At one time or another, as creatures of creation, we will all face a storm. The storm may be rocky, or it may be smooth. It is up to us as beings of existence to recognize when a storm is approaching. We all deal with our storms in our own personal manners of difference.
The Strong's, is a story of a family who faced many storms. No matter how great, their faith remarkably carried them through each and every storm. Walking into a storm blindsided, indubitably causes destruction, pain, and even death. As with any other challenge, preparation is the key in overcoming unbearable situations.
We must ask ourselves, if a mighty and great storm came into our lives today, would we be able to weather it?
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By Constance Kinney
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Constance Kinney
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHis head was throbbing with the word, DEAD pounding against his skull.
Kentucky, 1920s ...
It was a bitter and chilly day for 17 year old Jeremiah Strong. The sun had just set and the temperature was quickly dropping. Jeremiah was wrapped as tight as he could get. Before leaving for work, earlier that morning, Jeremiah's mother Ruth made sure that her son wouldn't get frost bite while out working the fields. Every morning before Jeremiah would go off to work, Ruth always prepared for Jeremiah, what he would need for the day. So today wasn't any different.
After working a long treacherous day in the fields, Jeremiah was looking forward to going home. He anxiously anticipated the aroma of stew in the air and the warmness coming from the heater in his home. Actually arriving home was Jeremiah's high point of any day.
As Jeremiah, Harold, Ronnie, and Kent were walking down the trail leading out of the fields, he noticed people running rapidly towards them. The young men didn't know what to make of this. As the people running towards them got closer, Jeremiah noticed who he thought was his cousin Wilton. To his amazement, it was Wilton. He was running so fast that he tripped and fell at Jeremiah's feet. Jeremiah reached down to help Wilton to his feet.
Wilton started rambling so, that Jeremiah had to shake him to get him to calm down. Jeremiah quickly helped Wilton compose himself. Looking at his cousin with an inquisitive eye, Jeremiah asked, "Wilton, what's got you so upset." Wilton still in distress over his news, responded, "Jay, its Tee Ruth!"
"What about Momma, what is it!" asked Jeremiah strongly.
Wilton, with most of the energy ablated from his body, slowly began to tell Jeremiah what the elders had told him about Ruth. Although he dreaded telling Jeremiah, Wilton knew that the news would be better coming from him, other than anyone else.
"LeCester and Marvin, was going down to the bottoms to do some hunting and they seen Tee Ruth laying half way in the creek. She didn't have any clothes on and she was beat up pretty bad," responded Wilton.
Jeremiah heard the words Wilton had spoken, but at the same time, he didn't comprehend what Wilton's words actually meant. With a calming presence, Jeremiah asked, "Wilton, please slow down and tell me what you just said, again."
Wilton repeated the same words to Jeremiah, only slower. "Jay, Tee Ruth is dead; they found her body in the creek down by the bottoms. Come with us, everybody down at the bottoms wanted us to come and get you," said Wilton.
As Jeremiah blankly stared at Wilton's lips moving, his body was anesthetized, with distress. All of a sudden, everything went desensitized around Jeremiah. At this moment, he lost all mental understanding of reality. He was ignorant of all Wilton had said. He no longer saw Wilton, or anyone else next to him. His head was throbbing with the word, DEAD pounding against his skull. Subconsciously, Jeremiah was taken aback. He battled with insane thoughts contemplating within his head: 'Momma is dead ... no Momma is at home waiting on me ... no no no, my Momma is dead' ...
Wilton and the other three boys that were with them, had to physically carry Jeremiah to the church. After arriving, Wilton, Harold, Ronnie, and Kent were instructed by an elderly woman from their town, to keep Jeremiah outside until they had finished preparing Ruth's body for burial. The four young men did as much as they could to try and comfort Jeremiah. All of their efforts where going unheard, for the news Jeremiah had just heard had an abducted his state of being. Realizing that their efforts where unheard, the four young men left him to grieve alone.
There were six women from the town that took on the intricate task of preparing Ruth's body. The oldest of the six, Brenda, covered everything in the church that had a reflection. This was a custom that had been practiced in their culture for many years. Being the oldest of all the women, according to their custom, Brenda had to lead in the preparation of cleaning the deceased. Being such a strong faith filled woman, helped Brenda when it came to matters such as this.
The women were good friends with Ruth, and knew what she would have wanted. Brenda chose a beautiful purple dress for Ruth to be laid to rest in. All the women went into the backroom of the church where the body had been laid. They had gathered all the materials they would need to clean Ruth's body.
Brenda then crouched down next to the table. Next to her was a washbasin full of hot water and lye soap. She had brought with her two white clothes. She took one and soaked it in the hot water. Then she began to clean Ruth from her face, down to her feet. As Brenda continued cleaning Ruth's body, one of the other women began to quietly sing, "Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home, swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home, If you get there before I do, coming for to carry me home, tell all my friends, I'm coming too, coming for to carry me home" ... ... The women continued to sing and hum as they cleaned Ruth's body.
