Tammy Faye Bakker Messner died today at the age of 65. I loved Tammy Faye. I remember watching her on the PTL club when I was young in the Lord and I believed everything the bore the name of Jesus was good and right just because it said so. I believed all televangelist and faith healers back then. And if you said you were a Christian you just were. I was innocent, in as much as I could be. It was just like God said of some things in the first few chapters of Genesis: good!
Tammy Faye made Jim look good! She wore too much make-up and she laughed too loud and said crazy things and made you love her. She was colorful and wild. I didn't appreciate her nearly as much then as I would now. Now I would cheer for her. I would raise my wine glass to her. I would buy copious amounts of Maybelline, the kind in the pink bottle, in her honor.
I didn't see the Larry King interview, but when I heard she'd died, I went back and read some news articles and saw some clips. There was a short clip on her on King and I couldn't believe the emaciated shell of her that remained. I cried when I saw that clip of her. I was so sorry to see her that way. And even at the end, she had her spunk. After all she had gone through, the scandal, the losses, the drug addiction, the messy divorce, the remarriage, she never lost who she was. She stayed Tammy Faye through it all. She kept wearing too much mascara, and she kept loving Jesus, and she kept loving people, too. For all the bad press she got, a little known fact is she is one of the first Christians who actively reached out to minister compassionately to victims of AIDS. We still need to step of to the plate there, both at home and abroad, Lord, have mercy! And may we, His followers, have mercy! And as she was dying, the message she left behind was this, "I'd like to say that I genuinely love you, and I genuinely care, and I genuinely want to see you in heaven someday. I want you to find peace. I want you to find joy." Even as she was dying she was still trying to give love. I think we can learn a little something from that. Here's to a heckuva broad, who lived authentically when it wasn't popular yet, a wild woman before her time, who loved joyfully, crazily, with wonderfully wacky abandon, kinda like you know Jesus did. They don't make 'em like you anymore, Tammy Faye. May your memory be eternal.
I found this piccha of her on the net. This is how I want to remember her. Looking amazing, with big hair and a big illuminated CROSS right behind her.
I pray that she is at rest. That Jesus is giving her big, crazy love. I pray that they have really good mascara in heaven, and fabulous lip liner. I'm going to put on mourning clothes for Tammy Faye, because she was a big part of my spiritual formation. But you can bet my eyes are gonna look fabulous. For our Tammy Faye.
She would have wanted it that way. I can just hear her singing with the PTL Club singers:
"I'm only human, I'm just a woman
Help me believe in what I could be
And all that I am.
Show me the stair way, I have to climb.
Lord for my sake, teach me to take
One day at a time."
"One day at a time sweet Jesus
That's all I'm asking from you.
Just give me the strength
To do everyday what I have to do.
Yesterday's gone sweet Jesus
And tomorrow may never be mine.
Lord help me today, show me the way
One day at a time."
Man, Tammy Faye, I'm gonna miss you, girl.
photo by Greg Gorman.