There's a certain breed of little old ladies here in the South that are slowly going away, never to be replaced. I was thinking of this the other day when I read Tom's recent post titled "Vanished ladies". The women I'm talking about are very different in some ways than the ones he describes, but I understand his nostalgia when he thinks of them.
My friend Marla's grandma is a good example. Miss Mildred (around here we call elderly folks Miss or Mr. Firstname as a mark of respect) is 94 years old and the matriarch of her family. She's gentle, sweet, soft spoken, and in the old-fashioned sense of the word, a real lady. On the other hand, she grew up on a farming family of modest means (like most people of her generation around here) and knew all about hard work. In her old age she's become one of what we call "little church ladies" because they're deeply involved in the workings of their church, doing lots of unpaid (and underappreciated) tasks behind the scenes.
My neighbor was one such lady. She passed away unexpectedly last weekend.
Miss Luella was a couple of months shy of her 84th birthday. One of her daughters called me last Monday to give me the sad news and thanked me for being "a good neighbor" to her mama. I was shocked to hear what had happened to her. Apparently, she went out to get her mail on the previous Friday afternoon and stumbled coming back up the steps to her door. When she stumbled, she fell and hit her head on the headrail. She went inside and told her daughter (who had been staying with her for the past year) what had happened, and insisted she was fine. Nothing hurt, she felt good, and she didn't even have a bruise. She was fine all that night, fine all day Saturday, and Sunday morning drove herself to church, still feeling fine.
On Sunday night, all of a sudden, she said she'd developed a bad headache. Her daughter asked her how bad, based on a scale of 1-10. Luella said, "Eight. I sure hope I'm not having a stroke!" Of course, the daughter called an ambulance. By the time it arrived, she was becoming unresponsive, and was brain dead within the hour. In the early hours of Monday morning. there was nothing left to do but take her off life support. She was gone.
You probably know where this story is headed. Miss Luella had an undiagnosed brain bleed from her fall two days prior. The doctors said that even had they known about it, they probably couldn't have prevented her death. The capillaries in her brain were thin due to age, and she was taking a lot of blood thinners.
I've been so sad about this all week. The night after she died one of her young adult grandsons rang our doorbell to give us the news, not realizing his aunt has already told us. He cried and said that Gregg and I had been really good neighbors to his grandma and thanked us again for looking out for her. (We didn't do much; usually Gregg would try to roll her big garbage can out to the street on the morning of pickup and then back under the carport afterwards, and occasionally I'd stop by with tomatoes or lettuce from the garden or we'd chat over the back fence like neighbors do). She had a large, tight knit family that were always gathering at her house. She was lucky in that respect. I guess she was lucky, too, to live such a long happy life surrounded by loved ones, and then to die so suddenly and easily without any real declining health to make her last days miserable.
She's going to be dearly missed as a neighbor. She bought the house next door to ours back in 1971 with her late husband, so she's been here longer than I've been alive. Her house is the one with the magnificent magnolia tree that blooms so beautifully each spring. It already has big fuzzy buds all over it, just waiting to burst into its spring finery. And for the first time in over 50 years, she won't be here to see it.
I posted this photo on Facebook last year and tagged Luella. I said, "Your tree is glorious, as usual!" and she replied, "Thanks! It is. Only God could make something so beautiful. Happy that you're enjoying the tree with me."
May she rest in peace.
FLORENCE – Luella Morris Caulder, 83, died Monday, January 23, 2023, after a brief illness.
Funeral services will be 11:00 a.m., Thursday, January 26, 2023, at Northgate Baptist Church followed by entombment in Florence Memorial Gardens Mausoleum. The family will receive friends from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, at Waters-Powell Funeral Home.
Mrs. Caulder was born in Lake City, SC, a daughter of the late Clarence Douglas and Eula Mae Morris Clark. She graduated from Lake City High School as class salutatorian in 1957. She was the attendance clerk at Savannah Grove Elementary School in Florence for 29 years.
She was an active member of Northgate Baptist Church and sang in the church choir.
In addition to her parents, she was predeceased by her husband, Raymond Nathaniel Caulder.
Surviving are her children, Wendy Caulder Davis, Jill Caulder, and Douglas Caulder (Kelly), all of Florence. She is also survived by her grandchildren, whom she loved dearly, Johanna Davis Jones (Steven) of Darlington, Evan Caulder, Harrison Caulder, and Kathryn Caulder, all of Florence; her sister, Miriam Blackmon, of New Zion, SC; great-grandchildren, Gaven Yarborough, Bailey Yarborough, Carson Yarborough, Gavin Jones, and Kennedy Jones; a great-great-grandchild, Levi Felder; and a number of nieces and nephews.
Memorials may be made to Northgate Baptist Church, 1217 N. Ebenezer Rd., Florence, SC 29501.
