Monday, October 29, 2007



"Grandmother, I really did want a little sister. But she cries so much. Does she have to do that?"

"Why Roger, she doesn't cry that much. Janice is only two months old. And crying is the only way she can ask us to help her."

"I don't cry."

"But you did when you were a little baby. You are a big boy now. You will be six years old on your birthday June 25th."

Roger walked over to the cradle and looked in at Janice. Then he came back to Grandmother.

"Grandmother, is Mother ever going to get well?"

"Roger, we pray that she will get well. She has been sick a long time. Your Grandfather is a very good doctor. He is doing everything he can to make her well again. He even called in Dr. Snow from the Hospital in Gallipolis, who is a specialist in these things."

"Are you my Mother now?"

"No, Roger, I'm your Grandmother. Gladys is your Mother. You only have one Mother."

"But you take care of me all the time."

"I know that, Roger, but I'm your Grandmother. Your Mother's health has never been good. She couldn't take care of you, and so I did."

Roger went out to play. He got on his tricycle and started down the sidewalk.

"Hello, Roger." It was Gretchen Pugh, a little girl his age. Her little brother, John, was four. He often came out to play also.

"Gretchen! Let me ride your tricycle!"

She pushed it over to him. He got on and began to pedal furiously up the sidewalk. He swerved into the step leading up to her house. The front wheel broke off and Roger went flying into the grass.

"Roger, you broke my tricycle!" She began to cry.

"I'm sorry, Gretchen! I didn't mean to break it. My Dad will fix it. He can fix anything."

That night Roger got ready for bed. Grandmother Rosa slept at the head of the narrow cot, with baby Janice lying beside her. He slept at the foot.

Roger slept soundly. He did not awaken when there was a time of crisis about 8 pm, when Grandfather Hefflin said, "It's over. She's gone." It was April 28, 1935. Gladys would have been 24 on May 13th.

H. K. Butler, the undertaker, came about 9pm to pick up the body.

Early in the morning Roger bounced out of bed, and ran into the kitchen. "Grandmother! Grandmother! The sun is shining so brightly!"

Grandmother frowned and shook her head. "Roger, be quiet today. This is a time of sorrow for us. Your mother won't be sick anymore. She has fallen asleep."

"She will wake up soon and be well?" he asked.

"No, Roger, she will never wake up in this world. She has gone to be with Jesus."

Of course Roger did not understand. He had heard the family talking about death, but he was not quite six years old. Also he had formed a bond with Grandmother and did not feel the sense of loss he might have felt.

Grandmother Rosa rushed around, putting things away and cleaning up the sickroom. Then she began packing clothes in suitcases and preparing things for the trip to Kentucky, to the home of Gladys' mother and father.

"Roger," Grandmother said, "we will drive down to Ashland, Kentucky, late this afternoon and stay over in a tourist home. Then tomorrow we will drive on to Whitehouse to your Grandfather and Grandmother Webb's home."

It was 45 miles from Vinton to Ashland and 80 miles on to Whitehouse. But in those days of narrow roads, some of them dirt, travel took more time.

Later that morning, Katrina Pugh, Gretchen's mother, came to the door with a covered dish.

"Mrs. Hefflin, I'm so sorry about the death of your daughter-in-law. It surely is a time of tragedy. She was so young. I've brought you a noodle casserole to help out. If there's anything I can do, or my husband, please call us."

"Thank you. You are very thoughtful. We appreciate your love and kindness."

Others came to call and some brought food. Jimmy Freshcorn, the constable, Mayor Thomas Bidwell, Everett Wood from the VFW, Miss Effie Cheltenham. This was a closeknit community. They were like a family.

Meanwhile H. K. Butler, the funeral director (as we speak of the undertaker today), had prepared the body of Gladys for burial. He obtained the services of Brother Dan Scott, Preacher for the Christian Church, to go along with him to Whitehouse. Brother Scott would help him with things, and would preach the funeral when they got there.

They drove to Cattletsburg, Kentucky, just outside Ashland, to put the casket on the train. The train took them along the Big Sandy River all the way to Whitehouse. Whitehouse had been a coal camp of perhaps 1,000 people. But the mines closed down in 1933. Some fifty people now lived there. The road over the mountain to Whitehouse was a narrow dirt road, barely wide enough for one car and very steep. Most people went into Whitehouse by train.

