Obituary of Rhoda Margaret Case – May 4, 1959
“… On May 5, 1904, she was united in marriage to James Bernard Herbert … to this union 16 children were born …”
Times were different. Large families were common in rural America. But even in those days, I think Grandma and Grandpa must have produced one of the largest families. Thirty years spanned between the oldest and the youngest. My current book project documents some of this family history, which I refer to as “Mother’s Story.” Today, I pause from that work to honor two of these sixteen children – the two who remain. This month, they both celebrate milestone birthdays, 90 and 80.
She tells me stories of learning to cook at an early age and caring for her younger siblings, of Mother sleeping with her and that she gave her a bottle at night, of marrying young and leaving Mother to be united to her husband, and crying when she left Mother to make a home and life with her husband. I remember what fun Aunt Eunice and Uncle Rube were when they came to visit us in California. They had three children of their own. As a little girl, one thing that stands out in my mind is watching her grab an apron to cover her Sunday Best as she finished preparations for dinner after church. She tied the apron in the back without looking – a perfect bow. My eyes followed the tails of the bow down to calves sporting seamed nylon stockings. Thick black hair, hazel eyes – she was, and still is, beautiful. And we still benefit from her wonderful recipes. She is a woman of faith and has modeled that walk her entire life. She still watches over her baby sister.
Forever and always the baby, she had many sibling mothers. She, too, cried when her sister Eunice left to begin a life with her new husband. She missed her, missed her, missed her. At least she still had sister Louise. Mother grew into a talented young woman who could sing and play various stringed instruments without the privilege of structured, formal lessons. I remember one family gathering at Uncle Marve’s house in the 60s. We were on the enclosed back porch with a cement floor and someone handed Mother a guitar. She strummed a few chords until it was tuned to her satisfaction. And then the singing began. Aunt Lizzie and Aunt Delta harmonized to “The Old Rugged Cross” as others joined in. Whatever song came next, Mother swiftly chimed in on the guitar, no sheet music required. Her wide blue eyes sparkled against her blonde hair.
There is so much more to say … enough for a book.
These two ladies are our family rocks, the two remaining living stones. Wisdom and love abound.
- Need to hear a story? They have one.
- Need to make a pie? They have the recipe.
- Need a little discipline? They could still whip you into shape. 🙂
- Need encouragement to get through the day? Talk to one of them who has learned what it means to walk by faith, one day at a time, for 170 years.
- Maybe you just need a hug. Their arms are wide and encompassing.
- Need prayer but don’t have the words? They do and can touch the Master’s hand who holds the answer.
Let us not forget the gifts still with us. May we give and receive while we are yet able. One day, the baton will be passed. The choice is ours, but we must make the time. Much love to you both, the two who remain.
“Honor your father and mother – which is the first commandment with a promise – that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:2-3 (NIV)