Fifty-five years ago today she died, May 4, 1959. She saw yellow – a flower, the sun, or the light of heaven. Four days later, she was buried on a beautiful spring day just like today. Flowers galore lined the church as cousin Bub carried her crippled brother, Ben, up the long flight of stairs to take his seat with the family. Bub’s and cousin Beverly’s high school senior trip was delayed a few days out of respect for this family event. My mother, four months pregnant with her third daughter, traveled with other siblings from California to lay her mother to rest.
I don’t remember those days – too young, so I am told. But why do I remember other very specific things – events, her mannerisms, her kindness, where she lived – details that should not be present in the memory of a then three-year-old little girl? But I do remember. And I learned other things as I researched family history, studied dates and notes, and listened to stories. I find it interesting that my middle son was born one hundred years after her – 1888 to 1988.
She bore the first name of her maternal grandmother, Rhoda. She was called by her middle name – Margaret, Maggie, Mag. She was a beautiful young woman, thick hair and wide blue eyes.
Consent was required by her mother when she married at the tender age of 16 and was thrust into adulthood on another spring day. Tomorrow is the 110th anniversary of that union.
She was a hard worker and devoted mother. She gave birth to sixteen children over twenty-nine years. She lost one baby girl and one little boy loved by all. She said, “A piece of you dies when your child dies.” She worked in the fields like a man stopping only to nurse the newest baby and prepare meals for the family. Much of this time, she was also pregnant with the next child.
She was a woman of faith and taught that faith to others, specifically children.
She made a very difficult decision and endured ridicule and criticism by ones who felt worthy to judge. She walked away. She was a strong woman, misunderstood by many who tried to shame her. In the years to come, she held her head high and was respected by all who knew her. She carved out her new life; she continued to work hard. She was loved.
As she turned the page of her 71st year, she knew her time was short. Her once vibrant hair now was gray, and her eyes bore the lines of a life not easy. She returned to her Midwest homeland, a journey that would place her just a few weeks away from her eternal home – the thing I grasp to remember but cannot. Instead, I remember the apples, the hula hoop, the coffee with cream and sugar in a china cup, and calling her Mammy.
I see yellow today too – the sun, the tulips, and eternal hope until I see the light of heaven that she saw. I loved her.
March 21, 1888 – May 4, 1959
You can find the vignette, “Mammy” in Reflections. Stay tuned for more family history in the book “Helen’s Heritage.”