Although we are still singing Sankey’s songs, still marveling at the miracles of Monet, still pondering the paintings of Picasso, and still savoring the sonnets of Shakespeare we often fail to realize that we all cast a shadow.
My Aunt Diddie passed away last night. She was the sole surviving link to my mother’s generation; the gateway to another age as she lived 100 years, seven months, and 22 days.
It was not unexpected, and though we grieve for our loss, at 100 years and in failing health, she’s truly much better off.
She’s gone, but she’ll not be forgotten.
Willie Agnes Higgins Ward was born on June 11, 1916. The Great War was raging in Europe, Woodrow Wilson was in the White House, and the tiny town of Longdale Furnace, Virginia boasted 2 cars.
Her family didn’t have one.
But, they did have a buggy and a horse named Prince.
She saw the Fair Deal, the sirens celebrating the end of WW I terrified her as a child, she saw the New Deal, World War II, Korea, Viet Nam, Grenada, Desert Storm, Kosovo, and the Gulf War.
She lived through every President from Woodrow Wilson to the inauguration of Donald Trump. She worked the voting polls in her tiny town of Goshen until she was 90. She campaigned for candidates, encouraged people to vote and told them it wasn’t just a right, it was a responsibility.
She promoted good citizenship.
She fought for her rights, taking the Commonwealth of Virginia to task when they took her land for a road and getting a better sum than offered even if it was still disgraceful!
She taught a town to add and write and read, and today there are hundreds of mothers and grandmothers reading to their children who were taught to read by Mrs. Ward, Miss Willie, or Aunt Diddie, depending on where you fell into the spectrum.
She taught a town to worship God by going to church every Sunday she was well, teaching a Sunday School class into her late 90s, and telling everyone she met that Jesus loved them and wanted them to go to Heaven and all they had to do was ask.
She kept a garden until she was at least 94, and had chickens.
My ½ first cousin once removed (it matters) said, “…as a little girl I remember seeing these hands brush very long hair and wind it UP into a perfectly imperfect roll around her head. I was in awe.”
We all were. She never cut, colored, or changed her hairstyle in my life time.
Tami went on to say, “…I remember these hands setting out a 12 course dinner even though we purposely gave her no notice that we were coming so she wouldn’t go to any trouble…”
So do I. If she knew I was coming she’d make my favorite meal; fried pork chops with the fat so crisp it shattered, mashed potatoes, and butter beans.
She had dinner for 40 every Sunday.
Her two daughters provided her with 12 grandchildren and more greats and great-greats than I can count. She’s adored by all of them, and they are heartbroken today but realize that she’s where she wants to be, and I’m sure Mother was so happy to see her there.
From year to year, decade to decade, from generation to generation, and from one century and into another, the long shadow of a little woman casts its calming cooling shade on many.
I’m so glad I’m one of them.