Aunt Lilly

30 01 2012

Time to introduce you to another of my “Hero Travelers of the Rock Road.” Meet Great Aunt Lilly, youngest daughter to John Wesley and Emazetta Marshall. She was one of the five eldest members of my relation who were the pillars that seemed to hold us all together as a family. Sweet Lilly was the last of the “Old Guard” (as I lovingly refer to them) to pass away. If she were with us today, she’d be a young 96 years old. Outside of my kinfolk, I would doubt if there were 50 to 100 other people that even knew of her existence. Lilly never married and the times she left her mountain home to visit other regions could be count on both hands with fingers left over. She once held a civil service job, along with her sister Pearl, which took her to the Chesapeake Bay region for a short time. Her mother, Emazetta, was living with another sister, Virgie (Don’t you just love those names?!!) and was in poor health, so Lilly returned to West Virginia to help care for her and then for Virgie’s husband when he became ill. Except for a few short trips with family she never ventured away again and spent the majority of her life caring for others. I would call it a safe guess that if you accumulated all of Lilly’s wages over her lifetime, it probably would not amount to one year’s earned capital for the average middleclass family. Not what you call a fascinating life, huh? Sounds like a pretty boring existence, right? Sit back with your coffee friend and keep reading.

As a boy visiting the booming metropolis of Rock, West Virginia, I was always excited to see family again. I knew when we got the house the first one out the door to greet us with a big smile and loving hug would be Aunt Lilly. She had the most natural beam of delight to her face that I have known with only a few others. Hers was a laugh that filled a room and echoed pleasantly above others. Whenever company came, you would find her busy looking after whatever needed to be done, not because she had to, but because she wanted to. Tending to the needs of others brought her sheer delight. She was a sweet soul, so gentle she wouldn’t have known how to be mean or say a cross word. That was proven in a small way the time she captured a mouse in the kitchen. Gently picking the tiny rodent up by the tail, she took it to the backdoor and carefully sat it outside with no thought that it probably would find its way back in the house again!

Where Lilly lived with her sister, Virgie was just up the hill from their brother, Sam. Between the 2 houses was a huge yard where all we kids would play. The adults would visit on the front porch and shout out warnings about not getting too rambunctious, but not dear old Lilly. I noticed whenever she took a moment to sit and watch, it was done with a smile across her face and softness in her eyes that left me to wonder if maybe she was remembering a time of youthful revelry with her own siblings. One of the most interesting traits about Great Aunt Lilly is what I refer to as HHIS (High Hidden Intellectual Syndrome). Like many from her era, she did not finish a formal education, but her understanding and comprehensive abilities were uncanny. She had the ability to read a book, newspaper or article, watch something on television or listen to a radio program, and then relate all she had learned back, verbatim. A friend of mine came along for a visit once and I found him into a rather deep conversation on a subject they had both read about in the media. When we left I jokingly rebuked my friend accusing him of trying to bulldoze my Lilly with his knowledge. “Are you kidding,” he said, “She stayed step for step with me knowing all the same issues I had read, she missed her calling for higher education in my opinion.” Dr. Great Aunt Lilly, I like the sound of that. :o) All kidding aside, it is my belief that Lilly would have passed up full-ride scholarships to the most prestigious universities in the country had they been offered if it meant giving up what she did best, what she love best, caring for others.

When I was quite young, I was playing in the gulley just below the house there in Rock. Something scared me and I turned to run only to fall hard into some thorny bushes. It was Aunt Lilly to rescue! She parted the bush with her bare hands, snatched me up and carried me back to the house where she treated my wounds with medicine and my fears with long loving hugs. Moving forward some 25 years, I was back in West Virginia for the funeral of her sister and my Great Aunt Pearl, the closest person to me in the world at that time. Here I was, almost 30 years old, and all I wanted to do was cry. The only person that could bring comfort to the man-child was Lilly. There were no great words of encouragement like so many offered that helped my sadness. It was the warm, comforting embrace of love and caring that only she could offer that consoled and began the healing process in me. It was there that God knew I needed to be, in the arms of the Marshall Family Angel.

When Lilly passed away, I remember a story Pearl told me. They had been together up in Maryland when the call came for Lilly to go home. As much as Pearl did not want to see her go, she knew she had to; she was needed, so she boarded the train for home. I am of the opinion that a time came when Lilly’s work was finally done here; she had served others, and she had served her Lord with a smile on her face and a laugh that still echo through the halls of my memory as well as others I’m sure. We wanted to keep her here, but it was time for her to board the train, it was time for Lilly to go Home!

How many of you have a Lilly, or an angel in your life, aren’t they awesome?!! How many of you have been called to serve? You’re a hero to someone you know? :o) In my world and belief, its looked at as pure joy and the highest of callings; Romans 12:10-13.

They wear so many faces

Show up in so many strange places

Grace us with their mercy

In our time of need

Oh, yes I believe there was an angel among us,

Sent down to us from heaven up above.

She came to you and me in our darkest hours

She showed us how to live

She taught us how to give

And she guided us with her love.


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