Saying Goodbye to the Old Guard

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by Sharon M. Kennedy

NOTE: The following newspaper column was published in May of this year. Today at 11:47 a.m. my beloved cousin, Mary Cryderman Cobb, left this world to join her loved ones in the Great Beyond. Her daughter, Patty Ann, called and asked me to say goodbye while Mary was still with us. It was an honor to hold her hand for the last time and kiss her brow. The photo at the bottom of the page is of her daughter, Joy Anderson, holding her mother’s hand as she slipped away. Godspeed, dear cousin. We love you.

I was visiting my cousin the other day and our conversation turned to a topic we often discuss, what I refer to as the “Old Guard.” There aren’t many of us first cousins left. Mary Cobb, the lady I visited, is 93. Her first marriage occurred in 1947, the year of my birth. With such a large difference in our ages, I never had the opportunity to get to know her until a few years ago when she invited me to her home. It was quite an experience. I met some of her family who are my second and third cousins previously unknown to me. They’re a lively bunch who treasure their mother/grandmother and showed kindness and respect towards me, something I never received from first cousins who lived a stone’s throw away when I was growing up.

As we head towards summer and daylight lingers, Mary likes to sit on her porch and enjoy the sunshine. We tease her about getting a tan. She loves to watch birds at the feeder and rabbits hopping in the yard. This spring, ducklings felt the soft touch of Mary’s hands as she petted them when her son, Duane Ordiway, purchased them from Tractor Supply for Mary’s enjoyment. Like so many of us oldsters, she, too, grew up on a farm and remembers ducklings, newborn chicks, piglets, calves, and foals. Most barnyards are silent now, but when we were young, they were filled with the sounds of life.

Since the pandemic, I’ve been thinking about death a lot. Actually, that’s not quite true. It’s something I’ve thought about since I was a young child. Growing up on a farm, death is a given. In the 1950s, vets weren’t always able to save a cow or horse. Dogs chased cars and were doomed when they landed underneath the tires. Cats chased and caught wild rabbits. Sows suffocated piglets when they inadvertently rolled over on them. Too many frisky tomcats meant too many kitten litters had to die shortly after birth.

Mary lost her older sister a month ago. Last year another first cousin, who was 89, died. When we turn to the obits in the newspaper, we never know which relative will be next to go. We’re not placing any bets, though, because if we go first, we’re not likely to settle the debt. It’s a strange feeling knowing we have many decades behind us and so few years to look forward to.

When the Old Guard is gone, who will be left to tell our stories? If we haven’t written them down, they’ll leave with us. Mary recorded many daily events in her life. One day her children will type what she had written and her legacy of love, compassion, and generosity will never be forgotten.

As spring grudgingly gives way to summer, I’ll visit Mary more often. We’ll sit on her porch and reminisce. That’s the beauty of growing old. Before the Creator calls us home, we have time to spend with loved ones and remember those who are no more.

           Joy holding her monther’s hand


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