eabc0b74-1ad7-4e9b-b7ba-aad5d7e0fa3dOn September 11, 2015 at 9:11 A.M., my brother, Virgil Earl Glisson, Jr. (Earl), died at the age of 71, after a long and courageous battle with cancer.  Earl was born in Statesboro, Georgia on a cold winter day in January, 1944.  Earl was born at home and I remember Mama and Daddy always telling us that the doctor brought him to the house in his big ole black bag.  I believed that story for many years until I became old enough to know the facts of life.  It seems so silly now but I always pictured the doctorMama-and-Kids2 walking up to the house with that big ole black bag with a crying baby in it.  I also remember being told that one of us was found in a cabbage patch under a head of cabbage.  I don’t remember which one, but it seemed that there was always a story to be told when you started talking about children being born.  I think Gloria was the one found in the cabbage patch.  I think I was just quite simply, dropped from heaven.  I think these were common tales told to all children in my generation because even the adults discussed these things in whispered tones.

One  year has passed since my brother’s death and this post is in his memory.

The following is my brother’s obituary.

“Earl grew up on a farm in Statesboro, Georgia and his family moved to Jacksonville when he was 12. The farm in Georgia is where he learned the meaning of hard work and this work ethic followed him in every venture he undertook. Of his many accomplishments, Earl was a gifted mechanic, a dedicated business entrepreneur owning several businesses throughout his life, a Constable and police officer in the Jacksonville area until finding his place in the commercial refrigeration industry. Earl spent a large part of his career as a manager, executive andEarl eventually a board member for The Stellar Group. Earl was a founding member of The Stellar Group which was founded on July 1, 1985. Earl was Senior Vice President of Parts and Service. It was through his leadership of the Parts and Service Division that provided the cash flow necessary to sustain a start-up business for the first year of its evolution to the second largest Design Build firm in the State of Florida with 20 offices worldwide. In 1987, he became a Licensed Mechanical Contractor for the State of Florida. Earl retired after 25 years of service to The Stellar Group. Turns out Earl “semi” retired as he would then take an ownership and leadership role at Tri-Star Semi Truck and Trailer Services, LLC and lead it from a single truck operation to become one of North Florida’s leading service companies in the transportation and logistics fields. Earl was passionate about giving back to the community. He was a regular supporter and sponsor of the 62dfc5f0-6e35-4463-8aef-7f5cc2125504Mandarin Sports Association. He loved Corvettes and was a member of the North Florida Corvette Association. He was a proud member of the NRA as well as the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Association. A lifelong Republican, he enjoyed politics on both a local and national level. His passion for life extended even further to his love of his family. He was a loving and giving father, husband, brother and friend to all he met. His other favorite pastimes included vacationing at his river property in Nahunta, Georgia, relaxing at his home on the Julington Creek River, fishing, and spending time with family and, of course, was a Florida Gator for life. Earl never met a stranger along his journey through life. Earl was generous and compassionate with his time and knowledge. He was the family member or friend you could depend on any time, day or night. He always gave you his undivided attention as long as needed as if he had all the time in the world. The word no was not in Earl’s vocabulary and he helped others without expecting anything in return. He stood up for what he believed in. AndHe was a man of timeless grace and honor and will be missed by all.

While Earl’s accomplishments were extensive and eventful, nothing among those took precedence over the love and loyalty he felt for his family and friends. His parents, Ruby Marie Glisson and Virgil Earl Glisson, Sr. preceded him in death. He was also preceded in death by his oldest son, Allen Clinton (Clint) Hubert Johnson (Jerrie). He is survived by his loving partner, Rachel C. Glisson; his children, Donald (Donnie) Ray Glisson (Mary), Earl Glisson FamilyClayton (Clay) DeDouglas Glisson (Lindsey), Rachelle (Chelle) Glisson, and Virgil Earl Glisson, III (E3). He is also survived by grandchildren, Zachary Tyler Dinkins, Colby Bienick, Rachel Bienick, Angel Fuentes, Gabrielle Glisson, Ben Johnson, Jessica (Dustin) Williams, and great grandchildren, Whitley and Paisley Williams. He is also survived by 3 brothers, Joe Glisson (Linda), Stevie Glisson (Darlene), Tommy Glisson (Kerry) and 4 sisters, Gloria Burchfield (Carl), Janie Conrad (Jim), Judy Kirkland (Sam) and Luann Altendorf (Chuck); special friends, Bobby Cothern, Ron Foster, Sr., Danny Bazemore and Alma Fitchett, and many nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins, who all loved him dearly.”

 His funeral was preached by our Associate Pastor, Reverend Josh Reavis of North Jacksonville Baptist Church and the music was performed by Brother Tim Rigdon, Music Director at North  Jacksonville Baptist Church, accompanied by Susie Coram on the piano.  Brother Tim sang Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art.   The service and music were very touching.

