Grief and how the community deals with death is different

Memories of our County
Nannie Maude Reynolds shares memories and thoughts about Winston County’s past.

Recent stories on the news have reminded me of the grief experienced by members of our community in the loss of loved ones. There were no funeral homes to take the edge off suffering by the family in the loss of a family member as there is today. The family or friends and neighbors had the responsibility of bathing and dressing the body of the deceased and getting it presentable for viewing. Most of the time neighbor ladies would take the responsibility and relieve the family of this unbelievably difficult task. I remember once, when one of our neighbors lost their nine year old son. He was playing in water in a ditch after a spring rain and stepped on a sharp piece of glass in the ditch.

The wound became infected and resulted in his death. My parents and other neighbors came to the aid of this family. They sat with them as they watched him become more and more septic.  The community came together as one as they sat with the body in the home for that last night before the funeral. The parents were encouraged to rest and sleep. However, sleep was not forth coming because as the night wore on the mother and father crept often to the side of the casket and wept for their son.

My parents were often called to the bedside of an ill or dying neighbor. My Daddy has often cut the hair of a deceased person in preparation for burial. Every person I have ever seen in death has been very neat and presentable. Except one, that is; one of our neighbors died and the family dressed him for burial. Evidently his mouth would not stay closed and they wound a turban around his face, under his chin and tied it on the top of his head. I guess I must have been around 5 years old at the time and the memory of that white cloth being tied around his chin remains in my mind.

If the death occurred in the winter, the funeral was all the more difficult. Sometimes the roads were almost impassable. There were no paved roads and the iron tired wagon wheels cut deep into the muddy roads. A young mother died and was buried at Oak Grove Baptist Church in the Southern part of the county. Her body was carried to the church in a wagon. The family and a convoy of wagons began the trip early in the morning from Noxapater in order to reach the church for a two o’clock funeral. It took all day for the mules to pull the wagons the seven or eight miles to Oak Grove in a pouring rain. One of the sons related to me that they were often out of the wagon, pushing it through muddy ruts almost deep enough for the axle to touch the ground.

If the death occurred in the summer, the friends and family had to hurry and get the body ready for burial before nature began its process of recalling the body. There was no such thing as embalming a body.

Almost every day, we hear of someone coming down with a new disease. High-powered antibiotics and modern medicine do not seem to be able to control some of them. Our hearts are troubled for many who are sick or suffering from something that we never heard of in our youth.  The hard times served to teach us how to cope with the valleys in our lives. We cannot always have mountain tops. In painting a picture of mountains, notice that the artist cannot paint a mountain without a valley. There are two valleys to every mountain top, one on either side. While the mountain top gives you beautiful views and breathtaking landscapes, the valley is the place of quiet waters, tremendous growth and sweet rest.

Editor’s note: Nannie Maude Reynolds is an author and Winston Countian. She has written four books including “Home For Christmas”, “The Road South”, “A New Generation’ and two histories of Noxapater with Betty Suttle. To purchase one of her books contact 662-724-4631.