My mother's mother died in Clarksville, Johnson County, Arkansas, at the home of her youngest son. She was very beloved, and was mother to about fifteen children, including multiple births. For the past 19 years she had lived with many of them in intervals. She visited in our small Tulsa home for a few days, near the time of her death. Even though I was only an eight year old child, I noticed she was very weary then. When I was older, and realized just how many children she had borne and raised, besides the miscarriages, stillborns, and those that died as children, it was understandable that she would have a tired demeanor. She really was tired.
Grandma's visit was brief, as our house had only one bedroom. It was the first house we ever owned. Daddy had moved us to Tulsa not long after getting out of the Navy at the end of WWII, after living first in Springfield, Missouri. When we moved to Tulsa, there was a housing shortage, due to the large number of discharged servicemen who quickly formed new households across the nation. There weren't nearly enough houses available to rent, and we lived with Mama's first cousin and her family for several weeks, until we finally found an available rental. It was not even a house to itself, only the back two rooms of a home occupied by two other families, and it had an outdoor toilet! That was an uncommon feature for a Tulsa home. I was really glad when Daddy promptly found that next home, our own new home. He had to sell our old car to get enough to make the down payment, and had to walk to work for many months until he was able to buy another car. I did not have a room of my own. The living room sofa was my bed. To this day, though I've had my own bedrooms for many years, when visiting in relatives' homes while vacationing, I always ask for the sofa, because it suits me fine. However, it was not appropriate that my elderly grandmother sleep in other than a comfortable bed. She stayed only a few days before returning to my uncle's home. When she left, I was pleased to find that she had left a handsewn quilt, of the Grandmothers' Fan pattern.
When Grandma died, I went to Arkansas with my parents to attend her funeral. I had never seen a dead person before, and had never attended a funeral. It was very upsetting to me, as I have always been very tender-hearted, complicated by their choice to have her lie in state (after being embalmed) for what seemed like a week in the living room of her eldest daughter's home. It probably wasn't that long, but I was made a party to the wails and tears of her children and other loved ones, from my vantage point on the sofa, only five feet across the room. Her casket was truly beautiful, and she was dressed very prettily, with a sweet expression on her face, but her death took a toll on me. Only in the past two years have I been able to attend a funeral without crying my heart out. Now, I know a soul that enters the gates of heaven is to be rejoiced, not mourned. Now, only one of her children is living.
Friday, December 12, 2008 update: That remaining daughter, my sweet Aunt Juanita, was laid to rest, today.