I wrote his eulogy and was suppose to deliver it at the funeral service.  Unfortunately, the day after my brother died, I became extremely ill and was hospitalized for 8 days, 4 of which were in ICU.  So, I was unable to attend his calling hours or attend his funeral and give his eulogy.  My loving husband, Jim, stepped in and did a fantastic job.

This is the eulogy which was so eloquently given by my husband.

“I would like to thank you all for coming today to celebrate the life of my brother, Earl Glisson.  Earl had been very ill for many months and surpassed the amount of time the doctors had given him. God blessed Earl with one of the greatest gifts he could ever bestow upon someone, and that is the gift of time. He had time to reaffirm his salvation; make amends with family; tie up any loose ends he might have and to get his earthly affairs in order. Earl and I had a number of conversations before he left us. I was able to tell Earl how much I loved him and how much it meant to me to have him for a brother. We talked about death, the life he had led and how sorry he was that his time had come because he felt that there was still so much that he could do and wanted to do. He really loved life and living and most of all his family. As he always said, he did it his way; but his way was never any way but the right way. He was a man of honor and integrity. But, he realized that his time was short and so he made peace with it, knowing that in the end he would be in a better place and that he would be reunited with his mother, father and son and many others in the family who had gone before. He wants everyone to celebrate his life, remember him with love and fondness and he wants everyone to be joyful. He meant many things to many people and I know that I speak for the entire family in saying his presence here with us shall be forever missed.

I would like to read something to you that I think sums up what Earl would say to each of you if he were still here.

“Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened; everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference in your tone. Wear no solemn air of sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant; it is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.

Day is done, night is come, and all is well with my soul. AMEN.”

My brother’s life can be summed up in the following scripture:

2 Timothy, Chapter 4, Verse 7:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.

Earl Glisson did all of this with grace, dignity and courage. Godspeed Earl, until we meet again. I love you and will miss you greatly.”

Since watching the funeral, which was recorded digitally, I still cannot believe that he is gone and I have not come to terms with it and have not yet reached the point of acceptance.  Hopefully, I pray that day will come soon.


I am up in the middle of the night writing. Sometimes I can’t sleep and when I can’t sleep I write. I can feel this is probably going to be long, so bear with me. I just happened by this picture and it stirred something in my soul. It made me realize how much I missed my family members who were in Heaven. I remember when we had this photograph taken. Gloria and I had to threaten everyone with excommunication from the family if they did not show up. They must have been afraid of us because everyone showed up. Jim and I had returned from Ohio in 1984 and I had been away since 1965. It was fun to be back and close to my family and able to participate and I initiated a lot of functions that the family had not been doing. Monthly birthdays, summer celebrations, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am not saying that I hosted the party or did all the work, I just came up with the idea and Gloria and Earl usually took it from there and I just told everyone, but I did help with the work. Throwing parties for a large family is a lot of work and expensive. It was a very enjoyable time for our family. Mama always called me her “good time Charlie” because I loved to have fun. It is not that way anymore and I must say, I really, really miss it. Oh I still like to have fun and one of my favorite things to do is laughing. It makes you feel good. Try it sometime. To quote one of my favorite songs from long ago, “Those were the days my friend, I thought they’d never end”. Seems to me you don’t even realize the passage of time and you don’t even think of the future and it feels like it will be that way forever. Then one day you look up and things have changed and you realize, oh my goodness, things are so different, and in our family the dynamics have changed so much. First, we lost Daddy, then Mama and then our brother, Earl. It also makes you think of your own mortality and you realize that one day, one by one, you and each of your siblings, will be gone but… you thought you would all live forever. Realistically, you realize that’s not possible but it makes me think that I should have paid more attention and enjoyed those moments even more than I did when they were happening. But… you get so caught up in life that you don’t realize all the changes that are occurring all around you. I guess I thought we would all be young forever. Now we are all getting older and having illnesses we never dreamed of. We can no longer do a lot of the things we used to do and it seems as if it happened suddenly and caught us unaware. Now, instead of being the hub of activity, we are sitting on the sidelines watching our children and grandchildren in their “young” phase. It’s like I went to sleep one night and I was young and I woke up the next morning and somehow I had grown older. It’s like the “Old Fairy” paid me a visit in the night. Did you know there is an “Old Fairy”? Well, there is and some night when you are not watching, he/she will creep into your room and sprinkle “Old Dust” all over your body and when you awake the next morning, it’s hard to get out of the bed, the spring in your step is gone and your bones creak. There is no way to escape the “Old Fairy” and if you are fortunate enough to still be on this earth, he will eventually make it into your room. So to fend him/her off, take good care of yourselves, eat right, exercise, stop smoking and lose weight. These are all things I have not done, except for smoking, but I am trying. So hopefully I can hold off the grim reaper for a little while longer. Here’s hoping that the “Old Fairy” does not visit you tonight, but if he/she happens your way, be the best old person you can be. It’s hard but you can do it.


