Nashville History

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

One of Twelve

I have always loved the poem "We Are Seven" by William Wordsworth, because it makes me think of my Mama and the love she had for all of her sisters and brothers.  Mama always proudly proclaimed that she was one of twelve children.  They were by name; Edwin, Lorena, Lola Mae, Paul, Neva, Ila Ruth, Felix, Bob, Mary, Gerald, Raymond and Walter.  All lived to adulthood with the exception of one.  Ila Ruth, the sixth child, was born on July 4th 1925 and died fourteen months later, on September 15, 1926.  

My Mama was barely seven when Ila Ruth died and she never forgot her nor stopped loving her.  Six more children were born after Ila Ruth died.  Recently the youngest of the siblings, Walter, passed away.  At the funeral, the minister announced that Walter was one of eleven children. It was not the minister's mistake.  Someone in the family passed that information to him.   During  the graveside service, I looked across the cemetery, in the direction of Ila's Ruth grave.  Mama and all of her siblings, through word and action, wanted to ensure that Ila Ruth would be remembered.  The family was very poor when she died and they could not buy a grave stone but they remembered her and passed those memories to their children.  The children born after Ila Ruth, decided a few years ago to purchase a stone to mark her grave.  

Tonight I am sharing with all my cousins, in memory of our aunt Ila Ruth, one of twelve children, a beautiful baby girl with blue eyes, much loved by her parents, Pat and Minnie and by her brothers and sisters.  

We Are Seven
By William Wordsworth
—A simple child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
—Her beauty made me glad.

"Sisters and brothers, little maid,
How many may you be?"
"How many? Seven in all," she said,
And wondering looked at me.

"And where are they? I pray you tell."
She answered, "Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.

"Two of us in the churchyard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the churchyard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother."

"You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven! I pray you tell,
Sweet maid, how this may be."

Then did the little maid reply,
"Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the churchyard lie,
Beneath the churchyard tree."

"You run about, my little maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the churchyard laid,
Then ye are only five."

"Their graves are green, they may be seen,"
The little maid replied,
"Twelve steps or more from my mother's door,
And they are side by side.

"My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.

"And often after sunset, sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.

"The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.

"So in the churchyard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.

"And when the ground was white with snow
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side."

"How many are you, then," said I,
"If they two are in heaven?"
Quick was the little maid's reply,
"O master! we are seven."

"But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!"
'Twas throwing words away; for still
The little maid would have her will,
And said, "Nay, we are seven!"

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