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  • Hester

    August 27, 2006

    The day was November 7, 1938. She had turned 39 in August and was in her twelfth year of marriage to an uneducated but hard working farmer who adored her. It was never clear if she really loved him or if at the advanced age of 26, she had just given in to the fear of becoming a spinster and finally agreed to marry him when he asked her for the sixth or seventh time.

    She was a tall, pretty woman with hazel eyes, a thick head of wavy auburn hair and perfect white teeth. She loved jewelry and china and books and beautiful things. Her own mother ran off and left the family Hester_1
    when she was ten-years-old, leaving her to help her father raise her three younger siblings.

    At an early age, she had made the unconventional decision to forego marriage and children in favor of working as a housekeeper for a wealthy doctor in order to have the nice things she loved so much. Marrying Allen Rhodes had put an end to her life of pretty things and was the beginning of a life of hard work and worry that was the lot of the farmer’s wife. Together they had five children ages 11, 8, 6, 4 and 5-weeks.

    She had been suffering since the birth of the baby with severe abdominal pain and after more than a month she could bear it no more. Her father, Hiram, who had come to live with the family several years earlier, begged Allen to get help for his daughter and so the decision was made to take her to town to see a doctor. In those days, few things were more terrifying to country folk than doctors. Such a radical decision says everything about the degree of desperation and pain she was suffering.

    As she stood to leave for the hospital that November afternoon, her feet must have felt as though they were made of lead. She kissed her infant daughter over and over cradling her downy soft head up to her cheek, closing her eyes and listening for the sweet purr of baby’s breath circling in her ear. She placed the baby into Hiram’s waiting arms and then kissed each of her other four children taking a long time to look into the face of each one. If there was any question of her love for Allen there was no question she loved her children more than anything in the world. In spite of the crippling pain, she couldn’t bring herself to turn away. Allen gently pulled her away and lead her to the door.

    Three separate times she made it as far as the car only to return to kiss her children good-bye one more time, kissing them and weeping over them at the same time. When she turned away for the last time, she intuitively knew that she would never return.

    Allen settled his sick wife in to the car for the long journey into town and waved feebly at his father-in-law as he put the car in drive. Hiram stood at the door of the farmhouse with the baby in his arms and tried to nod reassuringly. He watched the car carrying his daughter pull away, then dip and disappear into the rolling hills of corn. When there was nothing more to see but endless rows of corn, he clutched the baby tight to his chest, hung his head and shook and shivered, silently releasing all the tears he had been holding back his entire life.

    As the car bumped down the country road, perhaps she bore the unbearable in silence, wordless and brave. Perhaps she gave in and beat her breast and howled long and bitter and helpless as an injured animal does when caught in a trap and left to die. Allen never spoke of it.

    She never returned to the farmhouse again. She died in the hospital 12 days later. Her name was Hester. She was my grandmother.


    1. Jen says:

      How sad this story was. I had tears in my eyes. All I could think of was the sadness she felt for her children. All I could think of were my children. What a strong, brave women.
      I know you are so proud of her. A great tribute you wrote.

      August 27th, 2006 at 10:05 pm

    2. Carola says:

      This is the first time that I have tears in my eyes while reading somebody else’s blog.

      August 27th, 2006 at 10:38 pm

    3. Kvetch says:

      That was amazing. I wondered who she was…how beautifully told. That was glorious and sad. The images were vivid. Thank you — I know there is more and I hope you will share it. Which one of those children were either your mother or father? I have so many questions!

      August 27th, 2006 at 10:58 pm

    4. Linda says:

      What a beautiful tribute to your Grandma, and what a brave and wonderful lady she must have been. My heart was breaking as I read about her going back a second and third time to say goodbye to her children. Oh, so sad.

      August 28th, 2006 at 2:35 am

    5. meredith says:

      A beautiful sad story. As usual, you leave me wanting to know more.

      August 28th, 2006 at 4:31 am

    6. Blog_Antagonist says:

      I love, love, love family stories, even when they are sad. Our families are such a huge part of us. You told her story so beautifully.

