CHILDREN AND DEATH
Helping children deal with the death of someone dear makes us feel unsure and anxious. What are the right things to do and say? Recent experiences at the funeral home involving young children brought back thoughts of my own first experience with death.
When I was almost eight years old, my twenty-month-old brother was killed in an automobile accident. I had cared for Matt while Mother worked in the fields and garden and did housework. Caring for him was not a burden to me. I was at an age when I enjoyed playing with dolls, and Matt was like a doll — only better because he was real. He was a precious, lovable little boy. He was not a strong, healthy baby, and he needed very close attention. He and I spent many hours swinging on the porch, dropping grains of corn to the chickens, going to Aunt May Dentons to visit with her and her children, and playing house under the big shade tree.
The day Matt was killed began happily enough with plans for a family gathering typical of those days, which was to be at Uncle Edwin Houston’s in Denmark, While Mother was preparing the food we would take for the noon meal, Daddy and Matt went down the hill to Mr. Walter Denton’s to visit. When they came back, Matt was very excited about his "money". Uncle Dewey Denton had given him two shiny buffalo nickels.
As sometimes happens, we left home a complete, happy family —and much later that night we came home a heartbroken family without baby Matt. In the afternoon. Mother, Matt, Jim, and I were riding on to Houston, Mississippi, for an overnight visit with Grandfather Hardin and some of Daddy’s other relatives when the accident occurred just south of Pontotoc.
When we got home, relatives and friends gathered to reach out in love and comfort. A warm fire was burning, food was prepared, love was abundant; but throughout the house Matt’s things — his one-piece striped coveralls with the red buttons, his little red rubber car-car, the two new nickels —reminded us of our loss.
Mother was the only other one seriously injured, and she was confined to bed for some time. She was able with assistance to attend the funeral service. Recently one of those kind neighbors shared with me how brave she felt Mother was as she lay there, saying she wanted Matt to have some little flowers and a sweet little outfit to be buried in.
When Mr. Douglas brought the little casket in, it was placed before a window in a room across the hallway from Mother’s bedroom. Those who came went in to see Matt and then went to tell Mother how sweet he looked. Eventually they helped Mother to go see him.
It was easy for an eight-year-old to be overlooked, especially when that was the child’s desire. I didn’t know how Matt could look sweet after the scene at the wreck and now that he was dead, all sorts of things went through my mind. How do "dead" babies look? I really did not want to know. Mrs. Mary Hodge took me aside and reminded me how Matt had looked when mother dressed him in his little navy blue short pants and shirt and how he had looked when I rocked him to sleep, and she assured me that he looked just that way now. She encouraged, but did not insist, that I go in to see Matt. . .I wanted to see him but did not either — I was just so confused. Mother and Daddy were no doubt so distraught they did not know what to do about me at this particular time. Miss Mary and I walked up to the little casket. It was so very pretty. The outside looked like it was covered with frosted flowers and the inside was beautiful — all white and ruffled. Just like Miss Mary said, Matt looked like he was asleep. I was puzzled by the pretty live flowers that had been put on the casket although it was wintertime; I didn’t know about florists then. So many things just did not fit together in my mind.
I don’t remember the service or even being inside the church or at the cemetery. The one memory I have of the day of the funeral is a dear family friend. Clarence Brown, coming to the car when we were leaving to go to the church. He, Daddy, and Mother all cried and cried, and he said, "Jess, I am going to sing that song if I can." Mother said, "Oh, Clarence, please do." I just did not understand singing being that important to anyone. (The song was "Gathering Buds.")
When it was time for me to go back to school, Mother called me to her bed and told me, "If anyone talks about Matt and you don’t want to, you don’t have to say anything." I remember having a strange feeling that my little friends looked the other way when I looked at them but that when I wasn’t looking, they stared at me. It made me very uncomfortable.
Several months later in the spring Mother and Daddy bought the store at Delay, and Mother became the postmistress. In later years Daddy told me Mother had needed to be more involved. We lived in the back of the store building. One day I went into the kitchen, walked up to Mother as she sat churning with her Bible on her lap. I asked her what she was reading and, when she read it to me, it was about a place with many mansions that Jesus was getting ready for us and Mother said that Matt was there already. Still, there was so much I didn’t understand. Matt was in the pretty little casket in that grave in the cemetery. It was just too much for my young mind. I remember not wanting to question Mother because she was already so sad so much of the time.
We all missed Matt so much. Our family was crushed. I feel sure I had no conception of my parents’ feelings. I do know that from that time on our home was more Christ-centered. Ministers from several denominations preached at the schoolhouse at Delay, and we usually went to preaching. After Matt’s death, we went every time there were services at Delay or New Prospect over at Yocona, and Daddy said a blessing before each of our meals. My parents had been reared in Christian homes, and our home life had been good, but Matt’s death made a definite difference.
I remember Mother’s telling that she was helped especially by Mrs. Gena Calloway’s "Fairview Echoes," published in the Oxford Eagle and that she corresponded with Mrs. Calloway. Mr. Vettra Alderson’s daughter-in-law shared a letter with me which my mother wrote the Aldersons on December 5, 1939, at the time of the death of their little boy.
When Daddy died in 1968 and Ava and I began moving things from their house, the small box containing the blue pants and shirt Matt was wearing at the time of the accident, his coveralls, car, and nickels, even the teething ring which Daddy had whittled from a tire, were carefully packed away. Too, Mother had saved the sympathy cards. Notes, the few flower cards, and newspaper clippings. This box now has a very special place in a closet of my house. My memories of Matt have their very own place in my heart.
