Thursday, July 02, 2009

Death Where is Thy Sting?

Mary Ellen wanted us to come see their new home, so yesterday we drove up to the central part of Illinois to see where they have moved for Brian’s new job assignment. Thus, I am blogging a day late.

Although they both grew up on farms and have talked about wanting to be in the country for years, it took this move for them to accomplish that. Now with their house sitting on five acres and a second detached garage to hold their truck and tractor, they are feeling like true country folk again. Mary Ellen was mowing the huge yard when we arrived, and Gerald could not resist after lunch going out and mowing a bit himself. But Brianna finished up the major part of it. Although he has a bedroom upstairs, Trent is relishing all the space in the finished basement for his computer, games, and activities.

Their mailing address is the town of Waggoner with a population of 250, a grade school, a tiny town hall, and the post office all on the main street. Their water comes from Farmersville, where they also have secured library cards. The two teenagers are enrolled in high school at Raymond, which is a small school with a good academic record.

The difficulty of answering the question, “Where do you live?” is part of rural living. Our children went to school in the village of Crab Orchard, and we go to church and use the library there. Our mailing address is Marion, where we buy our groceries. We are a mile down the road from the village of New Dennison. Our telephone exchange is Crab Orchard/Paulton.

Today Gerald and I went down to Union County to attend the funeral of a 97-year-old mother of a friend. Gerald and Jerry Pirtle had been friends for years before they found out that they were also cousins--third or fourth--I have forgotten which. We should have wondered about it earlier since Gerald’s maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Pirtle. Jerry’s father had died when he was very young, and as an adult Jerry became interested in family history. Finally Gerald and Jerry realized they shared a family tree. Today we met Jerry’s sister Joan.

Their mother had a second marriage, but it too ended with a husband’s death. She did not let any of this defeat her. She lived not just a long life but a productive one always caring for others and showing her love through service and hospitality. Photographs and the statements of friends and relatives made that clear. Joan told me how her mother always ate good food (cooked it also I learned) and exercised. Even after she could no longer live alone but went to live at the Lutheran Home in Cape Girardeau, she walked a mile a day in the halls using her pedometer.

After the funeral service in Anna, we joined the cortege that traveled up through the hills of peach country to Alto Pass, and we sadly watched as Mrs. Pirtle was laid to rest beside the youthful husband she had lost so many years ago. This is the same cemetery where Gerald and Jerry’s oldest known common ancestor Polly Pirtle is buried. She reared a large family by herself, and no one was ever sure what happened to Polly’s husband.

While watching the casket was being lowered into the awaiting grave, I had the odd experience of suddenly realizing I had been stung by something. I never saw the perpetrator, but I pulled out the stinger in my leg and even got some of its poison in my hand before I was able to throw it down. The poison hurt, but fortunately I am not allergic.

Our car was trapped between all the other cars on the narrow cemetery road, and the usual remedy of a paste of baking soda that I always applied to the children’s stings was not available. After we left Alto Pass, we cut through the country on a beautiful narrow road surrounded by green leafy trees—along with many fallen trees from the storm. The stinging pain would subside and then come again, but I distracted myself with the leafy loveliness.

By the time we got to Carbondale, where we had planned to have lunch and get Gerald’s glasses adjusted, only the red spot remained and the pain was gone. I sat in the car and studied for next week’s Vacation Bible School while he visited the eye place. We stopped in Marion at my doctor’s for me to get a scheduled INR reading, and that reading was good. We were home in time for me to do a bit more study and Gerald to mow more of the yard that he started earlier in the week. He had time, of course, to find out how Southern Force teams were doing at the softball tournament in Boulder, Colorado. As we ate a sandwich for supper, we reflected on those friends from his childhood with whom we had visited at the funeral. And we knew that Jerry and Joan and their loved ones were reflecting on their mother’s century of living.


Janet Burcham said...

I hope your family enjoys living here in in the flat land. We live between Waggoner and Springfield in Pawnee. Leaving the trees of southern Illinois and Missouri is quite a change, but the prairies have their own beauty that I have come to appreciate. Janet Burcham

Sue Glasco said...

Hi Janet--I just discovered your comment. So far, Mary Ellen and Brian are loving their new home in the country. It is definitely lovely out there. Very green. Now if the kids can enjoy their new school, they will have things going their way!