Grandmother Rosa had things ready, and so it didn't take long to get the car loaded. Virgil Hefflin, Grandmother Rosa, Roger and Janice, and Reta, Virgil's sister. Grandfather Hefflin could not leave Vinton, as he was the Medical Doctor for the area. They would be gone at least a week, perhaps more if they had any car trouble.

Finally they got started. They drove along the Ohio River to Ironton, Ohio, where they crossed the bridge into Ashland, Kentucky. They drove through town to a tourist home (there were no motels as yet) just before they came to Cattletsburg. Here they would stay overnight and get an early start in the morning.

Roger was up before anyone else. The woman who ran the tourist home had a good breakfast fixed for them. Roger especially enjoyed the food.

"It would be much easier to go by train," Grandmother Rosa said. "But we do need to take the car along. It is much easier to just pack everything into a car. There are so many things to take with us."

Roger was enjoying it all. He liked to get out in the car and go places. There was so much to see, so many new things.

They drove to Paintsville, Kentucky, then turned out the narrow road that led toward Inez. Just beyond Boone's Camp, Virgil turned up the very narrow dirt road that led to Whitehouse. The road led up over the mountain and was just barely wide enough for the car.

They met another car, and that car had to back up to a wide place so that they could pass. By the time they reached the peak of the mountain they stopped the car for a few minutes to allow it to cool down a little. It was downhill then to Whitehouse, past the abandoned oil well that always had a gas flame burning, past the entrance to the abandoned coal mine, then past a white Church, and into the town.

Aunt Lou owned a general store, which Roger remembered with glee. He loved the crackers and candy which Aunt Lou gave him out of the store.

It was the evening of April 29th, 1935. H. K. Butler and Brother Scott were at the Webb house, where Gladys' mother and father lived.

The Hefflins arrived. They unloaded only what was necessary at the moment. The people who lived in Whitehouse had brought in food for supper. It was a sad time.

The funeral took place the next day at the Webb house.

After a restless night sleeping in very cramped quarters (since there were so many people), the day dawned bright and clear. Grandmother Nancy Webb had a fire going in the cookstove. She had fried bacon and made lots of homemade biscuits. There was butter and molasses. Roger was too young to realize the sadness of the moment, but was pleased by the food.

About 10 o'clock the people began gathering at the house for the funeral. The adults were in the yard beside the house getting things ready and mostly just talking. The children were playing in the front yard: Roger, Alice Jean Butcher, Margaret Jean and Melchorine Welch and their brother Martin, and Jim and Joey Johnson.

"Roger, it's time," called Grandmother Rosa.

The casket was sitting on two sawhorses.

Grandmother Rosa lifted Roger up to see his mother.

"She's asleep, isn't she?" Roger said.

"Yes, Roger. She will sleep until Jesus comes. She is at peace."

The people sat on the ground and wherever they could find. Orby Beard, who was studying to be a Christian Church preacher, (who was dating Gladys' sister, Edith), led the group in a few songs. "Safe In The Arms Of Jesus." "When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder."

Then Brother Dan Scott stood in front of the casket and began his sermon. "Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His saints. Dear friends, the old must die, but the young may die. It's so sad when one so young is called home. But we look always to God and His glory. We feel deep sorrow, but think of Gladys and her joy at being with her Lord. Paul said: absent from the body, present with the Lord. Trust in God and ask Him for comfort and consolation at this time of earthly sorrow."

Let us pray. "O Lord, this is surely a time of great sorrow. It is hard to give up one so dear to us. But this is the way of life. We rejoice also because we know Gladys has graduated from this earth and stepped out into eternity to be with You. Wrap Your arms of love around all of us here as we mourn this loss. Touch us with Your mercy. In Jesus' name, Amen."

Then Orby led them in singing "We Are Going Down The Valley One By One."

Everyone filed by the casket to give their last farewells.

This time Reta lifted Roger up so he could see his mother one last time. "Take a good look, Roger. This is the last time you will ever see your mother."

But Grandmother Rosa was "Mother" to him. He did not understand.

H. K. Butler closed the casket. Brother Scott led the way. The pallbearers and the others followed to the cemetery and the grave site on the mountainside at the edge of town where Gladys would be buried.

Brother Scott read the 23rd Psalm and led in prayer. The casket was lowered into the ground.

Gladys would sleep there on the hillside until Jesus comes.

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