I sat beside her bed as she slept, tracing my finger along her arm and hand. The room was darkening as the sun was slowly setting outside. How did she get here? What happened to this wonderful woman, who spent her whole life trying to look after everyone else?
She was the oldest of eleven children. As a result, she probably spent much of her young life helping to care for the other children as they came along. Mama had each of us two years apart, except for Lou and Edith. They were three years apart, as Mama was sick with some sort of fever that was common in the 1914 era. A lot of other people died during that time. Mama’s lost all of her hair, from what I understand, but God had other plans for her and spared her life.
Lucille grew up and married a very handsome man named Clyde Gladden. I was told that after I was born Lou and Clyde would come into Mama and Daddy’s room, get me and carry me back to their room. Maybe that was the beginning of the bond I felt with her. I was the ninth child to come along. OH! Lord! My poor mama!
Then two years later they welcomed their own child into the world. Clyde Douglas Gladden. They only had the one child and as a result Lou had a hard time keeping him away from his grandparents’ house. He would scream when they came after him because you see, there were five kids around our house his age to play with. Lou and Clyde had his parents, his old maid aunt, numerous brothers and one sister who would drop in to live with them whenever they had marital problems or such. At our house, Doug had all kinds of playmates.
I remember that Clyde would buy clothes or gifts for Lucille and and would hide them in the car until he could slip them past his mother. Just to keep peace with her. She was just a grouchy kind of woman who didn’t seem to see pleasure in ANYTHING. Anyway to make a long story short (as the saying goes) about a month after Lucille lost Clyde to a heart attack, we came in from the grocery store, and Mama Gladden, as everyone called her, looked at the groceries and then at Lou and “No wonder you don’t have any money”.
Lou turned around and stared her in the face and said “Let me tell you one thing! The only one who had the right to tell me what to do is gone, and it’s none of your business what I do with my money”. It scared me so bad I ran home and called Lou and asked her what happened and she replied, calmly, NOTHING! and from that day on she never had to slip another thing in that house.
One memorable thing about Lucille to me is the love she had for her family, her parents, her siblings (we all went to her with our problems). Once after I was married, I went to talk to her about something, and started crying. She told me later that she just wanted to pull me onto her lap and hold me while I cried. She always had the way to make us all feel better and I know she spent a lot of time on her knees interceding with Jesus for us.
The most memorable thing about her was the love and devotion she had to her God! She sang in a trio at church until she was in her seventies. I can remember going to choir practice with her when I was about twelve years old, just to be with her. Then I would march into the choir and stand beside her on Sunday mornings and sing. I asked her many years later “Wonder why they didn’t ask me to leave the choir.” She replied that they probably thought she would leave also if I did.
I can remember her with that little folded handkerchief tucked into her watchband! And also how she would walk off and leave the trio as she was shouting praises to her Lord and King. On Mother’s Day she would always sing a solo called “Mother of Mine”. The words went something like this; “She’s a little old fashioned, But she’s sweeter each day, I adore her plain features and her thin locks of gray”. She always cried. So did everyone else.
When she came to live with me for awhile, she was already in the first stages of Alzheimer’s. One day we came home from work at the restaurant. Lucille was grinning like a possum and said, gleefully, ” Look what someone brought me”. Loretta always brought the employees tips home in a small envelope with their names on them each night. At the end of the week they would be included in their pay envelope. Well. Lou had taken each envelope, opened it and just spread all the cash on the coffee table. We almost fainted. There was nothing we could do but just divide the tips evenly among the employees.
Then later, after her bath, she would pat me on the knee as I was drying her feet and say “Boy, you’re something! When the times comes for God to call me home, I’m gonna say, Lord, wait a minute, we have to take Peggy too!” That was so sweet!!!
I would play gospel music as I was working in the kitchen and she would come running down the hallway, come in the kitchen door and kinda’ throw her leg across the kitchen stool, and swing her leg in time to the music, and smile the biggest smile you ever saw. Oh! I loved her so much!!
Then I began to notice the subtle changes. One day she didn’t remember how to drink a glass of water. Her memory was leaving a little at a time. On Christmas Eve, Doug, Margaret (her daughter in law) and her grandson Mike came over. Mike had bought her a pair of bedroom shoes that looked like penguins. She had a fit over them, thought they were so cute and just ooohed and aahhed over them. Then later as we all were sitting and talking, she looked down at her feet and said rather loudly “Who in the name of God ever bought me these ugly shoes?” We laughed so hard about that later. Mike laughed harder than anyone.
But the day we were dreading finally arrived and she didn’t recognize any of us anymore. How horrible that was for us. Finally it got so bad we could no longer care for her at home and she had to go to White Oak Manor. But her God never left her. Not for a second. She sang constantly . No one could understand the words but she had the perfect tune to all those hymns she had sung all of her life. One day, as we were in the dining room, Lucille was singing and the administrator came up to me and asked, smiling, “Do you know what she is singing?” I replied ” Sure, Bringing in the Sheaves“. She shook her head yes.
One day, When I walk in through those gates to Heaven, I know Lucille will be one of the first people I see and she will know instantly who I am and come running to welcome me home! Thank you God for blessing me with my big sister and friend Lucille.