Some of my earliest memories are of funerals. Both of my great grandmothers were still living when I was born. I remember ‘helping’ my father’s mother give Granny her pills. I also remember my maternal great grandmother residing in a hospital bed in my great aunt’s house. I have a stool on which we kids used to stand so that we could talk with her and give her kisses. I am sure that I could not have been more than four years old when both of them passed on. I remember all the family gathering at my grandparent’s house when Granny left us but I don’t have clear images of the funeral itself.
My father’s parents lived on a two lane paved road in Delta County, Texas. There were about three or four other houses close enough to theirs that the place had a name. Lone Star it was called, although you would never have seen that name on a map. It had no stores or even a post office. A couple of the houses were off the paved road. The soil there is black gumbo. You don’t want to be off the pavement when it rains. The land turns to black goo and will ball up and stick to anything and everything. Any moving object will just sink into it, not to move until it dries at which time it cam be chiseled off the wheels or the boots or the hooves.
As far as I know, none of these houses had running water except at the kitchen sink. This was accomplished by placing a water tank so that it caught the runoff from the roof and positioning the spigot so that it came through the wall above the sink. My grandparents hauled water from a well for everything else. They had a galvanized tub that they placed on the floor of the main room and filled with water from the well for bathing. There was an outdoor toilet situated a reasonable distance from the back door. A two holer as I recall.
Most of the day-to-day living took place in the kitchen and the main room which held their bed and a seating area. In the front of the house was the living room which was only used for company. There was also a smoke house and a pen for my Papaw’s greyhounds. Then there was the barn and barnyard with the milk cow, pigs and chickens. One time we drove up and I saw Papaw out by the barn. I went running toward him and was attacked from behind by a bantam rooster. I am pretty sure we had chicken for Sunday dinner that week.
Granny, my grandmother’s mother, lived with them until she died. I suppose that is why the funeral gathering was at their house, even though they had no indoor plumbing.
My maternal great grandmother, Mammy, lived with her oldest daughter in Dallas. They lived next door to my grandfather who was the youngest of 13 children. When she died, her body was brought back to Delta County for the funeral and burial. I remember her being in her casket at my other great aunt’s house….in the front living room that was only used for company. At least that house had working plulmbing even if the water was pumped from a pool that was too close to the barn yard for the water to be potable and there was an over head that caught rainwater for drinking. It was the runoff from a shed with a tin roof and had to be brought into the house in a bucket.
I was reminded of the passings of my great grandmothers yesterday as I spent most of the day in a nursing home with one of my best friends whose mother was taking her leave of this time space reality. My friend’s son was there part of the day and he had his six year old daughter with him. I knew that he wanted to be there but I was a little concerned about the child and what she would remember of her great grandmother. Will her most vivid memory be of the day she died? I tried to distract her when I could but I was busy answering the phone and doing my best to hold a peaceful space in which everyone could take leave of each other in the most relaxed way possible.
In the end, my friend’s mother waited until we had all left so that she could leave on her own terms. Early this morning, I felt a whisper of air brush across my face. I turned onto my back and saw a golden glow of light and a smile. I thought I was dreaming until I realized that I could see daylight around the curtains and that I was awake. Later I learned that she had crossed over around 6:00am.
Soundtrack for this post: Mary Melena's Sounds Like Rain