I was not quite five years old when I stood, looking up the steps to our upstairs, yelling “Mommy hurry, Mamaw is dying.” My grandmother Ina Hinkle and Aunt Maude Hinkle were in the room trying to comfort my Mamaw Mollette. Throughout the morning she had been sick. She had complained about pain and Grandma Hinkle and Aunt Maude were constantly rubbing her arms trying to comfort her.
Life was different back in that day. My dad had driven our only car to West Virginia to work his shift in the coal mine. We didn’t have a hospital in our county and Doc Ford was the lone medical doctor. He routinely had 10 to 20 people waiting to see him.
We didn’t have a paramedic unit in Martin County. Our local funeral home would take people to the hospital in their hearse but there was no medical care rendered on the way. I got that ride twice. Once, when I split my head open playing with a first cousin. The second time was after a bad car wreck while driving my first old Chevelle to high school.
We didn’t have a telephone at that time. We didn’t have a telephone until I was nine years old and then it was an eight-family party line. Thus, there was no way my mother could call for help or drive to ask for help for my Mamaw.
Racing down the steps to my plea and the calls of Grandma Hinkle and Aunt Maude, who were now calling in unison with me to my mother Eula, “Come Eula, she is dying!” As we gathered around Mamaw’s bed we stood as she breathed her last few breaths and departed her body to be with Jesus. There wasn’t anything else we could do but cry as we held to her lifeless body.
The words of those saintly women standing in the room that day were “She is now with the Lord.”
My sister Wanda recalls she was a junior in high school at that time. There were semester tests that particular day at school. “Mamaw asked me not to go to school that day saying, ‘Don’t go, I’m going to die today.’” As many of us would probably reply, she said “Mamaw, you aren’t going to die. You’re going to be fine.” As we age, we know our bodies and we know when things have changed. Mamaw knew it was her last day.
When my dad came home from the coal mine, he went into Mamaw’s room where her body lay and bent over and hugged her. A little later the funeral home came for her body.
The funeral home brought her body back to our house where her casket and flowers were placed in a bedroom just off from our living room. Many family members and friends visited our house the next couple of days.
Mamaw Mollette’s husband, my Grandfather Lafe whom I never met, died about a year or so before my dad and mom married. For the next 19 to 20 years, I don’t know the exact number, Mamaw Mollette lived with our family. She visited for weeks with her other sons who lived in West Virginia but most of her time was spent with us. I got less than five years with Mamaw but my two sisters and two brothers spent many years with her.
We grew up in a small house with one bathroom. There were eight of us living in the house. We only had four small bedrooms and a hallway with a twin bed. We had guests all the time. Very often other family members were visiting and my mother worked nonstop to feed and take care of everybody. Looking back, I wonder how Mom and Dad were able to keep it all together. I was on the tail end of the family so being worried about access to the bathroom and space wasn’t much of a concern at that stage.
My hat is off to my dad and mom for making a place for Mamaw all those years. They worked together. Life was not always easy but it was all we knew and we did the best we could. Mom and Dad stayed together for over 60 years and both are now buried in the garden where they worked together for most of their lives.
The point of all this is that families can make it if they will work hard, love each other, and be very patient. Every family has ups and downs. No family is perfect. No one lives life without problems and troubles. Treating each other with love and respect, and everyone working together are essentials for every family.
Dr. Glenn Mollette is an author and his column is published in over 600 publications in all 50 states.