Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Life Lived Well

Adelia Gould (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people."
~ Thich Nhat Hanh (Vietnamese Monk, Activist and Writer. b.1926)
Adelia Gould Crouse was my great-aunt; aunt to my father, sister of my grandfather. She died in January of 2000 at the age of 104 after having lived in three centuries.

Aunt Delia (everyone called her that, even the great nieces and nephews)was a spitfire by all accounts. She carried the flame red hair of the Gould clan and the fiery temperament to match. Aunt Delia trained as a nurse and served as such during World War I. My dad credits her for saving his brother's life as a young child and for having a hand in saving his when he became septic as a baby, not only with her nursing skills but with her deep faith as well. He tells that while he was almost lifeless with the high fever, Aunt Delia and Grandmother Charity got together a group of the farmer's wives from the local Methodist church and they had an old fashioned 24 hour, round-the-clock prayer meeting on his behalf. You have to remember that in 1928 there were no antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications. Babies died with fever and sepsis. My dad's fever broke and he survived. Aunt Delia lost a baby son, Clifford, in one of the great flu pandemics and her daughter, Phyllis contracted polio but survived.

She outlived two husbands. I never knew her first, but Harry Crouse, her second was as different from Delia as night is from day. He was quiet and easy going, simple spoken and a gentleman. Aunt Delia was forceful, outspoken and always seemed to me like an unbridled whirlwind force of nature. Maybe it was the red hair. She told you exactly what she thought if you asked her opinion and often did so even when you didn't ask.

Aunt Delia loved music. She played the piano at Shouse Chapel for church and the violin as well. My Aunt Laura Beth led the singing and my Uncle Jerry was the Sunday School leader many years. This was a country church with a circuit preacher that came every second or third Sunday in the month. Other Sundays they just had Sunday School or if we were visiting, Dad preached. The little church always seemed to run 29; for years. Ninety percent of the congregation was related to the Goulds in some way, shape or form. When I was 10 Aunt Delia gave me her violin to keep "as long as I took lessons". I took for three years and then stopped. She asked for it back in her straightforward manner. I would have expected no less.

She was not the greatest cook in comparison with my grandmother and others of her generation. In this we are quite a bit alike. Aunt Delia loved rhubarb pie and she thought she made the best rhubarb pie in the county; but obviously she had not ever entered one in the local fair. My mom loves rhubarb pie. Delia trying to warmly welcome her into the family baked one. Dad tried to warn my mother, but to no avail. Mom ate the pie out of courtesy but it was hard. You see Aunt Delia never learned how to get enough sugar or mix other sweet berries with the rhubarb to get it past the "tear up your parotids from the sour" mode. Dad said we should always avoid her gooseberry pie too.

Aunt Delia's body wore out long before her mind. She lived in a retirement home in Effingham, Illinois for many years but remained active in a Bible study group there. She welcomed visits from her family, but if these ran into her Bible study group time, she would cut things short and be off in a jiffy. She had her funeral planned, arrangements made and even her burial clothes ready; her wishes delivered by handwritten notes in her Bible and pinned to selected items. Her health had taken a dramatic downhill turn the Christmas of 1999 and then my grandfather died. My dad went to see her after the funeral to break the news. She recognized him but called him by the childhood name she gave him, "Lornie". Her mind had been a bit confused but it registered that her brother Harmon was gone. She only lived for a month after his death.

Aunt Delia, born in 1896, had wanted to see the new century and she did. Her work on earth was done and she went home. She was buried in her nurses uniform. She had a crisp new white one ready in her closet. Her nursing pins were neatly attached as was her Women's Christian Temperance Union pin. She had scripture marked in her worn Bible for her funeral and was buried in the family plot at Shouse Chapel near her homestead.

It amazes me to think of everything she experienced and saw come into being during those 104 years. She saw the advent of the electric light, telephone service, cars, airplanes, antibiotics, blood transfusions, indoor plumbing, television, and radio for that matter. She lived through two world wars, the Korean and Viet Nam wars and even the first Gulf War. She was alive at the time of the infamous Chicago mobsters and Eliot Ness, watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and saw women get the right to vote. So many moments to fit into one lifetime.

Adelia Gould Crouse was a remarkable woman and I am so grateful to have known her.

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