What a splendid post; you did well.ReplyDelete
I grew up in Protestant churches, and they all had Church Ladies who did the work, and handled it all. Usually in basements, they did the potlucks and after service coffee. Once upon a time I was an avid collector of Church Lady Cookbooks. It seemed every church had one. I cherish my mother's.
I, too, love Church Lady cookbooks!Delete
I attended Baptist. Churches when I lived there…taught Lake City and Bennettsville…love Lake City Schools…last principal was my friend, Jim Ramsey. As I said Supt is a friend. Lived the three cities…preferred LC closer to ocean…ReplyDelete
We lived in Pamplico for awhile, and it was a very short drive to the beach.Delete
That's a sad loss not only for her friends and family, but for your neighbourhood. The magnolia tree will be her tribute.ReplyDelete
It really is a magnificent tree, and a nice tribute.Delete
That is a shame that a slip and fall could bring that about. It sounds like you were good neighbours to her and that her family recognized and appreciated it. I love the magnolia tree carrying on. - JennReplyDelete
The first buds on the tree are already starting to open...Delete
A beautiful story and such a lovely lady. 83 doesn't sound that old to me these days. Such a shame what happened to her; I hate flukes like this.ReplyDelete
Yes, these kinds of flukes are just terrible.Delete
Your post is beautiful and that is kind of scary how she died, considering I am not that much younger than her. And I smiled when reading your post cuz I realize I am one of those little old church ladies, ha ha. I am sure she enjoyed you two as neighbors.ReplyDelete
We enjoyed her, too. Thank you Terra.Delete
Whenever you see the Magnolia in flower, no doubt you'll think of her. What could be better!ReplyDelete
How sad. What a beautiful tribute. Miss Luella will forever be a magnolia in flower.ReplyDelete
"A magnolia in flower" is perfect. :)Delete
I remember you talking about Miss Luella before. Yes, her sudden death is sad and hard to grasp, but if I had a choice, I‘d much rather go like this than suffer mental and physical decline for years as my Dad did.ReplyDelete
Like others here have said, the magnolia blossoms will always remind you of her. I hope the house will be lived in by family members of hers or at least by a decent new buyer or tenant.
Yes, I agree completely. No one wants to slowly decline until the end, at least I don't.Delete
What a strange co-incidence that Mrs Caulder was once the attendance clerk at Savannah Grove Elementary School. She could have given you a few tips Jennifer! She had a lovely face - so elegant and pretty. May she rest in peace as humans often say when others die.ReplyDelete
I think the job was much different back when she was doing it, but it is odd that we have the same job title and work for this school district.Delete
Sorry for the loss of your neighbor, Jennifer. I am glad you and Gregg have fond memories of helping her out and visiting in the yard.ReplyDelete
Yes, we'll remember her fondly.Delete
I thank you as well for being kindly neighbours to Miss Luella. I'm sure those small kindnesses like gifts of fresh veggies and a garbage bin moved meant a lot to her. She sounded like a lovely person.ReplyDelete
She always seemed happy and never had a bad word to say about anyone. I wish I could be so nice.Delete
What a shame. You will miss the quiet and calm she helped bring to your neighborhood.ReplyDelete
I will miss it.Delete
I remember wanting to talk to elderly people more when I was about 30 and had the time. Now I am becoming elderly I understand why the young are not particularly interested in what I did 50 years ago. It reminds me of the dying robot reminiscing in Blade Runner.ReplyDelete
That seems sad. Sorry.Delete
You have mentioned her many times and you have been a very good neighbor to her. I am sure she appreciated you and Gregg and felt much safer knowing you were right there. You are right about the church ladies- they are the engines that keep the machinery of the southern churches humming along. And yes, always for free, always way too unappreciated.ReplyDelete
What a beautiful lady she was and I am so glad she got to leave this world quickly. It sounds like she was very much loved.
She was very loved by her large, close knit family. She was lucky.Delete
Sad, sad. You were kind, neighborly, and she appreciated it.ReplyDelete
I'm going to miss her.Delete
Such a shame. It sounds like she lived a long, full life, though, and she benefitted from your presence in it! (And vice versa!) My uncle died just a few months ago from a very similar brain bleed, at a similar age. His was diagnosed pretty quickly but the doctors were unable to stop it. So, yeah, even if they'd known in Miss Luella's case, it may not have made a difference.ReplyDelete
I'm glad you told me that, Steve. I wondered if the doctor had said that just to make her family feel better.Delete
This is a lovely post, and tribute to a real lady.ReplyDelete
Such sad news but what a wonderful post . What a lovely Lady. It is the little things in we do that make our life so much better.ReplyDelete
You are so talented, you always write so well on any subject.
My oldest son who just came back from living in Japan to help take care of me just had a heart attack. You just never know.
I'm so sorry to hear that about your son! My best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery for him!Delete