The sight of Ruth's body was deleterious to any eye that rested upon it. Her face and head had been beaten so badly, that as Brenda wiped, portions of her skull and face were coming off onto the cloth. It became so overbearing, that Brenda had to stop wiping and ask God for the strength to continue cleansing Ruth's body. Seeing this was atrocious for the women to absorb, but they all knew that they had to continue. By the time they had finished, they had gone through eight washbasins of hot water. Brenda thought to herself, how anyone could do this to another human being, especially a woman. She couldn't think of anyone in their community who could be responsible for doing this to Ruth. After the body was completely cleaned, they dressed Ruth.
They had did the best they could do to Ruth's body, in order for Jeremiah to view it before the wake. The six women kneeled around Ruth's bed, bowed their heads and began to pray. Since Brenda was the oldest of the women, she led the prayer. The women prayed for over two hours. After they finished praying, Brenda blessed the body and left the room to go obtain Jeremiah. The other women sheltered the body with a large piece of white cloth.
Reality slowly surfaced to Jeremiah's surroundings. The next time his eyes were opened, Jeremiah realized that he was sitting on tree stump next to the church. By now, his eyes were distended and he had omnipotent pains in his head. He had barely enough strength to raise his head to see Brenda standing next to him. She reached out as to help lift him to his feet.
"Jeremiah, it's time for you to go in and say goodbye to your Momma," said Brenda. Jeremiah knew that this moment was coming, but he had not prepared himself physically or mentally to deal with it. With Brenda's help, Jeremiah unhurriedly arose to his feet.
As Brenda stalwartly clutched Jeremiah beneath his under arm, carrying him inside, she knew that this was going to be difficult for him to bear. She offered him as much strength as she had within herself, for his physical and mental state of being. As the two got closer to the back door of the church, angst was rapidly setting in for Jeremiah. He knew on the other side of the door, was the inert body of his Mother. Although he knew his mother was on the other side of the door, veracity assured him that she wasn't alive.
Walking towards the backroom, Jeremiah felt, for every one bodily step that he took forward, he psychologically felt that he was taking two steps backwards. The short distance from the side of the church to the backroom appeared to be perpetual to Jeremiah. As Brenda along with Jeremiah, stood at the door to the backroom, he regrettably pushed the door opened.
"Do you need me to go in with you?" asks Brenda. Holding her hands with a burly clasp, Jeremiah replied, "No mam, I want to go in alone."
Brenda freed herself from Jeremiah's clasp, lovingly kissed his forehead and eased him into the room. She then closed the door behind her and joined the other women in another room in the church to continue praying for Ruth's soul and Jeremiah strength.
As Jeremiah stood there looking across the room at his mother's body covered with a white cloth, numerous thoughts were clouding his inevitable breakdown: 'why Momma ... why me ... why now ... how did this happen ... who did this ... what am I to do without her' ... With his many thoughts, roaring within his head, Jeremiah took the obligatory steps to reach his mother. Once there, he knew he had to pull the cloth back. With ambiguous vision, because of his many tears, Jeremiah fell to the floor next to his mother's body.
Jeremiah's breath was coming and going. He felt as if he had a lump in his throat that was making it hard for him to breath. With one hand, he grasped his own throat to try and lessen the lump. With his entire body trembling, he used his other hand to pull back the cloth from his mother's body. He didn't know what to expect once the cloth had been removed. Gradually pulling the cloth away from his mother, he began to see her hair, then her forehead, then her eyes, then her nose, then her mouth. As his eyes traveled further down her body, he noticed her necklace wasn't around her neck.
Jeremiah knew that the necklace was of great significance to Ruth, because it was the first thing his father had given her. It was given to him by his mother. It was an old Indian necklace that had R.S. carved in one of the stones and Ruth didn't go anywhere without. He figured whomever had done this to his mother must have taken it.
'Who is this, this can't be Momma', he thought to himself. As Jeremiah intensely gazed at what he felt LIFE had given him, his grieve became rage. As he sat there next to his mother's lifeless body, pondering his emotions, he wanted someone to pay for what had happened to his mother.
With anger, hate, and frustration in his heart, Jeremiah laid his head on his mother's chest and openly started talking to her. "Momma don't worry, I'll get whoever did this to you. I don't care what I have to do; somebody is going to pay for this. I'm so sorry I wasn't there to protect you", said Jeremiah.
His emotions were all over the place. He went from rage to sorrow. "I knew I should have come straight home after I left the fields. No, I had to listen to Michael and go see some girls. Momma please come back, please Momma, I need you. I don't want to live here without you. I swear I'll do better. I will make sure not to stay out late, if you just come back," Jeremiah pleaded.
To Jeremiah, his pleas were inaudible. Death was fairly new to him. So he didn't quite understand the actuality of it all. The only other deceased people he knew where his father Seth and his Uncle Joe. Joe was Ruth's only brother, and Wilton's father. At the time of Seth's death, Jeremiah was too young to grasp the concept of his father's death. All he understood and slowly accepted was that his father was not coming home. After the death of Joe, Ruth did her best to explain death to Jeremiah yet again. As far as Ruth knew, Jeremiah handled both deaths as well as to be expected.
