Woman a snapshot of grief, resiliency
By Denise Crosby email@example.com August 16, 2013 1:19PM
Ida Evans, who will turn 100 next February, visits the grave of her youngest child, Edie Weeks, for the first time as Edie's own daughter, Jerri Lynn Baker, looks on. | Submitted
Sometimes, even a submitted picture can be worth a thousand words.
That’s what went through my mind after Jerri Lynn Baker emailed to me this photo taken at the gravesite of her mother Edie Weeks, who passed away two years ago.
I had done a column in the spring about Baker’s battle with a monument company that seemed in no hurry to finish her mother’s marker (until the story was published). And Baker wanted to share this picture with me, she said, because it captured the first time her grandmother, Ida Evans, was able to visit her own daughter’s grave at Helmar Cemetery .
Ida is almost 100 years old — she will celebrate that century mark next February — and she also suffers from a degenerative eye disease that has stolen most of her sight. Because it’s difficult for her to get around, she rarely leaves her Plano home. Which is why she did not go to the cemetery when her youngest was laid to rest on Aug. 2, 2011.
But on the two-year anniversary of Edie’s death, shortly after the monument was installed, she asked her granddaughter to take her to the grave for the first time.
“Grandma sat there for a while,” said Baker. “She wanted me to point out the butterflies to her. Then she began to cry.”
The photo does not show Ida’s tears because her back is to the camera held by Baker’s son Aden. But even then, this photo captures more than loss. It tells a story of a hiccup in life’s natural order of progression.
Ida has outlived all three of her offspring, all of whom died of cancer; as did her husband in 1995. She also lost a little sister, age 9, to typhoid fever, as well as a 19-year-old brother who was killed in Africa during World War II.
Not that long ago, Ida revealed to loved ones she found out her younger brother was dead through a letter from one of his buddies, but was asked to keep the news to herself until her father received official word from the government almost two months later.
Imagine holding in such grief for so long, not being able to share it with even the closest of family.
In her century on this earth, Ida has faced tremendous loss, although nothing can be more profound than the death of a child … no matter the age. I know that because the very elderly I’ve interviewed over the years have expressed that sentiment ... and they often do so with tears in their eyes. That includes my own grandmother who had to bury all three of her sons, including my father.
“This is not the way it is supposed to be,” she told us. “I should have died first.”
That’s why family members, including Edie Weeks herself, tried to keep the news from Ida that her last living child was also losing her battle to cancer.
Baker said her mother, who still wanted to take part in the Plano Memorial Day parade despite growing so much weaker, even avoided going past Ida’s house on the parade route so her mom would not see her in a wheelchair.
Toward the end, however, “I think Grandma knew,” said Baker. So the family made plans days before Edie died for her mother to see her daughter one last time.
Although she attended the funeral, Ida Evans did not go to graveside services. After the marker was finally installed, she asked her granddaughter to take her to the cemetery on the anniversary of Edie’s death.
“I can’t believe it has been two years,” she whispered as she stared at the grave.
Then, as she began to cry, Baker said, the skies grew darker and the downpour began. By the time they returned home, however, the rain had ceased. And Jerri Lynn Baker wants to think it’s her mom’s way of keeping them from grieving for too long.
Baker knows that her grandmother, despite the grandchildren still around her, is lonely. But one thing she’s proven over the years is that while grief can hurt, it does not necessarily weaken.
“My grandmother has survived a lot,” said Baker. “She is an incredibly strong woman.”