There are some remarkable stories that I remember Mama telling. And several of them were about a woman who lived next door to Mama’s family when she was little.
Take this story for what it’s worth. Of course, there is no way of proving any of it. But I do know that Mama believed it.
In her book, I Remember Mama wrote:
When I was about six years old we lived next door to a widow lady who I truly believe walked with God. So many things happened to prove this to me.
I am not sure of her name but I believe it was Mrs. Fitzgerald. She lived with her son who was only a few years older than me and her teenage daughter, Francis. I can’t remember the boy’s name.
Mrs. Fitzgerald had visions and said things came to her.
Mom’s younger sister was Aunt Ellen. Aunt Ellen’s baby was very ill and Mom wanted to go to their house to sit up with him, but in those days the streets were not very well lighted and Mom was afraid to walk the three or four blocks to Aunt Ellen’s. She said I could go with her but she didn’t want to take Ivy (Mama’s younger sister), so she asked Dad if he would stay with Ivy and she went next door to ask Mrs. Fitzgerald if she would walk with us.
The baby was very ill. I think he must have had pneumonia. You could hear him breathe across the room. The poor little fellow was burning up with fever. The doctor had been there but there seemed to be nothing he could do.
About midnight the baby died. I had fallen asleep by that time but I later heard Mom tell Dad what happened.
At about the same time the baby died, Mrs. Fitzgerald said to Mom, “Did you see that?” Mom said she didn’t see anything and Mrs. Fitzgerald said, “The baby is safe. Your father and the angels have come for him. They are in this room.”
About four o’clock in the morning, we walked home down the middle of the street because we thought it would be safer. As we walked along, Mrs. Fitzgerald said, “Do you see that spot of light on the pavement in front of us?” Mom said no, she couldn’t see anything. I was too scared to say anything. Mrs. Fitzgerald said, “Don’t be afraid. Jesus is walking with us. See his light go before us? He won’t let any harm come to us.” It may have been my imagination, but I swear I saw a light going before us. I believe that night we had a light from Jesus to walk by.
This lady worked at the packing house and had to be at work at 7:00 a.m. In the winter it was still dark when she left home. She always took a short cut through some vacant lots and across a bridge over a little creek. This one morning she started along the path through the vacant lots and heard a kitten meow. The second meow seemed to come from behind her. She turned and looked but could see nothing. Then she heard the sound again, further away. She followed the sound, thinking she would find a little lost kitten. When she didn’t find one, she got to thinking. “Maybe the Lord doesn’t want me to go that way this morning.” So she turned and took the long way around.
During the morning she heard that a man had been knocked out and robbed at the bridge across the creek at about the time she would have been there, had she gone her usual way. She said the Lord had sent that warning so she would not cross the bridge.
One time Mom was sick and had been in bed all day. When our neighbor came home from work, she stopped at our house before she went home to see how Mom was. Mom said, “How did you know I was sick?” She answered, “The Lord told me.” Then she put her hands on Mom and prayed. The next morning Mom was much better.
By the time our brother, Ira Lee, was born on January 15, 1914 we no longer lived next door to this great lady. Ira was born with a large wen (a brown air pocket) on his forehead and Mom and Dad were worried sick about it. In those days they didn’t take such things off by surgery and some people went through life with a wen on their face. Anyway, when he was three days old, this good lady came to see him. No one had told her he was born. She just knew. When she came in she said, “I feel that you have a problem with the baby and are worried.” Dad said yes and took her to see Mom and the baby. (In those days most babies were born at home.) She sat down by the bed, took Ira in her arms, rubbed her fingers gently over the wen and said, “Don’t worry. It will be gone by tomorrow.” It was. It just went away and the skin where it had been turned back to pink.
Another time, Mrs. Fitzgerald went out of town for the day, leaving her young son in the care of his 16 year old sister, Francis.
During those days spinal meningitis was spreading over the country. The little boy complained that his neck hurt and his sister noticed his head seemed to be drawing backward. She panicked. Her mother was out of town and she knew it was up to her to do something.
She soaked a cloth in turpentine and laid it on his spine. Then she heated the iron and held it above the soaked cloth. It began to make blisters but he was in so much pain he didn’t notice.
Mrs. Fitzgerald returned that evening and called the doctor who came to the house. He said Francis had stopped the meningitis. The boy had a sore back and they had to doctor the blisters, but he didn’t have spinal meningitis after that.
Such different times than now. I’m sure storytelling was a much larger part of communication back then. And of course, like my own stories about my childhood memories, it is hard to tell what is actually remembered and what might have come from a story being passed around and told repeatedly.
But I remember being fascinated when Mama would tell me stories like this when I was growing up.
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