bOATMy husband and I were very fortunate to have had the privilege of living in an apartment on the river for about 15 years. I intended to live there until I was 92 and went out with a toe tag. We had the ideal apartment.. right on the main dock with the canal at our back door. We could just jump in our boat and take off and go fishing whenever we were in the mood. We were very fortunate to have some wonderful neighbors and we made so many wonderful and interesting friends. Pete and Jane were our best friends and we would spend our evenings gathered on the dock talking, laughing and fishing. Weekends we would gather for a low country boil or we would hop in the boat and go look for gators or just cruise down the river gazing at the stars. Sometimes we would just cut the engine and drift with the tide and talk and laugh like crazy. Many times we would go to the Landing by boat and have dinner or go watch the fireworks on the holidays.

Even when the weather was cold, the dock was a favorite gathering spot. Someone would bring out a TV and we would set it up and watch the Jags play. We tailgated right there on the dock. I sure do miss those times and they are wonderful memories. We spent many weekends fishing with our nephews, Clayboy and E-III. Catching “reds” was our favorite thing. Sometimes we would fish all day, catch our limit for the boat, run out of food and drinks and we would head back home to reload and do it again. Unfortunately, most times the trip back out resulted in nothing. But there was a lot of camaraderie and we really had a lot of  good times. Sometimes it would be so hot that we would get in the water and tie a rope around ourselves so we wouldn’t get washed away because the St. Johns tide was so strong at times.

redWe had a special place we would fish on the St. Johns. We would come out of the Ortega River and head straight across the river to a spot that we could always identify because it had a red roof on the boat house and housed a boat called the “Capaloa”. We caught so many reds in that area and that was most always the first place we headed. That summer was referred to as the “Summer of our Dreams”. In the following years, we were never quite able to recapture it, but the memories linger and they are certainly happy ones.

2boat_0002Well, as it has been said, all dreams have to come to an end and our life as we knew it on the river, finally ended. The complex went condo and unfortunately we could not buy our unit. By that time, we had sold our last boat and it was time to move on. It was very sad as we watched our friends leave, one by one. It was very quiet and lonely.. no more laughter filling the night air… I think we were the last to leave of our group and for me it was a very sad day. So now we are in another apartment complex on the water, which is where we love to be … and life goes on. So now we fish at the Nassau Sound and Huguenot Park and we really enjoy it. Our grandson, Hunter, who is now 13, loves to fish and really enjoys going fishing with us.  We have spent many happy hours fishing in the sunshine and loving life and hope to continue to do so for many years to come.


imageMy religious and spiritual upbringing began on my Mama’s lap at  Elmer Baptist Church in Statesboro, Georgia when I was 1 week old.  When I was born, my sister,  Gloria, was around 2 years old and she had  been sitting on Mama’s  lap  since  she was 1 week old.  So, when I was born, Gloria had to sit on the pew next to Mama and each and every week thereafter until I was around two years old, that is where you would find me,  on  Mama’s lap, at Elmer Baptist Church, or so I have been told.   When I was about 2, my brother Earl was born and I was then moved to the pew sitting next to my sister Gloria.  Then Judy usurped Earl and Joey usurped Judy.  My other 3 siblings, Luann, Stevie and Tommy,  were not born until we moved to Florida so they did not not get to experience our little country church or country living.  They really missed out on some great times and experiences.

As a child, I remember that church service was boring and more often than not, Gloria, Earl and I would fall asleep and end up laying down in the pew.  I remember waking up after the service and would discover on the way out that I had left my shoes under the pew. When we got a little older, we were told that was not acceptable behavior and was rude and disrespectful, so we had to stay awake and listen to what the pastor was saying.  Sometimes we would play a little game and we would each take a hymnal and we would pick an author and see how many songs he/she wrote.   As we grew older, we started doing more listening and praying and learning. We also started sitting with our friends and that was okay with Mama as long as we behaved and we were always under her watchful eye.

My sister, Gloria,  and I loved to sing and we sang often as we washed and dried the dishes at home. The pastor heard us singing in Training Union one  evening and asked if we would sing at Sunday Service and we agreed to do so.   I remember it so well and so does my sister Gloria. The song we sang was Blessed Redeemer.  We had a bad start and had to start over again and the preacher told everyone that he guessed he needed to put a pan of water and some dirty dishes in front of us to make us more comfortable.  I was so nervous that I thought I was going to be sick.   We learned Bible verses at a very early age.  I think the first one we learned was John 3:16,  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have ever lasting life”.

