Today, in 1969, 45 years ago, my great-grandmother, Mary Belle Jones Clary, died. I got to know this great-grandmother, and spent a good deal of time with her. Grandma Belle, for me, was known as “Grandma Coo-coo.” In fact, they were both Grandma & Grandpa Coo-coo.
As a toddler, Grandpa Garrett/Coo-coo, would take me over to their coo-coo clock, and wind the hands so the coo-coo bird would come out to sing for me. Thus, I affectionately associated this dear couple with the coo-coo clock.
I can still vividly remember Grandma Belle. She was one of the most gentle souls I’ve ever known, and possessed, perhaps, the largest of hearts known to many in our home town of Elwood, Indiana.
She was raised in Boone Township, just a few miles north of Elwood, in Madison County. There she lived all but the last six years of her life. In 1966, Grandma & Grandpa Clary retired from farming, and moved into Elwood, a few blocks north of where I grew up on Main & Ninth Streets.
Grandma Belle’s daughter, my maternal grandmother, Donna Clary Barmes, babysat me a good deal during my toddler years, and we spent a good deal of time with Grandma Belle. She had a tender heart, and always made room for me on her lap, holding me there with tight, loving hugs. Her eyes were always filled with light, and her smiles were never interrupted.
I can still remember this day, 45 years ago. I was four and one half years old, but the day remains with me.
Grandma Belle had been ill for quite a spell, and I was at her home the day they took her to the hospital for the last time. I can remember her turning to me from where she lay on the gurney, and smiling. “I love you, Sweetie.” That was the last time I saw her.
That Wednesday, I was with Mother as she ran some errands. She’d stayed the night at the hospital with Grandma Belle, and Grandpa Garrett. We had just returned from the hair dresser, and entered the house as the phone was ringing. Mother answered the phone, still holding the round, shiny black container that held her “fall” (a hairpiece). I was standing by the front door, still wearing my coat, and saw the container drop to the floor. I knew something was wrong, but could not interpret the muffled conversation.
Mother pulled me onto the sofa, and explained that Grandma Coo-coo had gone to heaven with the angels. I don’t remember my reaction 45 years ago, but today, tears fill my eyes.
The funeral, like this day 45 years ago, has not dimmed. I remember the heavy rain showers that followed her death, melting the extensive snow. It rained, too, the day we bid the dear soul farewell, and I remember my Aunt Vivian (Jones), Grandma Belle’s sister-in-law, saying, “Even the angels are crying with us, today.”
Whenever rain accompanies a death, I always think of the angels shedding tears.
I was a lucky little chap to have known so many of my preceding generations. In fact, until a few years ago, I still had a good deal of my great-great uncles and aunts living, and a tremendous amount of great-uncles and aunts.
I was even luckier to have briefly known Grandma Coo-coo. I have no doubts the choirs of angels sang her to her rest 45 years ago, and that she immediately joined their chorus.
Another great-grandmother, Thelma Daugherty Barmes, died seven years before I arrived on the scene. She, too, died in January. Grandma Thelma, the mother of my maternal grandfather, Leroy Barmes, was a vocalist and pianist.