Times may change things but not the sting of death. We all still need the love and support of friends and our faith that God will sustain us through the agony of the loss. Children have special problems dealing with death, and at the funeral home we have books, audiovisual presentations, and brochures to help children through these crises. If you have need for any of this material, please call me.
Featured Employee Bill Briscoe
Our featured employee for this issue is Bill Briscoe, who, in addition to being a valued employee, is our son-in-law.
Bill began working for us in March of 1977. His first day of work was spent clearing the lot for construction of the funeral home.
Bill, the son of Nell and Leslie Briscoe, was born and grew up in the Burgess-Clear Creek Community. He has a sister, Donna, and three brothers, Eddie Mack, Mark, and Dan. His paternal grandparents were Algie Tabor and Joseph Briscoe, and his maternal grandparents are Mrs. Marie Franks Pierce and the late Marvin G. Pierce. Bill and our daughter Susan were married in August of 1976; and they have two daughters, Mary Beth, 8, and Joanna Hardin, 5.
Bill is a 1973 graduate of Lafayette High School, where he lettered in football three years. Formerly he was employed as produce department manager at Liberty Supermarket.
Bill and his family are active members of Clear Creek Baptist Church, where he has served as Associate Sunday School Director and Youth Sunday School and Church Training Leader, and in various leadership roles in the Royal Ambassadors. Presently, he is serving on the Buildings and Grounds Committee, the Cemetery Committee, and the Recreation Committee. Bill and Susan especially enjoy the softball program. Bill is an avid deer hunter with bow, muzzleloader, and gun: and he raises beagles to aid in his hunting.
Bill’s responsibilities include grave site location, preparation of the grave and setting of equipment for graveside services, and placement of flowers before and after graveside services. Bill is also associated with Don in the farming operation.
Bobby Phelps, Bob Rosson, Patsy Waller and Terry Robbins reviewing the pre-arrangement presentation material.
The Best Time To Plan For A Funeral Is Now NOT When You Have To
The value of preplanning funerals is being emphasized nationwide, and we at Waller Funeral Home strongly recommend preplanning to give you peace of mind and security for the future. Pre-arrangement allows you to make decisions at your convenience rather than at the time of need. The pre-arrangement program has many advantages including:
1. Inflation Protection. One national survey predicts funeral costs will triple within the next fifteen years. You can insure yourself against this increase with one of our pre-arrangement plans.
2. Payment Plans. We offer a variety of payment plans so you can choose the type plan that best fits your circumstances.
3. Guaranteed Value. We guarantee equal or better value of the merchandise selected.
4. Insurance. You may be able to incorporate your insurance into the plan you choose with credit given at the time of contract purchase.
5. Credit Life Insurance. Credit Life Insurance is available with certain limitations. This insurance provides for payment of the balance due if death should occur before complete payment has been made.
6. Financial Protection. For our protection as well as yours, all our pre-need funds are fully insured. Families in our area have deposited nearly one quarter of a million dollars with our funeral home for pre-need services, and these funds are completely insured.
7. No Age or Health Requirements. Pre-arrangement is available to anyone without any age limitations or health questions.
8. Professional Presentation. We have an excellent pictorial, factual, step-by-step presentation of the advantages of pre-arrangement available for your viewing. We secured this material from the largest casket manufacturer in the nation.
9. Ease of Obtaining. We are available to help you with pre-arrangement at your convenience.
We will welcome the opportunity to discuss preplanning with you. Just call us at 662-234-7971 or 662-234-6711 for an appointment in your home or at the funeral home.
We dedicate this issue of SEASONS to those who have died and whose families we have served from November 13, 1985 to March 2, 1986.
Mrs. Ruth Thomas Lyles 11-13-85
Mr. Baxter Orr Elliott, Sr. 11-14-85
Mrs. Mattie Home Cooper 11-15-85
Mrs. Emmabel Woodward McNeely 11-22-85
Mrs. Dossie Sparks Baggett 11-27-85
Miss Sara Alice Dale Starks 11-30-85
Mrs. Odell Cook Butler 12-1-85
Mrs. Grace Snellings Chrestman 12-2-85
Mr. Charles Curtis Upchurch 12-3-85
Mr. Ellis H. Leggitt 12-5-85
Mr. D.W. "Webb" Garrison 12-5-85
Mrs. Annie Beard Wilson 12-7-85
Mrs. Zelma Hamilton Hudson 12-9-85
Mrs. Frances Cabaniss Stephens 12-13-85
Mrs. Mary Ada Coleman Purvis 12-13-85
Mr. Charles Cecil Spencer 12-17-85
Mrs. Nora Mitchell Fuller 12-19-85
Mr. John Murdock 12-21-85
Mrs. Mary Clara Tucker 12-26-85
Erin Elizabeth Dillon-Maginnis 1-7-86
Mr. Winfred W. "Wimp" Simpson 1-7-86
Miss Hilda Lester 1-8-86
Mr. Vernon Kellar Brown, Jr. 1-12-86
Mrs. Lina Tallant Young 1-15-86
Mrs. Leona Murchison Hartley 1-18-86
Mrs. Beth Dewbre Smith 1-19-86
Mr. Thomas Webb Avent 1-29-86
Mr. James S. Brown 2-14-86
Mrs. Mary Belle Lancaster Ragland 2-15-86
Allen Blake Holmes 2-15-86
Mrs. Nellie Gordon Locke 2-16-86
Mr. Donnie Oscar Hipp, Jr. 2-18-86
Mr. Robert Lee Rhea 2-19-86
Miss Mahala Saville 2-19-86
Mr. Charles Catchings Hathorn 2-21-86
Mrs. Julia Grace Schwinn 2-23-86
Mr. Emmitt William Tubbs 2-25-86