RubyIt is strange the things you remember as a child.  I remember when I was about 4, my brother, Charles Grady, was born and then died 3 days later.  I have never been able to determine the cause of his death but over the years heard many stories, none of which was ever verified.  Mama always blamed herself because she said she had asked Daddy to move a washtub and he never did, so like many of us impatient, independent women, she moved it herself.  She says when she moved it, she felt a muscle pull and she was convinced that somehow she had harmed the baby.  My parents had 9 children and he was the only one they had ever planned.  He was named after my Uncle Charles Peavey.  He and Aunt Lulu Mae, my Mama’s sister, had never been able to have children and they had bought all the things for him and for the nursery.  My Mama was not able to attend the funeral because she was still in the hospital.  I remember  the day of his funeral sitting in my Uncle Floyd’s Model T because I was not  allowed to go into the church.  I was scared because I didn’t know what was happening.  I saw them carry out a little coffin and go into the cemetery adjacent to the church and after a while my Daddy and aunt and uncle came back to the car.  I don’t know where Gloria and Earl were but we all ended back together at home.  We never got to see Charles Grady, but when we go back to Statesboro, I always visit his little grave.

Pretty soon, Mama came home from the hospital and life resumed. Mama was sad for a long time after that and she didn’t laugh or smile much.  Now, having lost a child of my own, I can understand her sorrow.  It takes you to a deep dark place you never want to go ever again and it takes a lot to climb out of that deep dark place and stay out.  Sometimes it feels like you are just hanging on by your fingertips and all you want to do is just give in to it and let the sorrow and despair take you.  But then your strength returns and believe me when I tell you that it takes real strength to bring yourself out of that dark pit of despair.  But with God’s help and the help of family and friends, it is possible.  Mama persevered and went on to have 5 more children who were all healthy and are still with us today.  Mama’s faith in God never wavered during all her ordeals.

I remember that my Daddy very seldom went to church.  He was a farmer and that was the only life he knew.  He was a very good father, a great farmer, hard worker and a wonderful man and took care of his family.   Although, he was a very self-conscience man, very unsure of himself and very insecure with a severe inferiority complex, which I am sure stemmed from his unfortunate childhood.  His mother died in childbirth when he was 2 years old and he had no relationship with his step-mother. All through his life, he longed for his mother until the day he died. He ultimately developed a drinking problem that plagued him for many years, much to the chagrin of my Mama.   Mama hated alcohol and when Daddy took a drink it was very upsetting to her and caused many a conflict between the two of them.  My Uncle Floyd use to make me so mad because he and Aunt Teeny would come to visit and Uncle Floyd would call Daddy “ole licker head”.  I really did not know at the time what it meant, I only knew that it was something that hurt Daddy very much.  It infuriated me and I was embarrassed for Daddy because when he would see my aunt and uncle coming up the lane, he disappeared and did not appear again until he was sure they had gone home.  He did not want to face the taunting and ridicule.  He was not a falling down drunk and never missed working and taking care of the farm.  It’s just that when he would take a drink on the weekend, he did not know when to stop.  Mama knew how to make him stop… feed him.  For some reason, when he ate, he no longer wanted to drink. I did not find out about the alcohol problem until my adulthood and it certainly explained a lot of mysteries from my childhood.image

I think one of the reasons Daddy did not like to go to church was because the pastor had embarrassed him in front of the entire congregation the first time he finally went to church, and I felt so bad and hurt for him.  Pastor had visited and asked Daddy to please come to church and, of course, Mama was always wanting him to go.  So he went this Sunday to church and at the beginning of the service the pastor called on Daddy to open the service in prayer.  I know my Daddy just about fainted from fright at the thought and he asked to be  excused and the pastor called on someone else.  I always thought the pastor did it on purpose to embarrass my Daddy and I never forgave him for that.  Even though I was still a child, I could see the look that came over my Daddy’s face and his embarrassment was plain to see.  I thought he should have been satisfied that he had gotten my Daddy to come to church.  Had he not asked my Daddy to pray, my Daddy might have come to church more but by embarrassing him, he just slammed the door on that and I don’t think Daddy ever went back to Elmer Baptist Church until later in life for funerals.   Praying is difficult sometimes even for devout Christians, so imagine what it was like for my Daddy to be thrust into the spotlight on his first visit to church. The outcome could have been so different if the pastor had just not expected so much of Daddy in that one visit to church.  Later in life, after we moved to Florida and the children had all grown up, Daddy regularly attended church with Mama until he passed away in 1994.  He was a very good man and I loved him very much.  Daddy was saved and had been baptized as a child so I know that he is in heaven and I pray that he has found the peace he sought all of his life and that he is reunited with his mother whose love and care he missed so much.