      I didn’t know my maternal grandmother either. She died when I was less than a year old. I don’t know how I can miss someone I never knew, but I do.

      August 28th, 2006 at 6:19 am

    7. Kim S says:

      oh, wow. You are a gifted storyteller my friend, but you really don’t need to hear that from me.

      August 28th, 2006 at 7:15 am

    8. Aunt Murry says:

      What a beautifully written tragic story.

      August 28th, 2006 at 8:12 am

    9. Shannon @ Rocks in my Dryer says:

      Tragic story, but how amazing that her granddaughter would grow up to share it–

      August 28th, 2006 at 8:51 am

    10. Paulette1958 says:

      Which child of hers was your mother? I loved this it touched my heart. I have no heritage and it is always touching to me to hear others. Please elaborate on this, like what happened after her death? Where was your mother in the line up?
      This was so beautifully written and so sad, for her babies.

      August 28th, 2006 at 10:08 am

    11. Shalee says:

      Eloquent and strikingly posed, AM. I do believe you inherited some of that determined love from her. Thank you for opening the door to your past tiny bit and letting us see from whence you came.

      August 28th, 2006 at 10:11 am

    12. Shayne says:

      How do you DO that???? How do you craft your words to make us feel exactly what you feel??? This is why the word genius keeps coming up in my comments.

      Seriously…you should publish this stuff.

      August 28th, 2006 at 10:13 am

    13. Diana says:

      Wow. Just…wow…

      August 28th, 2006 at 10:57 am

    14. Michelle-This One's for the Girls says:

      Teary. Which one was your mother (or father?)

      August 28th, 2006 at 11:21 am

    15. Kacey says:

      Beautifully told. Only mothers can know the depths of love women have for their chilren. How awful to know in your heart that you are kissing them goodbye.

      August 28th, 2006 at 12:16 pm

    16. Melanie says:

      How heartbreaking! You certainly have a way with words.

      August 28th, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    17. the "other" Sarah says:

      You are an incredible writer. Thank you for sharing this story

      August 28th, 2006 at 1:07 pm

    18. Big Mama says:

      Wow, what a beautifully written post. You have a gift for storytelling without a doubt. Thanks for sharing it with us.

      August 28th, 2006 at 1:44 pm

    19. chilihead says:

      Beautifully written AM. I felt her pain and wept for her. How awful to *know* you will not see your beautiful children again. My heart just aches for her and all the mothers like her.

      August 28th, 2006 at 3:28 pm

    20. Robbin says:

      How beautiful. I have nightmares about a day when I may not see my beloved son again. This was so sad.

      August 28th, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    21. Lela says:

      Reading your words was like watching a movie. I can picture it and feel it too. Glad you shared that; reminds me of what I take for granted.

      August 28th, 2006 at 4:30 pm

    22. Magi says:

      I can only repeat what has been said. You writing is beautiful and evocative.

      August 28th, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    23. Faith says:

      Oh my, what a tragic,yet loving story. How awesome that you can share it all these years later.

      August 28th, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    24. onetallmomma says:

      Thank you for sharing a bit of your family history. A poignant story told with beautiful words.

      My heart aches for those that were left behind.

      August 28th, 2006 at 6:21 pm

    25. Tammy says:

      What a tragic story…but yet a wonderful tribute to a brave, loving woman.

      By your discription and the photograph, I almost feel as though I know her. She stands so elegantly, as if she was meant for better things than to be poor. Yet, she obviously loved her family and treasured them beyond jewels.

      Beautiful story.

      August 28th, 2006 at 6:53 pm

    26. marcia says:

      Beautiful tribute.

      August 28th, 2006 at 7:46 pm

    27. Everyday Mommy says:

      Weeping and weeping. But, her granddaughter does her proud.

      August 28th, 2006 at 10:33 pm

    28. Rabbit says:

      AM, I will echo the refrain: Hester’s story was beautifully and powerfully told. My heart is aching, and I do hope you will tell us more of the story.

