Only after her death did I learn a little about the life of Marie Burns Powell. After he responded to a column I wrote, David Allen and I became friends via email. When Marie Powell died, David wrote that he had been sending my columns to her. Now, he sends them to her son. David attached a speech Marie had delivered in a small church. She told stories of how the world was more than 80 years ago. Following is the heart of her informative, moving talk:
"Here we are again on beautiful . . . Green Hill. The older I get (I just turned 90 in February), the more precious this little church and cemetery become."
She said Sam Burns, a Methodist minister, was her father, who married a second time to Iona Rexroad, her mother. He died of a heart attack in 1928, leaving a widow and seven children.
She said, "His casket was placed here."
Only 6, Marie was the youngest, and her brother, Reese, 16, was the oldest.
"All of the Burns relatives attended the funeral. Good, poor Christian people making room for one more in their families. 'I'll take that one.' 'I'll take this one.' "
Judy Burns was Marie's grandmother. Her combination living room-bedroom was also the Hettie post office. Marie said, "A cabinet sat against the wall and held the mail. Everyone came to collect mail and sit by the fire . . . My grandmother sat in her chair . . . and after a while she would say, 'It's time for you to go now.' Wouldn't you like to say that to your guests sometimes? They would politely get up and go.
"We children were separated, going into homes where aunts and uncles had . . . children . . . We learned to take whatever was given us, quietly getting used to being second best . . .
"Reese and I lived with Billy Burns, a Methodist minister in Jane Lew. In 1930 . . . hobos came to the kitchen . . . They were given fried egg sandwiches and cups of coffee. Grateful, they . . . worked to pay for it . . . Then came Memorial Day. My grandfather would bring us here for the summer. We'd be together again for 3 months . . . and not wear shoes again until Labor Day when we left our beautiful Green Hill for 9 more months with our relatives.
"In 1933, on Thanksgiving, our wonderful grandmother died in her sleep at 87. I was 10. In those days, they had 'wakes,' an all-night watch kept beside the corpse.
"The casket was placed in the parlor. Above the parlor on the second floor was a bedroom . . . I (slept) in that room. The women around the fire began talking about omens — and the talk became weirder . . . There was a birthday cake for my grandmother with one candle burning. A hand mysteriously came out of nowhere and snuffed out the candle. After this, they knew my grandmother would die. I lay in that bed scared to death . . .
"Her relatives came for the funeral. Her casket was placed here.