In the one-thing-leads-to-another category, yesterday I found myself combing through a document my great aunt had written about her parents many years ago. I'm sure I had read all this before (and in fact much of it probably appeared in an autobiography that my aunt published for family about 20 years ago), but I felt as though I were reading the information for the first time.
Chalk it up to mid-life reflection and a host of other things, but I find that I am hungry to know more about the people whose lives have a direct bearing on my existence whether through my gene pool or the impact of relationships.
Such is the case with Sudie, my maternal great-grandmother. She is of special interest to me for several reasons. She is my mother's mother's mother, and as women know, the influence of our mothers on our lives has perhaps the most profound and significant impact on shaping what we believe and how we find our way to who we become. Of all my progenitors from that generation, Sudie takes center stage. She is also my closest link, in terms of kin, to Tennessee. She was born in 1869 and raised in Bedford County, about an hour from where I now live. I attribute my love for this state (geographically), to the genetic memory I carry from Sudie. As I unearth and become familiar with old family photos I wonder more and more about the woman behind the deep-set eyes. Reading the words that follow serve both to satisfy my hunger and whet my appetite for more. The first paragraph are the observations of my aunt; the remainder from my grandmother.
Meet Miss Sudie:
"Mother had a remarkable memory and intellect... she never seemed to forget any information she acquired. She had an extraordinary facility with words. Perhaps some of us inherited that from her. She was never at a loss to define, pronounce correctly, or spell any word. Her mathematical skill was close to genius; she could solve any mathematical problem. She never forgot her Latin and was able to translate any amount of information about plants and their botanical names. She often said that if she had not married she would like to have become a landscape architect, or a pipe organist."
"I believe the underlying source of Mother's endurance, her patience, the interests of her life, was her deep, genuine religious faith. The faith that enabled her to live just long enough to have taken care of Daddy to the end. The faith which gave her strength to get up at night when she was suffering from what I later believed to have been angina, and go to Daddy's bedside when he said to her, "Miss Sudie, do something to make me feel more comfortable." The faith that kept her private devotions of daily importance, which led her to continue family prayers without Daddy, even if it were only for herself and Fanny; faith which supplied the energy to teach a Sunday School class of only two or three black children at Melrose on Sunday mornings when there was no other Sunday School for them to attend. The faith that gave her face that spiritual beauty."
"I can't think of an other person I have known who had Mother's kind of faith: one that was never conspicuous or intrusive, but one that permeated her entire life, adding strength to her gentleness, endurance to her delicacy and a genuine love to her interest in other people. It is my conviction that this faith was developed and strengthened over her lifetime and must have been the outgrowth of intense suffering at some point."
"When you consider her as a very particular and excellent housekeeper, a gracious hostess of unlimited hospitality, a tender and devoted mother, a serene and loving wife and nurse, and combine these attributes with those of a manager of farms and business, a leader in church work, and a moving spirit in community uplift, it seems an almost incredible combination. Yet she never sacrificed her gentleness of character and her sweetness of nature to the sterner demands of her life."
How blessed I am to have such a woman impact my life. What a challenge it is to emulate her!