Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Gone But Never Forgotten

I've wrote a lot about my grandpa from my daddy and even my mama's memories. I never had the opportunity to know him but those memories have been shared in poems and short stories. I've wrote about how much he was respected and how much he helped so many people in so many ways.  I've also mentioned how he and my daddy and uncle run a little gristmill for so many years and the gristmill was located on the exact, same spot where my house is today. I've also told how I can sometimes hear the echoes of that little gristmill and the many happenings that surrounded it. Many people came from far and near, some with wagon loads of corn and some with toe sacks on their back.  That little gristmill sure was a popular place since so many came to depend on it and my grandpa for their bread.

I've been told by many older folks how well he was loved and how much his hard work and dedication never went unnoticed. Many said that if they needed bread for their families they knew he would open the gristmill up even on the sabbath just to grind their corn so their families wouldn't go hungry. In one of my poems I wrote a verse that included this stanza, “ He worked hard to feed a generation's hungry heart.” And that he did, in so any memorable ways.

I can't express enough how much it means to have his obituary from an old local newspaper. We never did know much about him and his ancestors except what daddy told about his dad and mom.  Daddy told how they'd come to visit for a week or so. His daddy had about 3 or 4 brothers and a sister. Daddy talked about some of them, especially one uncle and how he used to spend the night with him and his wife. That was the one he told about his aunt piling the quilts on the bed and when he awoke the next morning there's be snow laying on top of the quilts that had blown through the cracks during the night.

My grandpa passed away on a cold, winter morning on January 21st 1937 and his obituary was printed in the January 28th 1937 edition of our local paper. It was found by my son Chris and we'll forever be grateful to him for finding it.  To some a simple little obituary might not mean much but when there's so much history attached to it of a man that was bigger than life it means the world to me and my family.
It says at the time of his death he had one grandson but he actually only had his oldest grandchild which was a granddaughter. Today he has 8 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and 16 great, great grandchildren. 

According to my daddy and mama he'd had problems with his legs for many years. Back then they didn't go to doctors and only used home remedies. He dragged his old legs around and never complained for years. It didn't matter how bad they hurt he always went about his business of planting big corn fields, gardens, snaking out wood for the winter's heat and running the little gristmill. My daddy and his brother helped him and he taught them so much about determination and hard work and that no matter how hard things get not to give up. My daddy told that the only schooling he and his brother got was a day here and there. They'd take off towards the little one room school house and stay a few hours and hurry home to help their daddy plow the fields or run the gristmill, etc. My daddy said, that my grandpa insisted they get all the schooling they could but it just wasn't possible back then.  My grandpa kept dragging his old legs and going till they set up blood poison and God called him home on that cold January day.

As I read this obituary which is very small, many memories came to mind of what my daddy told not only about my grandpa's life but also about his death. Back then folks kept their loved ones at home because there wasn't any funeral homes and if there had been they couldn't afford the expense.  And other family, friends and neighbors would come in and help them sit up with the body, especially at night.
My daddy told how he and his brother helped to build their daddy's coffin and helped to dig his grave. He also said that he and his mother laid him out in the coffin. She washed the body and cleaned him up nice and he placed coins on his eyes till they stayed shut. I can only imagine how hard that must have been. Since my daddy was born January 18th 1904 he was considered a young man at 33 years old and since my uncle was born in 1914 he was only 23 years old.

When it came time for the service they loaded the coffin on the old wagon that cold January day. My daddy said it was the very wagon that his daddy taught him how to drive and handle the mules and used for so many other purposes over the years. There was nary a road that old wagon didn't travel down.

When they got to the church they helped carry his body inside the church for the service and to the cemetery for burial.  My daddy told how hard it was to say good by to a man that stood so tall in his eyes and he admired so much. He said it was the hardest thing he ever had to do at that time in his life. His daddy was his hero and every day that my daddy lived he practiced what he was taught and lived by the standards he grew up with and set before him. He and his brother continued on running the little gristmill for many years and kept many families from going hungry. My dad always said, “if you have bread and water it's more than ye was promised.”

We go back quite often to visit his resting place. His beloved wife (my grandma) was put beside him in February 1960. I've always heard to give flowers to the living but in my heart I know the flowers we place are a token of the love that we will forever hold dear and I just know that they both are waiting for the day when we will all be together again.

Today as I write this I think about the many changes that's taken place since those long ago days. Now days if folks don't have their funerals prearranged they're in a whole heap of trouble and can not even imagine how high a shopping trip it can be. And the funeral homes want their money up front before they'll even embalm the body or announce their obituary, etc. In this very newspaper which happens to be our local paper where my grandpa's obituary was found it now costs 80 dollars to place an obituary in the paper.
I know the funeral homes are scared they won't get their money cause some may have not paid their bill but it sure makes it hard on poor folks that's from paycheck to paycheck to come up with it on the spot. When a person's life is over and God calls them home I think they should be treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve and their families should receive that same respect. Sadly, today it's about the all mighty dollar.

 My husband and I prearranged ours back in 2012 and it cost over 7 thousand dollars for each of us. I can only imagine what folks are having to come up with today, especially the ones that don't have it prearranged.  Most are having to take out loans. It costs more to die now days than to be born. I personally think if folks would go back to the old days when they kept their folks at home and all the men in the community came together and helped dig the grave and build the coffin it'd hit the funeral homes a happy natural. But with all the new laws now days that's not apt to happen. I know for a fact if my dad, his brother and my grandpa were still here they'd be willing to jump in and dig graves over the community and whatever it took to help their family, friends and neighbors out, laws or no laws. They'd even use dynamite if needed like daddy said they had to do back then when they hit those big rocks and I guarantee it not to cost a war pension like it does today.

Reading this little obituary has brought back to life a giant of a man that left a legacy behind so big 81 years later that will forever linger in the many hearts he touched. He's sure touched my heart and old memories have a way of bringing the past back to life and the forever love that's filled this granddaughter's heart even though I never had the chance to meet him.

In Memory of my Grandpa
Forever in our hearts
Gone but never forgotten

© Susie Swanson, 2018


  1. This is a very touching piece, Susie. We're so spoiled now; I believe a lot of people have no idea where their food comes from. It's wonderful you had the chance to know your grandpa. One of mine died before I was born and we didn't see the other one very much. Grandma didn't like Daddy, my sister says, so we didn't visit much. I feel sorry for the way it must have made my mother feel. Anyway, thanks for sharing your memories. And ~ thanks for checking in with me; I'm blog weary right now but I'll probably be back soon.

  2. This is a moving tribute to your grandpa, Susie. He did indeed leave behind a great legacy.

  3. Susie, your Grandpa sounds like a very special man. And it's wonderful that you are writing this now, as it's almost January 21, the day when he passed away. I agree with you on the funeral expenses these days and all the changes that have taken place since those long ago days. Your grandpa sounds like he helped out family and neighbors so much and even the community. It warmed my heart reading your story, Susie, and I often wish we lived in simpler times that our ancestors lived. : )

    love, ~Sheri

  4. Susie, I can see why your grandfather's obituary is a treasure. He sounded like a hard working man. It's sad to think of his suffering with his legs. I loved reading about the old ways. I am sure my parents and grandparents lived the same kind of life. I can not ever recall meeting any grandmothers and only one grandfather for one day, when I was 16. They always lived in Tennessee and we lived here in Indiana. Thanks for writing the history of your family, it's so interesting. Blessings to you my friend, love you, xoxo, Susie

  5. Susie, that was so sweet! What a blessing that you know so much about your family. It's shocking how many there are today who know so very little. My grandmother and other members of our family made tape recordings telling of some of the old days and our history.