August 16, 2022

A Tribute to Miss Carrie

Charles D. "Pedro" Williams, MD, FACR

Miss Carrie had been good to me when I was a kid. She had a better character and was more forgiving than most of us. She loved the South and she loved Pedro.

When she passed away in 1953, I waited in the churchyard at her funeral until everybody had gone into the church. I didn't want anybody to see me if I cried, so I sat down on the last pew. I'd get emotional at funerals, especially if it was somebody who had been good to me when I was a kid.

Miss Carrie always wore a bandana around her head and most of the time her apron pocket kept her snuff and some goodies for us young'uns. She cared for my younger sister when Mama got sick. One time she held my hand when I fell down and cried.

When she passed away, she didn't have a husband or any close kin and was nearly 85. Living alone was hard for a black lady in the South in the 1950s. All her life she lived in the country. Picking cotton in the hot summer months, tending her garden, milking her cow, feeding her chickens, churning and cooking.

She loved to cook and she loved to eat and she loved her collard greens. Her country ham with red-eye gravy was the best. The upper part of her arms were four times bigger than the lower part of her arms. They shook when she laughed, and she laughed at Pedro's stories.

Miss Carrie always found time to wash clothes and boil them outdoors in a black wash pot. She sang hymns as she did her chores around the house. She also found time for us young'uns. She kept some dogs, which were mixed breeds like most dogs in the South, and when she called they came running with their noses up in the air. They loved Miss Carrie.

The preacher came in and my mind returned to the little, white, country church. My eyes noticed the casket. It was silver with white handles. Miss Carrie was dressed in a beautiful blue dress, which was her favorite color. Her hair was as gray as an aluminum cooking pot, and she seemed to be smiling.

The silver-headed preacher said, "Now, let us pray,” and then spoke about finding comfort and strength in the hope that there is life beyond what we know. He also mentioned something about a home on the other side of the river where the streets are paved with gold.

Some friends then carried her out the church doors, and we made our way through the churchyard to a tent that stood over an open grave. As I looked into the hole in the ground, I was reminded that life is only temporary. We know this early in life, but somehow we keep it to one side of our brains.

We then sang, "When the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there," and the preacher said a final prayer. I felt a tear when the dirt made a loud thud on her casket. All the people and all the cars left, and I walked slowly to mine.

The sun was setting behind the pine trees. I heard a noise and noticed three dogs running out of the corn fields with their noses up in the air. They headed straight to the fresh dirt. I shivered as the sun went down — Miss Carrie, a new grave, Pedro and three lonely dogs.

The chapter had closed on another wonderful life in South Georgia. Miss Carrie held my hand for a little while but she'll hold my heart forever.