This Johnny Cash played over and over in my head this morning:
If we never meet again this side of Heaven
As we struggle through this world and its strife
There’s another meeting place somewhere in Heaven
By the side of the river of life.
Mayme, the oldest of the Stephens sisters passed through this life this week and joined her sisters Martha and Martin (my mother) by the river of life.
A snowy morning with temperatures quickly dropping into the 20s brought family members from north and south to Tompkinsville, a small Kentucky town near the Tennessee line. A short funeral led by a longtime younger friend reminded us of those unique qualities of Mayme. An even briefer service at the snow-covered cemetery where her body was laid to rest next to her husband.
Mayme Emberton lived 90 years, a quiet life filled with many roles, but primarily a Keeper of the Home, a caregiver. She was a
- widow of a soldier from the Greatest Generation
- woman who dreamed of joining the Army nurses during the war (Her mother quickly informed her that would not happen!)
- wife of a farmer who also built homes
- mother of three children
- organizer of the farm chores for three kids, vegetable garden tender, fruit picker, henhouse manager, processor of raw milk (separating cream from milk, making butter)
- food preserver (canning, freezing, making jelly, butchering live chickens) bread maker, meal planner
- once the kids were grown, a nursing student, office nurse, skilled care nurse
- caregiver for her father when cancer took over his body
- caregiver for oldest son after his stroke
- caregiver for husband after his strokes
Mayme’s house and the farm were my anchor as a child since my family changed houses and towns almost every year — the family of a preacher moving from church to church. I spent part of every summer at the farm until leaving for college. Thirty five years later she and I formed that unique bond as mothers who lose their adult children.
These pictures from 1955 show her as a mother and homemaker, busy with young children while keeping the farm going during the day while her husband built houses. This farm included chickens, grown for their eggs as well as food, hogs, milk cows, and horses. I learned some valuable skills with her: how to pluck wet feathers from chickens, how to clean out the guts, gather eggs, feed chickens, pick blackberries, cook in large quantities, prepare fruits and vegetables to freeze or can.
Mayme’s work stands out in my memory because that’s how I always saw her. She seldom sat still, yet she moved through the day in this quiet, graceful way. I don’t remember them ever taking a family vacation, just trips to fairs and horse shows. When we visited in the summer she sometimes joined our round of visits with other family members in the area but more often she stayed at the farm, plenty of work to be done.
I love this picture of her with Uncle Glidden and their daughter Sue. She was strong and courageous and there were still many battles she would face in the years to come. Her faith carried her through hard times; one of her underlined Bible passages describes her so well:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty . . . I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13
A daughter of the King, a faithful wife, a loving mother, a listening ear, but also well known for being blunt with her opinion, especially if you asked for it!
I thank God for the legacy of Mayme and her sisters..They were raised on a farm and passed on those wonderful skills as Keepers of the Home, artists who created healthy meals from their gardens and used
every smidgin’ to stretch what they had been given to feed their family as well as a neighbor’s.