Going to church was the center of our lives.  Everything we did as children centered on the church.  Even when we were working in the fields, church was influential.  We worked long and hard and we were no different than other children.  Sometimes, we goofed off and did a lot of playing. We would be in the cotton field picking cotton and it was so hot you couldn’t spit.  So, we would have a prayer meeting in the field and Earl would get up on a crate and he would preach.  “The Lord is Good, the devil is bad”.  He was quite the preacher.  We also prayed as hard as we could for rain.  If it rained, that meant we did not have to work in the fields.  We would see dark clouds gathering in the distance and we would start praying “God let it rain, bring those rain clouds over here and pour down the rain”.  We would hear the thunder in the distance and we started laughing and one of us would say, “Well, the angels are rolling watermelons over the bridge.”  That’s what Mama and Daddy had always told us, so we believed them and it does make a pretty picture in your mind. I envisioned angels dressed in white with big fluffy wings dropping the watermelons and rolling them over an old wooden bridge, the kind of bridge that you would find in rural Georgia in the 1940s.  So we would look and listen and sometimes our prayers would be answered, sometimes not.  God works in his own time and way.  I know that the best sentence I ever heard as a child was when Daddy said, “I believe the rain has set in”.  Which we knew to mean it is going to rain for a while (hopefully several days).  When the rain had set in, we would languish in bed until 6 and then up and do our chores because the cows still needed to be milked, pigs slopped, and chickens fed.  The rest of the day we would play in the barn until Mama called us. When the morning came and the sun came out, we would grudgingly return to the fields to see what adventure was ahead of us for that day.


RubyThe most wonderful thing that can be said of a person after they have passed away, is that they lived a life that mattered and that they made a difference in the lives of others. My mother, Ruby Glisson, lived such a life and made such a difference in so many others lives. She did not find a cure for any disease, she didn’t write a best selling novel and she did not invent anything… she just mattered. She mattered to many people, both family and friends. She had an affinity for life and for children as was evidenced by her own nine children. She lost one child shortly after he was born but even in her sorrow, she continued her journey and her dedication to her family and to God. She was a Christian… a very proud Christian and was never afraid to profess her faith in God to anyone at any time. As she always said, I know where I came from, I know where I’ve been and I know where I’m going. She believed that she would be spending eternity in heaven. She was not afraid to die, but she loved living so much that she did not want to let go and she fought a very brave fight until she could no longer go on.

During the years, she told me two stories about having her own special guardian Angel. The first time the Angel appeared to her she was a child about 7 or 8. She said she woke up in the night and there was a glowing light at the foot of her bed and the Angel spoke to her and said “Don’t be afraid, you are a very special person and you will do good things.” Then the Angel disappeared. The next time the Angel appeared she was much older and she was having eye surgery. She said the Angel told her not to worry, everything would be okay. She said there was an aura of light around the doctor when he came in to talk to her and he told her she would be fine and she told him she already knew that. She felt the Angel was with her always. I truly believe the Angel was in Mama’s bedroom when she passed away and was there to take her to meet her Heavenly Father.

imageThe thing that mattered the most to Mama was her family. She loved her home and her garden and flowers. She taught Sunday school for many years and worked in the nursery at church. She loved working with children. She was proud of her family and her family was proud of her.

When Mama was a young girl, education was not stressed for women so she had never completed high school. She had always had a dream of getting her high school diploma and so at the age of 55 she returned to school and obtained it. She loved music and when she was 80 she started taking piano lessons and took the lessons for several years before her arthritis preventing her from continuing. She became pretty good at it too. Since I drove her to her lessons I started taking lessons too. She did much better than I did and I was so proud of her.

She also loved to sing and had a beautiful voice. She was always very happy natured and firm in her resolve. Besides raising her own eight children, she kept many other children who were disabled and they flourished under her care. She loved her children, their spouses, grandchildren and great grandchildren very much and baby sat and helped in raising many of her grandchildren. She took pride in every accomplishment of her children and grandchildren. They mattered to her and she mattered to them.  She had 11 siblings and she loved all of them very much (even though at times they agreed to disagree) and she was always there with a helping hand if needed. She also had many nieces and nephews who she loved dearly and who loved her back.

She had a wonderful sense of humor and even as she lay in the hospital she was often joking. After she came home from the hospital, my son, Jimmy, came to visit her and he walked into her room and said “Hey Grandma, how are you?” and she laughed and answered, “Well, you see where I am don’t you.” She could laugh at her misfortune and make you feel better just by being there.

On the last day of her life, most all of us were there and we knew that it was just a matter of time.  Hospice had been with us since we brought her home and I must say if it had not been for them, we would have been lost and we were so grateful. Also, her granddaughter, Julie, who was studying to become a nurse was there and that was of great comfort to Mama.  The last conversation I had with her, she opened her eyes and smiled and said in a very concerned voice, “Janie, what happened to me?”  I explained that she had been very ill and that she had been ill for several weeks and in the hospital and then rehab and then back to the hospital and she was home, and she said, “Well, am I going to be able to overcome it?”  And I told her, “Well, we are certainly going to try.”   Shortly thereafter, Mama passed away.  She often said she did not want to die in a cold hospital or nursing home so she did have comfort in knowing that she was at home in her bedroom when she died which is what she always wanted.  My sister, Gloria, and I were convinced that if we could get her home, we could nurse her back to health but, it soon became apparent to us, that was not going to happen.

