Mother, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, Agnes.
Willie Agnes Poe passed away (September 8, 2006) after three months fighting post-surgery infection. During the last few weeks of Mother’s life, she shared stories of her childhood and often talked about playing with her close childhood friend, Fern. (They remained close throughout life.)
“We had so much fun playing in the cemetery — Can you take me back to the cemetery on the hill?’ she would ask. “I can see the man in black with a big black dog,” she would go on.
In her last days the man in black visited her. As we were talking, she looked straight ahead, “…see him, he is here! Don’t you see him?” Then she would turn and ask, “Can you bring me a big black dog? I want a big dog! Can you get one for me?”
“Yes, we can,” would be my reply, We were making arrangements for Jill to bring one of their black labs by for Mother, just two days before she passed on.
On August 26, 2012, the family gathered in The Woodlands to celebrate the life of Willie Agnes Poe, which involved a brunch at Cru’ Wine Bar and a gathering at the pedestrian bridge over Grogan’s Mill Road.
After moving to The Woodlands in the mid-1980’s, Mother would walk the trails from her Grogan’s Landing apartment, which included the pedestrian bridge in a six-mile walk around the TPC golf course. Over time, Mother became functionally blind, limiting the trail walking, but not her walking. Early each morning she would spend a couple of hours walking back and forth over the pedestrian bridge. Our gathering at the bridge ended with a symbolic walk over Agnes’ bridge.
Why this celebration now? Because, Mother had donated her body to the Texas Medical Center after her death, we didn’t have a family gathering to celebrate her life. It was our understanding that Mother’s ashes would be sent to us 2-3 years after her death. As it turned out, we didn’t receive her ashes till this past May.
Several months after Mother’s death we got word that her brother, J.C. had died. I knew immediately we were going to Alabama. How I know just how important it was to bring closure on the Mother’s life. While in Alabama, Joy and I made a point of going to Lincoln, then two miles out to the county church and cemetery in Refuge. She was always at her happiest when talking about her childhood in Alabama, even more so during her last days with us. She always wanted to go back, but knew she would only be able to in her vision of those childhood memories. It doesn’t go unnoted that with the importance of Hall Cemetery in Refuge, Alabama, Mother didn’t desire to be buried there. For her, a higher priority was to give her body to medicine.
While visiting Hall Cemetery, I wanted so to turn around and see two little girls playing in the cemetery on the hill – to see the man in black with the big dog – to hear the laughing, and see the joy when the big dog came running to the children. Instead, Joy and I walked silently, on this sunny fall morning through the small cemetery on the hill, which now represents the burial-place of the last surviving member of the Confederate army. As fate would have it, as we walked through Hall Cemetery, a black dog appeared.
By making the journey to Hall Cemetery, I have for my life captured the feeling of two little girls laughing and playing in a world that never vanished from Mother’s vision of happiness. Real or not, it was real for her – now it is real for me, and I might add, Joy.
A Celebration Of Life
“When the child was a child, it didn’t know
It was a child
Everything for it was filled with life and all life was one
When the child, when the child
The child, child, child, child, child
And on and on and on and on, etc. And onward
With a sense of wonder
Upon the highest hill. Upon the highest hill
When the child was a child
Are you there
Up on a highest hill
When the child was a child, was a child, was a child
Was a child, was a child, was a child, etc.
… and it’s still quivering there today”
from, Song of Being A Child
Music by Van Morrison, Words by Peter Handke