Me with my grandmother and great-grandmother--gone, yet still alive.

Me with my grandmother and great-grandmother–gone, yet still alive in my heart.

I have been blessed to know some of the most amazing women who grew up in these mountains and lived to ripe, old ages.

  • Great Grandma Jane – Native of Laurel Fork, WV, lived to be 98
  • Grandma Burla – Native of Laurel Fork, WV, lived to be 97
  • Aunt Bess – Native of Laurel Fork, WV, lived to be 101
  • Agnes – Native of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, lived to be 90
  • Mable – Native of Madison Co., NC, still kicking at 85

Oh, the wisdom these ladies have imparted to me! Grandma Jane who had no use for cards or cussing. Grandma Burla who was always and ever willing to, “bless your heart.” Aunt Bess who still giggled like a girl and danced a jig on her 100th birthday. Agnes who saw no reason to give up country ham at Christmas no matter what her doctor said. And now Mable who, as they say, has a tough row to hoe.

I met Mable when our church was paired with her and her husband through our local Council on Aging. We were supposed to help with yard work, but 89-year-old Lawrence pretty much wouldn’t let us, so we brought food and visited.

Mable went blind pretty suddenly just before Christmas 2013. It was hard on her, but she remained upbeat and determined to carry on as best she could. Then Lawrence died just before Easter this year. And Mable, sad as she was, still managed to smile and love those who gathered around to comfort her.

Just a few weeks ago, Mable was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She’s at home with hospice care and doing her best to leave this world with the good grace she’s shown all her life. My husband and I went to visit her last week. She looked pale and frail, tucked up in her recliner with blankets and pillows.

She was happy to see us and told us who she’d seen and where she’d been that week. She joked that dying was a sure way to get people to visit.

“The pastor came to see me,” she said in her thin voice. “I told him, I just pray that God will let me live long enough to . . .”

I held my breath. Oh dear, what was her hope? Her prayer? Would I be able to help?

“. . . find another man.”

There was a moment of stunned silence and then we just about fell out of our chairs laughing. Mable laughed the most.

I’m sure there are amazing ladies like this everywhere, not just in my little section of the Appalachians. But sometimes I do think the mountains breed a certain degree of tenacity, of perseverance. And I just hope, when I enter my eighth or ninth decade, I’m half the lady these women have been to me.