Chick-fil-A has become one of the most influential and popular restaurants in the entire country, and it remains a profoundly family business. The founders of Chick-fil-A, S. Truett Cathy and his wife Jeannette, had three children, who all remain within the family business, including their youngest child and only daughter Trudy Cathy White who serves as its Ambassador.
Recently, Trudy shared with The Daily Citizen about her relationship with her mother, who has always been an influential force within the company, and how faith and family remains a critical part of Chick-fil-A.
“My mother has always been kind of the behind-the-scenes person in our family,” Trudy said. “But if you talk to any one of our family members, or even someone within the family business, my mother really has been a spiritual compass for my dad. She’s been a real cheerleader for her children and even a prayer warrior for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
In order to celebrate her mother’s life, Trudy recent wrote a book called “A Quiet Strength: The Life and Legacy of Jeannette Cathy.” Throughout the book, she shares stories about Jeannette and her influence on the Cathy family and others.
“I think what people didn’t know about her is that she’s just so fun,” Trudy shared. “The Lord has taken her home now, but I thought people need to hear her stories and know about her life. And I called the book ‘A Quiet Strength,’ because that’s exactly who she was.
“I read a verse in Isaiah that says, ‘In quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ And I thought, that’s it. My mom knew how to be still and quiet before the Lord. She knew how to trust Him about everything. And that’s what made her such a strong, powerful lady.”
Trudy treasures her mother’s spirit and legacy, and it’s something she’s passed down to her four children and many grandchildren.
“There are two things that my mother has really taught me and allowed me to pass on to the next generation,” Trudy explained. “For one, she had such a positive attitude. She always used these two simple words: ‘You can.’ She would say, ‘You can with God.’ It’s almost like her motto was Philippians 4:13, which says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ And so mother just reminded me that, you know, it’s our faith that propels us forward and that we can have a positive outlook on life.”
She continued, “The other thing that I think about is how my mother used to stand at the back door when we were little and head off to school, or maybe when we got older and we were headed out on a date. And she always saw us out from that door and she would say, ‘Remember who you are and whose you are.’
“And those were tremendous reminders for us as we were growing up. I think my mom really wanted us to be able to not wrap our identity up in who we are, what we’re doing and who we are related to, but rather that we focus on who God says that we are. That we are a child of God and that God is always with us, that he loves us and forgives us.”
It’s an example of faith that Trudy and her brothers have all tried to pass down to their children as well.
Jeannette’s early life wasn’t easy. Her earthly father walked out on the family, so she never really knew him, but she was soon introduced to her Heavenly Father.
“When she realized that her Heavenly Father could become her perfect earthly father, she just embraced that relationship,” Trudy said. “And what I saw in my mother, particularly in the latter years of her life, was that at one o’clock in the afternoon is when she stopped all of her activities and sat down with God’s word. She loved to read and study His Word and she loved to memorize His Word. So, she taught me what it meant to be still.”
But for busy mothers, that’s not always easy. Especially when children are young, there are so many activities to drive them to, homework and meals, which can eat up a huge amount of time during the day. However, it’s important to find some time throughout the day to talk with your Creator, and that’s what Jeannette did as well.
Trudy shared, “I would see my mother talk out loud to the Lord during the day when she was going through her regular routine. She would sing songs about Him. She would sing songs to Him. She would sometimes lose her remote to the TV and she would say, ‘Now Father, you know where my remote is. I want you to help me find it, so I don’t have to look all over this house.’ He was such a daily part of her life and that relationship was so special. I appreciate how my mother modeled that so well for me.”
Growing up as a member of the Cathy family was filled with fun, adventure and animals, as they lived on a farm in rural Georgia. Trudy shared that her mother, though a city girl at heart, did take to life on the farm.
“The word that I would use to describe her was domestic engineer. She took care of everything. She paid the bills. She had tools. So, if anything got broken around the house, she could fix it. She did the plumbing and appliances,” Trudy said.
“And for us as children, we didn’t have any neighbors to play with. I have two older brothers, so we played outside all the time. We would have a newborn colt on the farm or calf, so we had horses and cows. And when those little newborn animals would come along, we realized that if we spent a little time with them, petting them, that they would follow us around the farm and follow us all the way to the house.”
For Jeannette, like many other mothers, that wasn’t quite so funny. She would be doing something else in the house and come out to see a newborn colt or calf in her living room, sometimes with a parrot as well. Needless to say, she saw to it that the animals were removed from the house as quickly as possible.
Towards the end of her life, it was the conversations between mother and daughter that are something Trudy continues to treasure.
“I miss our conversations at the end of her life and just enjoying being together,” she said. “I was away from home for about 22 years. So, we weren’t living close to my mom and dad until later in life, when they were around 80 years old.
“A lot of our time was spent taking her to the doctor. It was those car rides that we really had so much fun and that we got to enjoy exchanging conversations. My mom always supported my dad in so much, but she also had had times that she was a little frustrated. As the only daughter, I was the one that she could really confide in when she had difficult times, and I learned so much from her in those conversations.”
One of the things that her mother shared was that she learned not to have any more expectations of her husband. As they grew older, she was hoping he would slow down a bit but Truett was still as dedicated to the business and Chick-fil-A.
“And after she passed away, I found in her home written on a piece of paper, ‘Do not expect anything, don’t expect anything regardless.’ So, she was really trying to learn that lesson,” she said. “She was able to kind of release those expectations and kind of give those to the Lord and probably freed her up by that as well.”
This year, for many Americans, it might be their first Mother’s Day without the matriarch of their family.
When asked about how to encourage those who may have lost their mother during the pandemic this last year, Trudy shared, “When you’ve suffered a loss of a loved one or any loss, like a job, loss of relationship, loss of a loved one, those are really hard times. But something that I’ve learned is that God seems to teach me so much more about Himself when I’m walking through difficulty.
“So, when we walk through difficulties and loss, I think we just have to remember to lift up our eyes and recognize that God is a God who loves and cares. There’s a wonderful couple verses in Psalm 123 that says, ‘I will lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the maker of heaven and earth.’
“So, God himself is the one that helps us. And recently I came across this quote from Tim Keller and it says, ‘Depending on God in trouble is a spiritual skill that can be learned only in trouble.’ And I just love that because it is such a reminder that we exercise our spiritual muscles even more when we are walking through trouble and difficulty. But God is always, always there for us.”
Photo from Chick-fil-A.