It all started at the funeral home. A few other of my misadventures have begun there, too.
For Southerners, though those born outside of the region often fail to understand, the funeral home is normally a gathering place where friendship, stories and even laughter is exchanged.
When Mama was feeling blue, nothing did her better than a trip to the funeral. She'd dress up, put her lipstick on and prance in where she would solemnly and respectfully offer her condolences to the aggrieved then plop down in a comfortable chair where she then held court. Many approached to pay homage and were rewarded with a coquettish smile and a hug. For the most beloved, she'd take their hand, squeeze it then delicately lift it to her lips for a quick kiss. She was, undeniably, a charmer.
If someone said, as often they did, "You are beautiful," Mama would laugh delightedly then call out, "Ronda, listen to what she just told me." Then Mama would bat her lashes and said to the flatterer, "Tell Ronda what you just said to me."
When the compliment was repeated, I would then, of course, roll my eyes theatrically, and shake my head. Mama would end her perfect performance with a sweet sigh and pitiful eyes begging to be understood. "See there," she'd say to her admirer. "She don't think she has a pretty mama."
To be honest, trips to the funeral home haven't been near as entertaining since Mama died, but occasionally something worth telling happens. Like that day a couple of years ago. I was dressing to go to the funeral home when I glanced up at the triple mirror in my bathroom. It wasn't the prettiest of sights. I hadn't gained weight but I was mushy looking with flabby arms and soft folds around my back and waist. For the previous three years, I had been fairly regular with cardio workouts, but muscle training had been all but discarded.
I pinched the flesh on my side and mumbled, "I have got to get back to working out."
Now, it has been my experience that the good Lord usually takes more time to answer despair than I normally like. But that day, he sent an answer within an hour. As I was leaving the funeral home, I ran into my sister who was talking to a handsome, incredibly muscled man. She introduced me to Greg Cochran.
"What are you doing since you retired from the sheriff's department?" she asked.
"I'm a trainer." Judging by how he looked, I figured he was probably pretty good at workouts.
Before my common sense could stop my mouth, I spoke up. "Give me a card. I'm looking for a trainer."
And so it began. Oh, it wasn't pretty at first. I had practically no muscle tone and no strength. The only part of my body with any definition were my calves, which were well-shaped thanks to my beloved high heels. Greg relentlessly pushed me through and within a month, I had shown such improvement (I worked out with weights for 12 years before I stopped and since muscle has memory, it bounced back quickly) that six of my friends signed up for training with Greg. He was sweet but tough and the hard work paid off.
When Greg moved to another gym and I chose to stay put, I had to find another trainer. Enter my niece, Nicole, who is not a certified trainer but rather a licensed physical therapist. She knows just how far she can push a muscle. She has no mercy.
I'm in the best shape of my life. I am not intimidated by swimsuits or sleeveless tops which makes all the hard work and misery worth it.
It also goes to show that funeral homes aren't always just about endings. Sometimes, a new beginning can be found there, too.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know About Faith." Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.