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And NowThere Are Three
By Mendy Thompson
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Rated "G" by the Author.
My mother grew up in a huge family. I was one of eight. So how is it when your siblings start to leave this world?
And Now There Are Three
I took my mother to the funeral home today. My sister and I met at Mom’s in Oak Hill, Ohio and then drove to Columbus to meet another sister. We then went on north to Marion, Ohio where most of Mom’s family ended up a long time ago. This was her last living brother who had passed away on his 75th birthday on August 23rd. What a sad thing. Out of 365 days in a year, to go out on one’s birthday is just against the odds.
My mother was one of 21 children…yes, twenty-one. She always said she had “ten brothers and ten sisters” and people would ask, “Oh, there were eleven of you?” and Mom would repeat, “no, I have ten brothers and ten sisters…there are twenty-one of us!” It was something she was proud of and yet at the same time, it was such a hardship to grow up with virtually nothing. There were times that she went to bed hungry because the food and money had run out. She has told us of times where all she got for supper was home-canned beets and coffee. Can you imagine offering that to a child in today’s age? They would claim child abuse and have us arrested! She also only got a new pair of shoes when school started and those had to last all year. Summers were meant for bare feet. They had no motorized vehicles, just an old wagon and horses. This is how they got to school when the weather was bad, but they walked the 2 miles otherwise.
My grandfather, William Samuel Malone, was married to a woman named Sara whom was nicknamed Sadie. In the early 1900’s she died in the diphtheria epidemic and left him with 6 children…some in their early teens on down to a six-month old baby. He raised most of them but he gave the baby to his mother to care for. I guess he thought she needed a woman to look after her since he had to continue to work and the kids had to go to school.
My grandmother Stella Mae Yeley (pronounced Ee-lee) was 22 years his junior and went to work at Sam’s house cleaning, cooking and doing chores. A couple years later they married and she was crazy about him until the day she died. They had 15 more children together, my mother being the 3rd eldest of that bunch. Her name is Lexie Marie and when she was a very small child, she acquired the nickname of “Spitfire” from her father. She was very opinionated and feisty (and still is to this day!).
All but one of Grandma Stella’s children lived to adulthood. One baby girl died at age 6 months. She could not keep food in her system. In today’s world, I am sure there would have been surgeries and medications to help her but back then she just slowly died.
The next death was in 1973 when one of Mom’s younger brothers died in a car accident. Mom believes he had a heart attack because when they found him he was out of the vehicle and it appeared the crash had not killed him. He was only fifty-two and I remember that morning very well. I was still in bed asleep and suddenly I heard the phone ring and then my mother wailing like an injured animal. I knew something horrible had happened and my first thoughts went to my dad who had been feeling bad for a long time. When I went downstairs I was told that uncle Alfred had died.
Several of the half brothers and sisters had already passed away but this was the first one of my grandma’s adult children to go.
After that, a few years went by and then one by one Mom’s brothers started dying of heart related problems. One sister died of Leukemia and one sister died of a stroke. But heart problems claimed the majority.
So it is 2006 and there were 4 left…My mother at 89 years of age, her brother at 75, and two younger sisters at 70 and 63.
And now there are three.
At the funeral home, I wheeled Mom up to the casket and she looked at her baby brother lying there in his Sunday best and she patted his hand as if she was telling him something. She cried silently and then asked to be taken to another room. She did this same ritual last year when another brother died. I wonder what she says to them but I don’t ask. I figure that is personal.
I can’t imagine growing old and watching your siblings be taken one by one until it dwindles down to so few. I am the youngest of eight and I am sure this will start to happen to us all too soon. I wonder how I will handle it, or if I am the first to go, how will my brothers and sisters handle losing their baby sister? I know either way, it will be terribly sad for those left behind. My oldest brother is 71 and has been quite ill for several years and I worry that we will get the call that he is gone. A sister is a world traveler and I worry that she will be in a plane crash or other disaster. Two other sisters smoke and I worry that they will get lung cancer and be taken slowly and painfully like Dad was. Four of the 8 have had heart surgeries, so that is always in the back of my mind. I know the inevitable will come; it is the circle of life. But it will be sad, nonetheless.
Indeed, there is a time and purpose for everything. And so we bide our time with this thing called life and we try to enjoy it to the fullest, for we never know when it will come our day to leave this place.
One of my favorite passages from the Bible:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance
Now is our time to dance. Mourning and weeping will come all too soon.
We don’t understand why loved ones are taken, especially when they are “too young to die”. But there is a season for them and a purpose to fulfill. And only God knows why and when we will leave this place to go onto another realm.
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