a baby girl was born in the Aimwell hills in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana. Her parents named her Rita Mae McGuffee. She grew up, married and had one child .... my grandfather.
Most children are lucky to even know their great-grandparents. I was fortunate to love my great-grandmother, "Ma", for 21 years. When she died on May 25, 1994, it was my first experience in losing a close loved one to death.
Ma (pronounced Maw) was a very special lady. She loved us all with a love that was deep, and yet there was a fierce sort of quality to it as well. I don't know of any other way to describe it ... I guess maybe it would help to say that I feared disappointing her even though I wasn't scared of her in any way.
Ma worked hard all of her life. I don't remember her doing anything other than working in my grandfather's hardware store, though I know she had other jobs during her life. She worked 6 days a week until she was 89 years old. Until the last 2 or 3 years of her life, I don't recall that she was ever sick.
Even though Ma never missed work or church due to illness, she complained a lot about the aches and pains of old age. I used to stay with Ma a lot at night when my grandparents were out of town. Once I talked Brooke to joining me for the night. Daddy brought us up to the "big house" and stayed to talk with Ma for a few minutes. She began going down the list of every body part that was hurting her that night and launched into her familiar routine of what I should do when I woke up in the morning and found her dead. You see, every time I stayed the night was destined to be her last night on earth. After hearing this for the umpteenth time, I was a bit jaded to any urgency in her words. I guess my dad was too, for he was totally willing to leave his daughters up there with a "dying" woman all night long. But when Daddy went to leave, we couldn't find Brooke. We searched all over to no avail. Finally my dad walked outside ... and that's where we found Brooke. She was sitting in the car, with her suitcase on her lap. No one could convince Brooke to stay with Ma and me that night ... if it was Ma's final night on earth, Brooke was determined that she would not be present. We still laugh about that night. Obviously, Ma lived many more years.
I remember so many other things about Ma with a deep fondness ...
*She had the softest hands ... until she went to give you a bath. Goodness, I always felt like she was rubbing the hide right off of me!
*She tied braids with a strand of hair that she plucked from your head.
*I remember a time when she got a surprise bedroom make-over for her birthday. I never will forget her reaction to that gift.
*She loved God more than anyone I know. She could turn every conversation back to God's word or the truth of God. I remember her sitting in the hardware store by the cash register, talking to everyone who walked in and out ... always finding a way to share God's love with them.
It will be 15 years this May since Ma went to her eternal home in heaven. To this day, there are times when I walk into my grandfather's home and expect to see her there. Just like Mammie, I'm looking forward to seeing Ma in heaven.
(I will try to post a picture of her tomorrow.)