Big Grandma had 9 children that lived and an adopted nephew she raised since he was 6 months old. Her first three daughters were Monetta, LaSula, and Betty Jo. Then came the first set of twins. She named them Millard and Willard. Next came Wanda Faye and then, little Mary Ella. Lastly, she had another set of twins, one girl and one boy. Lillard Gay is my mother and her twin brother is Dillard Ray. Yes, you read that right...4 twins named Millard, Willard, Dillard, and Lillard. (Shaking my head)
It is the story of Wanda Faye that I want to tell you. Big Grandma had 3 great tragedies in her life. Her first was the sudden death of her father at about age 9. He took sick in the afternoon with a headache and fever and was dead the next day from meningitis. The second tragedy was in November of 1949 when 5 year old Wanda Faye died. Here is the story as told to me by my Aunt Sue.
One day, the little kids were playing a game called 'Riddle Marie'. The idea of the game is to hide something and say, "Riddle me, riddle me, riddle Marie...I see something you can't see!" Then, the other children would guess what and where it was. Wanda had a little handful of buttons and a brass ball. That brass ball had been found by her brother James a day or so before. Big Grandma told James to throw that ball over the side of the hill, so one of the little kids didn't get it.
Wanda Faye had hid the little items in her mouth. Of course, as little girls do, they were giggling and Wanda choked on the items. Big Grandma smacked her on the back, but only the buttons came back up.
Many weeks later, Wanda started having seizures. This was very scary to the family. Aunt Sue remembers Wanda sitting in the floor playing with a kitten when she had a terrible seizure. Grandpa gathered her in his arms and went to the door to pray over her. He promised the Lord that if he would save Wanda, he would never "backslide" again. I don't think Grandpa had anything real pressing to repent of, but I am sure that in someway he must have felt he was being punished by the Lord. So sad.
It was shortly after that last seizure that her fever got real high. Wanda started talking "out of her mind." She didn't recognize anyone. She talked to people on the walls and Grandma said she was talking to the angels. She acted scared when Big Grandma came in and Grandma asked her if she knew who she was. When Wanda didn't answer, Big Grandma took the kerchief off her head and said, "It's Mommy, Wanda." Wanda came around a little and asked that her sister Mary be sent in to clean her shoes. Wanda said she was "a-goin' to town" and wanted to have her shoes cleaned and two red ribbons put in her hair. It was at this late date that Big Grandma finally convinced Grandpa that something was terribly wrong and Wanda should be taken to the hospital. She died there on the 6th of November 1949.
Big Grandma found two red ribbons and tied them in Wanda Faye's hair. After the body was ready, Wanda was laid out in the back room for the 'wakening'. A 'wakening' is where the family and neighbors stay up all night with the body. Neighbors bring in food and sometimes there was singing. Then, little Wanda was carried up the mountain there on Stone Creek to Stapleton Cemetery. To my knowledge, she was the first of the family to be buried there.
Aunt Sue remembers that Grandpa would sometimes be found holding Wanda's picture and crying. I wonder if he felt guilty for not taking her to the doctor sooner. Sue said she "never heard tell" that Big Grandma ever accused him or made him feel guilty. I suppose she knew how heart broken he was too.
Wanda died of what was assumed to be gangrene and an abscess. When doctors asked if they wanted an autopsy, she said no because she knew it must have been the little brass ball that had a jagged edge on one side. The doctor agreed that it could have gotten lodged somewhere and caused an infection.
Big Grandma still had several young children to care for at home, including the 2-year-old twins. I suppose she didn't have much time to grieve or perhaps she immersed herself in her work to keep from feeling the loss.
I often think fondly of the day Big Grandma died. I can imagine sweet little Wanda standing by her daddy and waiting patiently to embrace her dear mommy again.
Tomorrow, I will write about Big Grandma's last tragedy, the death of her husband. On the other hand, we might need a few more happy stories before we tell that one.
Read the next story here.