The Pastor’s Desk-December Newsletter

I shared this post on my Facebook page some two years ago. And I recently shared it again. Some said I should share it with a wider audience. So here goes.

I’ve just been thinking about the holiday season, Thanksgiving and Christmas, of the year 1936. Eighty-five years ago, a little widowed lady was trying to keep food on the table and clothes on the backs of eight youngsters in the middle of the Great Depression. The coal mines had just closed a few years before, leaving her now deceased husband without work. I’ve often wondered as I’ve gotten older how her faith was tested as she dealt with the situation as best she could. If one wanted to call an entire year a disaster, 1936 would have been that year. And it was going to be a long time before this dire situation showed much improvement.

What was so disastrous about that year 1936, you ask? June 26, 1936- her 41st birthday, she lost her mother-in-law. Two weeks later, on July 8, 1936, she lost her mother. The next day, July 9th, as the family gathered there at the Eastland Cemetery for her mother’s burial service, a sudden storm came up. Her beloved husband had been holding the baby standing under a tree in the cemetery. As the wind increased, the thunder began to roll, and the lightning began to flash, he passed the little one, my mother’s youngest sister, Aunt Alma, through the car window to her mother.

He took his place back under the tree with some of the other men to wait out the storm. Suddenly, a huge flash of lightning shot from the sky, striking the very tree where gathered those men. Three of those men were knocked to the ground by the bolt of lightning. One of those men being her husband, another being her brother. The last being a neighbor. Her husband lay dead from the massive lightning strike and her brother was knocked senselessly. He would pass away the following February of 1937 in the coal mines in Kentucky, never having fully recovered from being struck.

Skipping ahead a few months, here come the holidays. Eight children were left at home, the oldest boy just 17 years of age. “I’ll bet he was a big help to his mother,” you’re probably thinking. Well, think again. He was a deaf mute and would soon leave home, his destination being the Tennessee School for the Deaf. Don’t you know that little widow lady’s faith and will was certainly tested? Now you’re probably wondering who was this little widowed lady? Well, she was my “tough as nails” little grandmother Maude Crawford Watley Bolin. To me and 29 other grandchildren, she was “Fat Granny.” I have no idea how she came to be called that because, at least in my eyes, she was not fat. To many nieces and nephews, she was Aunt Maude. She came from hearty stock, she had to be tough to bear the burdens of widowhood with eight mouths to feed. She went on to live on this earth almost 95 years, passing away June 5, 1990, three weeks to the day, shy of her 95th birthday and almost 54 years after the passing of her coal miner husband. Late in life, she finally remarried. But her second husband soon preceded her in death, also.