While there at his mother's side, Jeremiah recalled what she had told him about death, when his Uncle Joe died. After reflecting on her words, Jeremiah realized that people are born, and then they die. Because of his mother, Jeremiah did know that she trusted in God to not only carry her through the loss of her husband and brother, but she also would tell him daily, 'Jeremiah, we have to trust in God for all things.' At this very moment, he didn't identify with her words, but as he grew older, he would.
Jeremiah slowly began to gather his thoughts and control his feelings. He rose from where he knelt, and reached over and kissed his mother on the lips. As he did this, he looked at her with every fiber of love he held, for he knew this would be the last time he would see her face. Afterwards, he pulled the white cloth back over his mother's face and kneeled back down to pray.
The only knowledge of prayer Jeremiah had is what he received from his mother. Although he didn't understand why his mother would always pray, read the bible, or talk to God, he knew that it had to be right, because his mother did it. Anything revolving around God meant a lot to her, so they began to mean a lot to him.
Jeremiah bowed his head, and began to pray, "God, I don't know why you chose to take my Momma, I'm not going to even question you about that, because she would get mad if I did. She told me that everyone must die one day. I guess today was her day to die. God, I don't know what will happen tomorrow, or any of the days after, but I am asking you to please guide me, for I know not the way to go. I'm on bending knees asking you to keep Momma and keep me. God I pray that you will bless me with the same strength and faith in you, that you blessed Momma with. God, I am lost and I am alone. I need you God. I need you in every way and in everything that I do. God, every time Momma would end a prayer, she would always say, "Lord God, I pray for all these things in your son Jesus name". So God, I would like to do the same thing. Before I do, may you be blessed, may Momma be blessed, and may I be blessed. In your son Jesus name, I pray for all these things. Amen." said Jeremiah.
After praying, Jeremiah was able to physically compose himself. Inside he felt as if the lump was gone, he was able to breathe freely, and the immensity he had felt on his chest, was gone. He stood and looked down at his mother laying there. He knew his reality: He knew his mother was gone, he knew that she wasn't coming back, he knew from this day forward, that in order for him to make it through, that he would have to trust in God, just as his mother did.
He bent down again, pulling the cloth to cover her face, Jeremiah kissed his mother one last time, and said, good-bye. Jeremiah left from the presence of his mother and went into the next room. He was met by Brenda.
"She's ready Mrs. Brenda," said Jeremiah. "Okay baby, are you sure?" asked Brenda.
"Yes mam, let them go ahead before I lose my nerve," replied Jeremiah. He left from the church and went for a walk. He knew what the elder men had to do.
Brenda motioned for the elder men to come inside and place Ruth's body into casket. The casket had been made immediately by the men, after Ruth's body was found. Once inside, the men carefully placed Ruth into the casket. Brenda came in and laid the white cloth over Ruth and the top to the casket was put in place. Ruth's casket was then taken and placed in the front of the church.
Everyone that lived within this small community came and gathered together to view the body. Because of the arduous damage to Ruth's face, the lid was not taken of the casket, as a sign of respect. Isaiah Carr, the oldest man there, spoke the final words over Ruth's remains.
He spoke of who she was in life, her benevolence, her giving heart, and the love she openly shared with God, Jeremiah, nephew Wilton, and her neighbors. Ruth's death took an extreme toll on many of the lives present at her wake. She was commonly referred as, "Momma Ruth"; not only because she was the oldest woman in the town, but she also had such a nurturing spirit. It was obvious by the amount of people present at the wake, that Ruth was greatly respected and loved.
After Isaiah finished his dedication to Ruth, the casket was closed. Isaiah, along with Brenda, blessed Ruth's remains. Eight of the strongest men present, stoutly clutched a section of the casket and carried it from the church. The men carrying the casket lead the way to the final resting place for Ruth. As the men carried the casket, they were followed by, what seemed like, the entire town.
Her casket was buried next to her late husband and her brother, who both preceded her in death. After the casket had been covered by dirt, onlookers placed single wild flowers around Ruth's grave. Jeremiah didn't attend the wake or the burial. He had already said his final good-bye to his mother. At the time of the wake, Jeremiah had left and wondered off to be alone. The solitude was exactly what he needed at the time. He sat and contemplated his thoughts about the future. Although his best friend was gone, he knew that he had to continue on with life. He felt that he now needed to strive even harder to make his mother and father proud.
Jeremiah's father, Seth, had passed on when Jeremiah was only two years old, from heart failure. From early childhood until her untimely death, Ruth instilled in Jeremiah the values that Seth wanted him to have. Even with absent memories, Jeremiah was similar to his father in so many ways. Ruth would often tell Jeremiah, that he was just like his father. This was very well taken by Jeremiah.
Excerpted from The Strong's by Constance Kinney Copyright © 2011 by Constance Kinney. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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