She was loving, faithful, true and courageous.  She was the foundation of our family and she was always there for you no matter what.  I know there were times when I did not like to hear what she had to say, but that was mainly because it was the truth and as they say, “the truth hurts.”

Mama was very much loved. I think of her often and I miss her love and her presence every single day.  “Her tombstone reads, “Well Done My Good and Faithful Servant” and I think that is truly befitting.  Rest in peace Mama.  Love and kisses.  Janie


AAA-JanieI guess as you get older, you think about your childhood more and it seems to me that those memories are more vivid now than ever. I can just imagine what was going through my mother’s mind as she entered her 91st year of life and passed away shortly thereafter. She couldn’t seem to remember that I visited over the weekend or that I called her the previous night, but she remembered things from her younger days as if they happened yesterday. She remembered things that I did or said and I, quite frankly, didn’t remember them at all. If I don’t remember them, did they really happen? According to Mama, yes, they most certainly did. She remembered all the little things I did as a child such as bringing her a bouquet of yellow flowers and singing to her. That is why it saddened my heart when she failed to call me on my birthday in 2011 because this was the first time in my adult life I did not receive a telephone call from Mama singing Happy Birthday to me in her happy melodious voice. I guess she forgot and I did not have the heart to tell her she had forgotten. I guess this is what happens in your 91st year… you remember memories from your own childhood, but sometimes not your children. Most of the time she remembered but sometimes needed a little nudge to get the memory to flicker. My childhood was a pretty happy childhood as I look back on it. It certainly was not easy, but I guess it wasn’t suppose to be or so I was told. It made me the character I am today (and some would say that I am a real character).

Me-Daddy-StoopWe grew up on a farm in Statesboro, Georgia and that was all my parents knew was farming. At one time we owned a farm but most of the time we share cropped. We were part of a large family. Mama and Daddy had 8 children living and we were taught at a very early age about hard work. During the 40’s and 50’s living in rural Georgia was like living in a time warp. Not that it was bad, it was just different. When I tell my friends about it, they always say that sounds like you grew up with my great-grandmother and it makes me chuckle. We worked hard all week and every Saturday, we went into town and went to the movie. At that time there were 2 theatres in town. You could see a double feature, a serial and cartoon for $.10 cents The feature movies were most always, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Lash Larue, Tim Holt, The Durango Kid and Tom Mix. We even saw Tim Holt and his blazing six guns in person at the State Theater. We were all so excited. He was up on the stage and drew his guns from his holster and fired them (blanks), but it sounded so real to me. I remember how my heart raced. He was my hero for a long time. My favorite serials were Captain Video and Flash Gordon. The serials always ended with someone going off a cliff in a car or falling out of an airplane without a parachute, or something like that and we had to wait until the next week to find out if the hero died and, of course, he was always saved at the last minute. We lived for Saturdays. Some Saturdays, we would make the trip by horse and wagon to Wallace Brown’s store. We would have a dime each and would be able to get an ice cream cone, and all sorts of candy for a dime. Now, a dime won’t even cover part of the tax. It was such a treat because Mama would buy store bought bread (light bread as we called it) and hot dogs. These were things we very seldom had to eat and we considered them as special treats. Sometimes, if we were really fortunate, we would get a soda pop, which was the ultimate treat for all of us.

On Sunday, we always went to church in the morning and then the rest of the day we did nothing. It was the Lord’s day and it was made for resting. Then at the end of the day we went back to church for training union. We went to church on Monday night for RAs and GAs and on Wednesday night for prayer meeting. Our lives revolved around the church and its activities. Elmer Baptist Church will always have special meaning to me. That is where I found the Lord and I was baptized in Uncle Floyd’s pond. I think I was 8 or 9 at the time. I have been back to Elmer on several occassions, mostly for funerals. My little brother, Charles Grady, is buried in the graveyard beside the church and so is my little cousin, Carolyn, my Aunt Sula and Uncle Lawton, and my Aunt Teeny and Uncle Floyd, just to name a few.

Living conditions on the farm were stark as we had no running water, just a well in the backyard. There was no electricity and light was supplied by kerosene lanterns. We milked our own cows and made our own butter. We had a garden and canned and preserved all our fruits and vegetables. Mama cooked on a wood stove and I have to say she made some of the best food I have ever tasted… everything from scratch. She and my Aunt Sula were the best cooks in Georgia. Biscuits that would melt in your mouth and fried chicken nobody could rival.

I still recall with great clarity the day Mama made me go out and pick out a chicken for Sunday dinner and kill it and bring it back into the house for her to prepare. I had never done this before, but I had seen Mama do it a thousand times. I went to the yard and caught a chicken and, of course, the usual way they were killed is to wring their necks. It was not as easy as it had appeared when Mama did it. I started throwing the chicken up and down and round and round and the chicken was squawking but wasn’t dead. I think I snapped the neck part way (if there is such a thing) and I started crying because I had never inflicted harm on anyone or anything before and it was not a good feeling. I started screaming and threw the chicken to the ground. The chicken proceeded to zig zag around the yard like it was drunk. I guess that is where the expression “running around like a chicken with its head chopped off” came from. Mama heard me crying and screaming and came out and put the poor chicken out of his misery. I couldn’t even eat that chicken at dinner, (no McDonalds back then) all I could think about was its little chicken face looking up at me and how much pain I had inflicted on it. That feeling however finally went away and soon I was back to eating chicken.

