Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mama Rose

Women with mountain faith and belief systems

Nurse Mack, as his patients liked to call him, received a call at two in the morning from the oldest of Mama Rose's ten children. "Mack, I hate to bother you so late but Mama has gone. You said to call at any time, so I'm calling."

"That's ok, I'll be there as soon as I can, in about forty-five minutes," responded Mack. As he hung up the phone, he could hear the family singing in the background, "Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound."

Within fifteen minutes Mack had dressed in a hurry and was driving his big red dodge truck heading north in the darkness of the early morning into the North Georgia Mountain country. Mack had been with hospice for four years. Starting out as an aide, he had worked and attended college. Since finishing nursing school he was a hospice nurse and team leader.

The warm, moonlit night made the drive easy and comfortable. Mack had time while driving to reflect on Mama Rose and her family as he sped toward her little cabin. Mama Rose had lived in a small log cabin alone for over five years since her husband of fifty-two-years passed on. Her children lived near by, working in a marble factory and sawmill in North Georgia since their Mama got sick with "that cancer" as they called it.

The children took turns staying with her and helping her through the shadows of the dark valley of death. There was no telling how many grandchildren and great grandchildren she had. There were pictures hanging on every wall and on every table. When Mack visited Mama Rose, there were always several little people running in and out of the cabin.

Pulling off the blacktop two lanes onto the dirt excess road, Mack found the driveway to the cabin. Winding up the hill where the tall pine trees and the hardwood oak trees along side of the road made a tunnel-like approach to the cabin. Past the well-kept family cemetery that looked spooky in the early morning moonlight, he came to what resembled a used car lot. Pickup trucks, big old cars, and small cars were parked everywhere. He found a parking place behind the old chicken house that had been vacant since Mama Rose's illness.

As he opened his truck door, he heard singing coming from the lighted cabin. He smiled to himself, knowing that Mama Rose ruled the homestead and attended her Baptist church, where she loved to join those all-day singings and inner-on-the-ground services. When her illness prohibited her from attending the services, she made sure that her children took her place.

He thought to himself as he stepped up on the little porch with its rusty tin roof, I never called her by her married name, she has always been Mama Rose. As he was about to knock on the screen door, he heard the refrains of her favorite hymn, "Just a Closer Walk with Thee", filling the tiny living room were Mama Rose's bed was placed. Looking in, he saw family members, including grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as neighbors, clustered around the bed, holding hands and singing, swaying as though they were at one of Mama Rose's all-day sings.

Mack entered the crowded house. When they saw him, they invited him to join in the singing. He excused himself, saying, "Let me first pronounce Mama." He came to the bed and took her thin wrist and felt for a pulse. He always had difficulty with finding Mama' Rose's pulse. She was snug in her bed, with a quilt that she had made pulled up to her wrinkled and stubborn chin.

One of the pronouncing customs that Mack had developed over the past year was to talk to the patient as though they were still alive asking permission to examine them for the last time. He placed his stethoscope in his ears, pulled the quilt down a little, exposing the top part of her bonny chest while he whispered "Mama Rose, I'm just going to check your heart for a moment."

"Ok, sweety," she whispered back

Mack, in complete astonished surprise, stood straight up, and stopped the hymn singing with a slow southern accent, "I'll be damned!"

No one noticed the curse word that Mack let slip. They began praising the Lord thanking Him for the miracle that had snatched their Mama from the dark shadows of death. Mack tried to explain that Mama was indeed weak, and close to death, but her spirit was still with her. However, the family of faith with their old-time mountain religion believed it was a miracle.

When Mack reported his experience to the hospice team at the next meeting, there was some good old therapeutic belly laughter all around the table. When the
laughter came to an end, he smiled and said, "I really learned one thing about these country folks. They have a strong faith and believe in the power of prayer and hymn singing as well as down right miracles."

Maybe the hymn singing and the prayers did bring Mama back from the shadow of death for one last time with her family. We'll never know. Mama Rose died three
days later and was buried beside her husband in the family cemetery.

The country faith culture had brought a great deal of comfort to the family and to the funeral preacher, who shouted his message while wiping his forehead with a white hanky, declaring at the peak of his voice that he was sure God had granted her the three day reprieve so she could witness of her faith in Jesus.

The mountain folks have a strong faith and belief system that sees them through the dark shadows of death and proceeds to assist the family through their time of bereavement. Their old fashioned way of grieving has a healing effect on the family and the community.

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