      August 28th, 2006 at 11:13 pm

    29. Code Yellow Mom says:

      This is stunning. A remarkable and heart-reaching life event. Marvelously retold. One way or another, your posts always leave me reeling.

      August 28th, 2006 at 11:22 pm

    30. PastorMac's Ann says:

      This is powerful, AM! Well done. Bravado. Thanks for sharing such a touching personal story. How very sad for those she left behind.

      August 28th, 2006 at 11:24 pm

    31. Beck says:

      Beautiful. Poor, poor Hester.
      You’re such a terrific writer, but what a sad story.

      August 29th, 2006 at 6:40 am

    32. Barb says:

      As sad as this story is, I was so totally caught up in the emotion I hated for it to end. I wonder if you have any idea what a talented writer you are.

      August 29th, 2006 at 8:08 am

    33. Perri says:

      Posts like these are why I read your blog – beautifully written.

      August 29th, 2006 at 11:35 am

    34. Susan says:

      You write so beautifully.

      What a heartwrenching story. I can’t even imagine her emotional pain, leaving those children that day…

      August 29th, 2006 at 11:42 am

    35. Susan L says:

      I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. That was well told. I could relate a similar story about my great-grandmother, but I would never be able to tell my story so well. Thank you for sharing Hester with us.

      August 29th, 2006 at 12:59 pm

    36. Roxanne says:

      We are so touched by modern day tragedies. . .mom’s with cancer, “freak” accidents during birth, etc. We forget that in the not-to-distant past childbirth was the number one killer of women. What a long way we’ve come. . .what medical “miracles” we enjoy in these modern times.

      Thank you for the story. . .it is because of women like Hester that we are reminded exactly how blessed we are.

      August 29th, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    37. april says:

      Oh, that was a beautifully sad story, thank you for sharing it.

      August 29th, 2006 at 7:14 pm

    38. bubandpie says:

      I just came by here on the recommendation of Veronica Mitchell and I am in awe. I sometimes have a short attention span with storytelling on blogs, but this one was totally compelling from beginning to end. I have a lump in my throat.

      August 29th, 2006 at 7:21 pm

    39. gracie says:

      ok.. lurker confessing and coming out of closet….
      There are tragic, heroic, real stories in every family and they fade from memory as each generation passes… if only they could be told, and retold, and written as well as you have written this one!!! Hester lives in your words.. and reaches our hearts and we are changed.
      Thank you.

      August 29th, 2006 at 7:58 pm

    40. Kathy says:

      My grandmother died of leukemia when my mom was a little girl. She left behind 5 children, including one who was just 6 months old. Her death impacts her children to this day, more than 50 years later. This post makes me cry so much I’m almost afraid to send it to my mom…
      Anyway, if I get to heaven someday, I really hope to meet my grandmother. It sounds like she was a really neat lady. Thank you for reminding me of her.

      August 29th, 2006 at 11:22 pm

    41. Miriam Pauline says:

      I’m sitting here sobbing. My maternal grandmother (Miriam/Mary) died in childbirth when my mother was 5. The baby died as well. My grandfather never spoke of it–it was too painful. I miss her and I never knew her. Your tribute to Hester captured so much of what I feel. Bless you for sharing.

      August 30th, 2006 at 5:09 am

    42. DreamSinger says:

      Speechless…thank you.

      August 30th, 2006 at 8:44 am

    43. Stacey says:

      Oh my goodness, I can’t even imagine having to go through this as a Mom. What she must have been thinking as she drove away from her sweet children. Wow, that really made me tear up!

      August 30th, 2006 at 12:35 pm

    44. just like that says:

      Oh God, AM, how she must have felt to know that she would never be there for her children again… I almost cried from office reading this, I have tears welling up as I write this.

      Sad that both your grandmoms (haven’t forgotten Ruth)had such sorrow in their lives– one who longed to die, but lived, and one who longed to live, but died. AM, am feeeling all teary again…

      August 23rd, 2007 at 2:50 am

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