There was no central air or heat, just the natural elements and a fireplace. I can remember waking up on a cold Georgia morning and we would discuss who was going to get up and build the fire in the fireplace in our bedroom. At that time, Gloria and I shared a bedroom. You know, come to think of it, I have never had a bedroom of my own. I went from sharing with Gloria for most of my childhood, then with Judy for a short period of time and then I got married and I have shared a bedroom with Jim for a little over 54  years now. But, I digress. I can still remember the coldness of the winter and gathering around the stove to keep warm and then warming up the feather bed before jumping into it at night. Oh how wonderful it was… to snuggle down into the down and fall asleep.

Morning always came too quickly and once the fires were built everyone was up and about getting ready to catch the bus for school. In the Winter, we didn’t miss school very often but the Spring and Fall were very different. We were kept home a lot to bring in the crops. Picking cotton, hoeing, picking and stringing tobacco and harvesting peanuts and other crops. Last week, I found one of my report cards from elementary school and one of the entries said “Janie is an excellent student, but she needs to attend school more regularly.” I can remember standing out in the field on a school day watching the school bus go by and waving to my friends.

Fall and early Winter were also times to stock up on meats for the winter months. The weather had to be a certain temperature in order to butcher. I will never forget the gruesome sight of “butcher day”. All of the aunts, uncles and cousins would gather and it was a social event. From what I can remember, the men would shoot the pigs in the head, then dip the bodies one by one into a vat of scalding water (to remove the hair, I guess) and then they hang them up on a hook with a pulley and would cut them from beginning to end and then start cutting the poor creatures up into parts.

The first time I saw the way sausage was made, I almost barfed. Now this next part is from a child’s memory so it may or may not be totally true, but its how I remember it. In the old days, for those of you who do not know, they took the intestines out and cleaned them up and used them for casings and then they would grind the byproducts up with a meat grinder while attaching the intestines to the mouth of the grinder and filling up the intestines with the ground substance. After filling up a certain amount, you give the intestines a twist and.. viola.. you have a sausage link and you just keep going and you have a long string of continuous links. I guess that may be why I don’t particularly care for sausage.

Most of the meat would be hung in the smoke house to cure and then be used during the lean winter months. We also make cracklins, chitlins, etc. Bet you thought these things didn’t really exist. But they do. The South is famous for its ability to take what most would consider non-useable portions of the animal and turn them into regional delicacies. Pig’s feet, hog jowls, ham hocks, cracklin’s, and chitlin’s are all part of Southern tradition . I personally will not eat these things, especially chitlins. Chitlins are basically boiled pig guts, at least that is what I remember and they stink. Cracklins are fat with a little bit of pig skin attached and when you are cooking them they produce a lot of excess fat. The cracklins were cooked in lard in Mama’s big black cast iron wash pot which sat in the middle of the back yard. It was about 15 or 20 gallons in size. Mama washed clothes in that pot, made soap in that pot and made cane syrup in that pot plus a whole bunch of other things. Come hog-killing time, they cooked cracklins in it. Now the thing I remember about cracklins is that they never did them in the house because, it didn’t smell very good, it made the house hotter than blazes and I remember Daddy saying if you weren’t careful you could burn the house down. I remember eating cracklins but I don’t remember particularly liking them. Cracklins are similar to what most of you know as “pork rinds”. Since I became an adult, I have not chosen to eat a cracklin.

Which leads me to another southern dish… turnips. I hate turnips. We always had turnips when I was growing up. Mama cooked them all the time and was always trying to give me them to me as an adult to eat or take them home to my family. I tell her Mama, I do not like turnips and she says well, you ate them all the time when you were growing up. And I tell her, that is because you made me eat them.. and that was what was to eat (again no McDonalds). In my childhood, you ate what was cooked and if you didn’t like it you either ate it or went without. Picky eaters did not exist in our family … it was not allowed.

I never will forget that weekend Jim and I went up to visit our relatives in Statesboro and stayed with Aunt Teeny and Uncle Floyd. Aunt Teeny fixed a breakfast fit for a king.. scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, biscuits, gravy, grits… Jim ate and ate. He told Aunt Teeny that those were the best scrambled eggs he had ever had. Whereupon she told him that the secret ingredient was pig brains. I thought Jim was going to upchuck right then and there. Somehow he managed to keep it together but he made sure he never ate them again. Even though they tasted good, I guess he could not get passed the mental image of what pig brains might look like.

