1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


A Death in the Family
John McCurdy June 21, 2010

He died at 5:15 in the morning, in the downstairs front bedroom containing the little tin King Heater. That was about the time he normally got up and made sure the fire in the living room had not gone out during the night. He’d always stoke it up so the room would be warm when the kids came down, now we were grown he still did it. Then he’s go to the kitchen and start the coffee in the new electric pot. if was winter, he’d start the fire in the old Home Comfort range.

Bro and I were with him when death came, we were half-asleep, sitting in the old easy chairs that had been brought in when first Daddy got sick. I don’t know what aroused us as death came. Daddy never wanted to be a bother to a soul, even at the last it was like that.

We fought back the tears and went to awaken our sister, we had decided to let Mom sleep awhile,  it had been a hard last couple of weeks for her. She appeared in the doorway and asked, “Is your Daddy gone?” Her lips quivered as I nodded and then she said, “Bless his heart, he was a good man.” and came over, bent, and kissed him.  She said, “Well, we have a lot to do. Call Jesse and ask if he and Raymond will dig the grave, they’ll know where he wanted it, he’d told them enough times!”

Bro and I brought in a set of old sawhorses and the door that once was between the kitchen and dining room and that we could remember Dad saying, “We’ll keep it, one day maybe we’ll need a good door”! Bro’s voice broke when he asked me if I remembered, I could only nod. We laid Daddy’s body on the door and cleared the bed and took the mattress out back an put it in the bed of his truck.  We washed his body and dressed it in a pair of his suit pants and a white shirt, (Daddy was always conscious of his dignity and would never go to church without a tie and coat)! We’d put them on later.

Our wives along with Mom and Sis had started tidying up and fixing breakfast, it was still only 7:30! In the next hour the neighbors started to arrive, just to see if we doing the things that needed done and to help as much as they could, they’d leave after a few moments only to return later with all the traditional comfort foods, the cakes and pies and fried chicken and potato salads.

They would be dressed a little more formally than on the first visit and they would engage us and each other in small talk and questions about Dads death, All designed to aid us in the acceptance of Dad being gone!

About 11:00, Jesse and Raymond, nearly the last of Dads childhood friends arrived, still in their dirty shoes and overalls, to report the grave had been completed, Bro and I climbed the hill with them to give our approval to a task we already knew would be done just as Daddy wanted.  Our approval was all the thanks they wanted.

It was nearly 4:00 when all the kids had arrived that could get there, we loaded Daddy’s body, wrapped in white sheets and lying upon a old army surplus sleeping bag that we had all used on camping trips, onto the hay wagon hitched behind the old steel-wheeled Farm-All tractor he loved so much and that he had used to pull young cedar trees. He said that was the reason he kept it. The real reason was that it was the first tractor he’d ever bought.  Several people rode on the wagon as we climbed the hill to the nearly fallen down remnants of Dad’s home-place, we tried to get Mom to ride but taking Dad’s old “Snake Stick” to aid her, she walked with her children. There, just a ways behind the house, was the cemetery containing the remains of his parent’s, his grandparent’s, several stillborn brothers and sisters and a handful of others.

We zipped up the sleeping bag and gently lowered Dads body down into the earth of his beloved Virginia, just as he had wanted. A few people had words to say, Rev. Cash spoke a moment and said a prayer. As a few muffled sobs were heard we took turns shoveling the soil over his body, gently sifting the dirt onto this good man’s earthly remains. I remember my sister saying, “I’ll plant a rhododendron on his grave”.

I climb that hill often, sometime purposefully alone, just as I’m sure others also do.  Now Mom is there too. The rhododendron is lovely in the spring.