. After she left, Susan and I sat there together and talked about how beautiful Debbie was. She was just a vision that day, in a plain sleeveless navy dress, with that beautiful long curly hair and her even more beautiful smile. We were, honestly, just blown away by her loveliness. We have spoken together many times over the years about seeing Debbie that day. And certainly, her spirit was always as lovely as she was.

    Debbie was so talented on so many different levels, and so giving of herself to everyone. Although we saw each other infrequently, there were numerous acts of kindness that I will remember all my life, some of them things that Debbie did for me or my family, and many that I saw her do for others. It’s hard for me to imagine how someone who struggled with illness for so many years managed to live life so fully. Many of those things I don’t want to mention here, for various reasons. But one of the posts that I read reminded me of the way Debbie used to French-braid my hair for me when I was going someplace special. That was back in the early 80’s, also, and Debbie was the only person I knew who could French-braid her own hair perfectly. She taught me to do my daughter’s, but I was never able to do my own. Like everything else she did, she did it flawlessly.

    What I would have dearly loved would have been the chance to have one more cup of tea with milk together in front of the fireplace. I never got to do that enough with her, and I have always felt the lack.

  72. About 20 years ago Debbie walked into one of my classes at Watkins Institute; that was when it was still downtown. I’m not sure if her first class was Sculpture or Hand-building with Clay. She took both several times. I don’t really think of her as my student. She arrived with a natural talent that she had the ability to share. She brought a delightful energy to the class as well as that wonderful smile! We explored clay, plaster, wood, wire, casting, building and more. She was both inquisitive and professional and exhibited her artwork in area exhibitions and galleries, including Local Color. Perhaps some of you have the privilege of owning one of her manifestations of creativity.

    I remember in one of our classes we were working with plaster casting. We decided to do a class project, casting the torso of a male model who happened to be one of Debbie’s friends. He agreed to let us apply the plaster gauze wrap right over his shirt (in the name of art). We had him pose with his arms crossed. After the plaster had set and we went to remove the casting we realized that we had created a plaster straight jacket and laughed hysterically! The laughter continued as we went through the antics of trying to remove the casting.

    Another memory I have is when a group of ‘us girls’ went on a road trip to visit Paradise Garden, the folk art environment of Howard Finster. Howard was a self professed minister who was ‘Divinely inspired’ to create his work. He was still alive then. At some point during our visit, we lost Debbie. We joked that Howard had come out of his home and noticed Debbie’s aura and invited her to sit and discuss scripture. When she did catch up with us, she said that wasn’t so, but I’d still like to believe that’s what really happened.

    Even if it didn’t happen then, perhaps it will happen now. Debbie was an angel and I feel blessed for having known her.

    Dear Keely and Hampton, I also feel blesses for having known both of you! So much time has passed. Long ago sweet Keely also took art classes from me so I know that the talent continues…our memories will continue.

    With gratitude and love,
    Sherri Hunter

  73. Debbie,
    We are saying good-bye tomorrow for a final time. This will be so terribly hard to do, but I know, at this very minute, you are at Home with our Father, free of pain and full of joy and probably laughing. We've loved you, laughed with you, and shared so much for so many years. There is a great emptiness, but all of us will come together tomorrow and be joyful that you are Home. We know, beyond a doubt, that we will be with you again someday.
    In Christ,
    Angela Chapman

  74. It's impossible to remember Debbie without a smile coming to my face. She brought joy and love and a delightful sense of mischief to everything and everyone she encountered. She would be the first one to start a food fight. The first one to throw that first roll of toilet paper when we went rolling. And she would be the first one to wrap her arms around you and hold you if you had a bad day.

    So many memories...The Purple Man...stuffing the Laundry chute full of clothes, climbing in and sitting on the pile, and the others running downstairs and pulling all the clothes out till you reached the bottom (um, did we REALLY do that?). I used to love going into Debbie's studio and seeing what beautiful projects she was working on. I remember carving pumpkins in that studio. I remember trips to Florida that cemented friendships that carried me through high school. I remember a magical trip to my beloved New York City that cemented my desire to live there someday. I remember a road trip to look at colleges. I remember proms and homecomings. The Best New Year's Titanic party ever, of which I still have the "telegram".

