By Mike Dowdy
Some might say that an angel raised me although to most she was simply my maternal grandmother. My mom died eight days before my second birthday, when she was just twenty-eight years old. My dad died before I was nine.
When my grandmother got custodianship of my two siblings and me, she was already widowed. In a period of 12 years, she buried her mother, her father, her husband, three daughters, and two sons-in-law. Altogether, she raised nineteen children, of which none of us have ever had any type of criminal record.
When I was thirteen, I was diagnosed with the same heredity disease that was responsible for my mother’s early passing, familial polyps of the colon. From the age of thirteen until I was thirty-one, I went through numerous surgeries, practically yearly. One of these surgeries was to perform an Ileostomy. Since the Ileostomy, I have had 3 emergency surgeries that was the result of obstruction and gangrene.
I vividly remember one occasion after the Ileostomy was performed. I had regained consciousness from the surgery and got the nerve to raise the hospital sheet and see just what the doctors had done to me. I was nineteen at the time and what I saw devastated me. I thought my life was over. Who would want anyone that had to live the rest of his life with a bag on his stomach?
My grandmother was very a keen woman. Even though she only had a second grade education, she had a PHD in worldly knowledge and common sense. She sensed my despair, and was quick to act on it. I will never forget what she said to me. “I once complained about having no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”
I knew what she meant. She was telling me that no matter how bad my condition was; there would always be someone somewhere worse off than me. She assured me that I would find a woman that would love me for who I am, and that the bag would not matter.
She was right. I have been married almost twenty-four years to the most wonderful woman I could ever be paired with. Over the years, many things that she said have revisited me, or came to pass. Her wealth of knowledge, her singing of gospel hymns, a familiar scent of something cooking. Most of all, her ability to never question God for all the pain, heartache and misery that she had to endure.
On February 22, 1987, I was privileged to be holding her hand when she left this mortal world to go to paradise. I had been at her beside for days, and wasn’t going to leave. She drifted off into her heavenly rest as peaceful as it can be with the most wonderful expression on her face. No struggle for breath; no pain; just peace.
It is no wonder I think of her as an angel, this great woman who raised my siblings and me along with and many others. She was the family patriarch, the foundation for our family. Maggie Pearl (Powell) Dunagan, until we meet again, you are forever in my heart. Upon our reuniting, I ask only that God will allow you to be the one to introduce me to my mother.