My mother was born on June 27, 1918. Her name was Mary Grace Evans Ratledge, better known as Grace, Mama or Grandmama. At Mama’s funeral, several people mentioned that they had never known her name until that day. Well, she was just Mama.
An amazing woman who never said, “I can’t.” She said she could, and she did. She never backed down from a job that needed to be done. Born to well-to-do farmers in South Georgia, Mama saw the depression take everything they had. She learned early how to care for the sick and dying. She helped plant, plow, and harvest. Coming to Atlanta at 19, she lived with a relative, worked at the old Atlanta Municipal Market, then at White Provision Company (slaughterhouse/meat processing company).
She was 93 and a half when she died. Remember that half!!! She said she worked hard for every one of those days and she wanted them all counted. She used to lie about her age and add ten years. When she turned 90, she decided she would tell the truth. She didn’t think anyone would believe she was a hundred.
Mama had a unique way of dealing with things. She had a look that would cause Medusa’s snaky curls to wither and die. I never got spanked. I got “the look.” Mama had a category for anyone who displeased her: SOB—Sweet Old Boy or Sweet Old Biddy. Either way, you didn’t want to be known that way to Mama. She could and would filet you if you did something she thought was hurtful or hateful. She didn’t take any stuff off anybody.
Eight weeks before she died, Mama was trimming shrubbery and decided she would cut down a small tree that had died in the front flower bed. When her lopping shears wouldn’t do the job, she got her hand saw. When the saw wouldn’t do the trick, she went back to the little white barn and sharpened her hatchet. That did it. She took care of the job, whatever it was.
She often told me how important Snell had become to her. She said “IF I go, I know you will be in good hands. I am glad you got him.” She said she wasn’t planning on going, but if she had to (die) she was going kicking and screaming. The night before Mama died, Snell sat up with her the entire night holding her hand. He frequently held her hand and sat with her. There was a mix-up, and we couldn’t get a hospital bed for a couple of days. I slept with Mama to be sure she was OK during the night. How many sons-in-law would crawl in the bed and sleep with their mother-in-law because his wife was so tired from cancer treatment that she fell asleep on the couch? Snell did, and Mama and I both were grateful for him, once again.
She and Daddy loved color and flowers. They enjoyed working in the flower beds, and their yards looked like Calloway Gardens. Hundreds of azaleas and camellias were planted in detailed little gardens with statuary and features. One of her favorite sayings was “The Earth Laughs in Flowers.”
She knew no other way to handle anything except full forwarding force. She helped her family as much as she could, and she loved Daddy and me. I promise you; she has not entered into eternal rest. Mama is planning a flower garden, sharpening her hatchet and laughing with Daddy.
Another of her favorite expressions was “time changes all things.” And it is true. We learn, we experience things, we age. Time changes our world.
Time changes all things, but the earth will always laugh in flowers. And Mama will live on in the hearts of those she touched. Wish you were here, Mama.