Memories of Death

Great Grandma DePriest. Milton Bailey told me about the death of my Great Grandmother. The family men and boys stood around outside the house, in the yard, while the women and girls were inside nursing Grandma. She would cry out in pain each time the women turned her over in her bed. Aunt Mary says that her grandmother wanted only her to nurse her when she was sick. Mary was holding her hand when Grandma DePriest said her last words with her last breath: "Sis, Sis." Sis is Mary's nickname. I don't think the suffering lasted more than a few days. Several family members and neighbors that knew her have told me about the psychic powers she had when she was alive, and about recent experiences more than 60 years after she died.

Great Grandma Steppe. I remember when my Great Grandmother Steppe died. I was 7 years old and my father took me to the home of his aunt Maggie Steppe Jordan where his grandmother lay in her coffin. I remember father's uncle Frank Jordan greeted us at the door and I remember the sitting room where other family members were gathered around the wood stove That was the only time I entered the home until many years later. When I started family research last year I went to the home to get information from father's cousin Nellie Jordan. Nellie and her sister Maggie never married and live together in the old home still. They showed me around and I saw the rooms that I remembered from my childhood.

Great Grandma Waller. My mother's cousin Beatrice Waller Jordan told me about the death of my Great Grandmother Catherine Hunt Waller. Beatrice says that her grandmother Cath was as good a woman as could be found. She died two years to the day after her husband Ben Waller had died. Just before she died she lifted up her hands and cried out "Lord Jesus, take my soul into thy care." They are buried at the home that Ben's grandfather had willed to him.

Grandma Waller. I was present when my grandmother Margaret (Mag) Lane Waller was dying. She was in great pain from the breast cancer that killed her, lying in a hospital bed. Her son Raymond Waller came in, a grown man, and a farmer. He leaned over the bed, laying his head on her bosom, and asked "Mama, are you ready to die?" She replied "Yes!" She was a brave and strong woman, and at that moment taught us how to die, with courage and dignity. After she died grandfather Waller was just a weak little old man.

Grandmother Steppe. Aunt Alice May Steppe told me of the death of Grandmother Kate Bailey Steppe. She had been at the mental institute at Staunton for all her latter years. She had been cured but had no place to go since my grandfather Cleveland Steppe had died. So she stayed at the Staunton institute working in the cafeteria handling the salad bar. The family story is that she was strangled to death by an angry inmate. I vaguely remember the funeral and burial. She is buried in the Bailey family cemetery beside her husband, grandfather Cleveland Steppe.

Mother. My mother may have had Alzheimer's disease, or she may have purposely let her mind stray because living was too painful. In one summer my father had died, and her father had died, and her beloved sister was dead, and her mother was dead, and a grandson was sick. All of this may have been too much for her mind. She lingered for nearly 15 years, in mental absence, and finally, physical incapacity. I arrived at the hospital too late to see her death. So I kissed her on the forehead and felt that it was cool. And I was glad that the hot struggle of her last years was over.