    And yes, the Partial Eclipse :) and how laughter came through those tears (the tears that came from BOTH sides). Cause to quote Steel Magnolias, that really is one of the best emotions, isn't it? That is how I remember Debbie, and how I remember the love that the Pitts family always gave me. You guys are in my thoughts and prayers.


  75. Yesterday, I awoke knowing that it would be much too long until I heard once again the sweet voice of my sister, her touch, her love. In the quiet of the morning I looked outside to see white particles spitting from the sky. Knowing my sister loved snow the way she did, I really believe that they were her frozen tears for all of us... especially when the sun shown so bright and was so radiant after the service. My son Cain said it so well in the hospital when he said "Bubbie was a like a planet, so much energy and light" and all who loved her the stars around her.

    So many firsts she shared with me in my life and so many I shared with her. Her first kiss with Hampton,her acceptance of Christ when she was so young, her decision to pursue art,... so many secrets that only sisters have. The depth of my love for her cannot be put into words and the influence of her amazing creativity will always live with me through my own art. I said often to her when she was thrilled by something I created " I simply learned from the best"!

    My lovely sister Sheron and I are touched by the love of so many that loved her. Reverenced by her life, I believe that my Mom and Dad enveloped her in grace and joy and once again nodded their approval. We loved her so!

    -Alice Sherman McClary-

  76. It's been a week since I received Alice's e-mail of the news that "Deb really began living this morning at 8:15." And since I shared my favorite piece of Deb wisdom with an aquaintance just Tuesday, I thought I'd post it here for others to consider and employ. It's something I've shared countless times with other mothers. This comes from a conversation with Deb that I had years and years ago. At that time, I'd had the privilege of meeting Deb, Hamp and Keely several times. As a friend of Alice's, on this day, we had dropped by the house to look in on Deb and share tea. My three children were still quite young, Mark may have been 11 or 12 (he's Cain's age). The girls, six and nine. Keely had made such an impression on me that I asked Deb if she would share one piece of advice that was vital to how she had been able to raise such a truly lovely young woman. This is what she said and I paraphrase. "Stay up when your kids are out. Remain dressed, seated near the front door with the light on. If they know you'll be waiting for them, in anticipation of a conversation, they'll make good choices." My testimony to this sage advice is that I never was confronted by a child who had made "bad decisions." Oh, they were tardy from time-to-time, but... I am so grateful to have brushed with this amazing woman. She lives on in all of our lives.
    always, -joni (Centennial, Colorado)

  77. Oh Debs.Oh Debs. Oh Debs.My heart is breaking for me as it rejoices for you. We never made it to those retirement home rocking chairs, where we planned during our pre-college summer to one day reunite. I had to tease you about not recognizing you in the next chair because, as you understood, it was my way of confirming my being there. So, none of those days will be but by God's grace we have eternity.

    There is no hyperbole in the praises of your life. You gave and gave and gave to all. I sometimes wondered how you stayed sane. I know now that it was Jesus. He showed his love through you your entire life. I just assumed you were a much nicer person than me, which is also true,;-} , but you were a special vessel.Once I came to know Him I realized that His fragrance and light in your life continued to grow stronger, attracting and loving everyone you touched. Cain expressed it well. You ran the race with joy and grace. How God must adore your worship.

    If some have wondered at our infrequent communication during adulthood they have not loved as we did. As you wrote in my annual, our hearts were never separated. We were always together secure in the knowledge that we shared a sacred and cherished gift.I shall always carry that in my heart.I am humbled that God gave you to me during the years when girls have a time like no other to devote to being best friends.

    Keely aptly named this site.What a lovely young woman;my goodness how I see you in her. Prayers ascending for all of yours. I love you so.
    Lynne (ltmcc@charter.net)