(Posted July 6th 2017 @ 11:55 AM by: Melody Reever)
I was six years old when my family moved to the small town of Salem, Illinois. I’m not sure why my parents made the decision to leave both of their families and all they had ever known. However, they later knew without a doubt they had made the right decision.
My parents did not attend church, but someone told my mom about a Pentecostal church in town. She talked my dad into taking us there. One Sunday night my dad, mom, and their five little girls (Betty, Shirley, Nancy, Judy, and Wanda) attended a service at the First Pentecostal Church of Salem, pastored by Basil Parrish—and our lives were forever changed. Praise be unto God who does all things well!
There was a young lady in the church who fell in love with our family. Her name was Judy Mulvaney. (She later married Derold Doughty.) She taught us to sing, so at a young age we started singing—not only at our local church but also at evangelistic services at other locations. We were known as “the West girls.” We had such great times! I believe our involvement in music prepared us sisters for our various ministries, even today.
One thing about sisters, they keep each other straight. Through the years we have managed to get away and go on “sisters’ trips.” Sometimes just the five of us would get together; at other times, we brought our children with us. Our lives, work, and ministries have taken us in different directions. Our families have gotten larger, and as with any mother, it seems your life is not your own. But when we’ve had enough, we’ll all start texting and trying to plan another sisters’ trip.
I remember telling my husband that I needed to go home and be with my sisters for awhile. When he asked why, I told him, “I just need to laugh.” When we sisters get together, we play games, cook, eat, laugh, and cry. It helps us get back to our roots, where at a young age we developed a strong bond that still holds true today. We are encouraged and gain strength to get back to our everyday lives when spending time together.
When I was nineteen, I married a young evangelist, Terry Cox. He was the love of my life! We pastored three churches and spent time evangelizing. My pride and joy came with the three sons with which we were blessed: Jason, Anthony, and Jeremy. The year my youngest son started to school, I told my husband I was going to get a part-time job during the school year so I could save money for a summer vacations. These summer vacations became a great time of family togetherness and bonding. We were still taking these vacations together until the love of my life passed away with liver cancer at the age of fifty-seven.
A couple years before Terry passed, our church family (Harvey UPC) sent us on an anniversary trip to Marco Island, Florida. We liked it so much we decided to become snow birds for a few weeks every winter. Since their father’s death, our sons still come down to spend a week with me during this time. We golf, fish, take long walks, talk, eat, and Skype with their families. My great God-given daughters-in-law—Alyssa, Michelle, and Christina—keep the home fires burning so their spouses can spend time with me in Florida.
I have truly been blessed all the days of my life. I have eleven grandchildren, and we all still manage to get together for holidays and vacations. We enjoy vacationing, eating, laughing, crying, or just sitting together reading or playing games.
My kids still live close, but I live alone. You know what I miss the most? It’s all the singing. During my young years, I sang with my sisters. Once married, Terry and I sang together for thirty-six years. But most of all, I miss riding along in the car with our family singing together.
As I write this article, my sisters and I have been texting back and forth about our next trip. My sons just visited me in Florida for a week. We all went on a fishing trip where I caught the biggest fish, so I got a free dinner. I used to golf with them, but now I enjoy just riding along in the golf cart and watching them being together and enjoying each other’s company. And just to think, we have all this and Heaven to look forward to.
Shirley Cox was married to Terry Cox until his passing in 2008. They pastored UPC churches in the Illinois cities of McClure, Carbondale, and Harvey. Their three sons—Jason, Anthony, and Jeremy—currently pastor UPC churches. Shirley is employed by Home Helpers, a caregiving service for the elderly. She attends Harvey UPC, assisting wherever she’s needed.