One thing that made life on the farm tolerable was family. Especially our cousins. Even though we all worked very hard, we had a lot of fun times too. We spent many times running through the corn fields playing tag, spent time playing tin can alley, hide n seek in the barn and just so many happy memories there. Getting together on a warm summer night and eating boiled peanuts and drinking sweet tea under the mulberry tree in the back yard with the lightening bugs floating in the night air. We spent a lot of time chasing lightening bugs and putting them in jars with holes in the lids and putting them next to our beds at night, only to wake in the morning to find they had died. We decided not to capture them anymore. This is one of my most favorite memories.  Sure wish I could do that right now. My fondest dream would be to be a child again and to just let the burdens of the world be carried by someone else, preferably an adult with a sense of humor, intelligence and a good general knowledge of how to navigate this big old ball, we call the World.


imageI am the second born of nine children.  I have an older sister, Gloria Jean.  She was named after a movie star, Gloria Jean Schoonover.  In her youth she was called GlorJean because in the south everyone always had a double name… you know like Jimbob and Billybob… and when someone said it they just kinda ran the name together.  Everyone always called me Clarjane (Clara Janie).  Now, I call her Glo Glo and she is my best friend.  It wasn’t always this way, as I was convinced as we were growing up that she was always trying to kill me, or so my child mind thought at the time.  My sister was always a very inquisitive and bright child and, unfortunately, I was always the one she used to prove (or disprove) her theories.

One night my father and my sister were sitting at the fireplace and my father had the poker in the fire stirring the wood around and he explained to her that if you left the poker in the fire long enough that it would turn white and that it would be a cold heat.  A few nights later we were both sitting on the hearth watching the flames flicker at the fireplace, and, of course, I had not been privy to the conversation she had with my father several nights before, then she calmly placed the poker in the fire and let it remain there until the poker turned white.  Whereupon, she then proceeded to remove the poker from the fire and place it on my leg and calmly turned to me and said “Is that hot?” I let out a scream that brought Mama running to see what harm had befallen her precious second child.  As soon as it was determined that I would live, Mama took me into the kitchen and put some kind of ointment on my leg and pretty soon, it blistered up.  It was quite painful and took several weeks to heal.  To this day, I still have the white scar on my leg where Glo Glo placed the poker and I delight in showing it to her sometimes.

The second such incident took place in the garden.  I think I was about 7 at the time and we were harvesting the vegetables and getting things ready for Mama to cook and we were in the pepper rows at the time.  Glo Glo comes to the row of hot peppers and she had read somewhere that the juice in a pepper was very hot.  So she is going along the row picking the peppers and she asked me to come over to where she was so she could show me something and I trotted over to her like a little puppy to see what she had.  What she had folks, was a red hot pepper.  She said “bend down and look at this”.  I should have known what was coming… but you know that little voice that develops inside of your head that tells you not to do something… well, apparently the little voice had not yet developed in my head and so I bent over to look and as I did she proceeded to break it in half and the juice from the pepper shot into my eyes… blinding me and she says “Is that hot?.  Again, the screams ensued and Mama came running to find out what harm had come to her precious stupid second child.  Mama took me inside and rinsed my eyes with clear water from the well and continued to do that for a while.  Pretty soon, Mama was convinced that I was not blinded for life and that everything would be ok.  The pepper incident did get me out of work for a while but after it was determined that I was not maimed for life, I was sent back to the garden.

The third such incident occurred out in the yard one summer day when I was about 8 years old.  Glo Glo had decided to build something.  For the life of me I can’t remember what, but the end result was that she asked me to hold onto this stake while she used a brick to hammer it into the ground.  And again… still no little voice.  I knelt on the ground and held the stake while she proceeded to hammer the stake into the ground, or at least that is what was suppose to happen.  Ooops… instead of hitting the stake, she hit me in the head with the brick.  Again, the screams ensued and Mama came running to find out what harm had come to her precious really, really, stupid second child.  She soon determined that I was not seriously injured and I just had a big bump on my noggin.  It hurt and ached for a couple of days but soon I was as good as new and ready for the next incident.

We now laugh about these incidents and the amazing thing to me is that no matter how we were as children or teenagers, today there is nothing my sister would not do for me, nor I for her.  A perfect example of this was when I wore her cashmere sweater to school one day and she saw me in the hall and she grabbed me and told me that if she ever caught me wearing her clothes again, she would rip them off my back right there in the hall in front of everyone.  I believe she would have done it too.  However, today, she would take the clothes off her own back and give them to me… and has done so… just not in public.

I will always love and be grateful to my sister for all of her love and support.  She has taught me many things and I admire her for her generous, caring nature and her ability to make me feel better even in the depths of my sorrow.  Aside from my husband, Jim, she is the best friend I have ever had or could ever hope to have.  God blessed me with wonderful parents and 4 brothers and 3 sisters all of whom I love dearly and am proud to call my friends.  Yes, I am truly blessed and give thanks every day of my life for the gift of my family.