By Karen Brode
Continued from Snakebite, Part II.
“Momma always taught me to pray,” Mother said, thinking back to the time her sister Cleo had been bitten by a rattlesnake. “So I did what I could. I got down on the floor and prayed.”
She told me this story as we sat together on the front porch of our little house in Texas. The stars were bright and a few of those lightning bugs she was so fond of had started flashing in the lawn beyond us.
She seemed distant in thought. Whenever she thought about her family, it was with mixed emotion. She had been raised Baptist by her parents, Walter and Lela Morrison. They had taught her how to pray and they had sung hymns together at their family piano. And yet, when my father had come along, he had introduced her to what she now called “The One, True Church.”
She was fond of saying how he had really saved her. “Why, I might have missed my chance at heaven altogether if it hadn’t been for your father!”
She seemed to think about this a lot, especially as she talked about her family. And that night on the porch, she was particularly pained as she told the story of the night her sister had been bitten by a rattlesnake.
“Your Grandma Morrison wasn’t what you’d call a religious zealot, but when the situation called for it, she could become one. I remember her just saying over and over that night, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!’”
“We all stopped our praying when the doctor looked at his watch and announced she had made it through her first hour. I remember him saying that was a good thing, though he wouldn’t come out and say she was completely out of the woods.
“I know Poppa was somewhat relieved then. He went to Momma and grabbed her up in a hug they both needed. Together they cried that this had happened. I cried, too.”
Mother’s heart seemed kind of full just then as she talked. I leaned my head against her knee. She reached down and patted my hair gently, and then she continued.
“When Cleo broke out in a cold sweat, the doctor said that was good, too. He said the poison was working its way out through her pores. Opal ran for a blanket at Momma’s instruction and they did their best to help bring some comfort to Cleo.
“We were all afraid to hope for the best, even me. I was just a little girl, but I knew snakebites were serious. Still, Momma and Poppa seemed to breathe just a little easier after this, which made me hope just a little more that everything was going to be okay.
“Momma sat all night by Cleo’s side. Every hour or so, Poppa came in to check on her. Gradually, Cleo began to know what was going on around her and she was very thirsty.” Mother laughed as she recalled Poppa running back and forth to get her water. “He would’ve done anything for his little girl at that moment.
“By the next afternoon, it seemed Cleo had made a turn. Momma was convinced she was going to live, so she went to take a nap. That’s when Opal, Jewel, and I, took turns keeping watch as she became herself again.
“I’ll never forget the look on her face or what she said when she was finally well enough to talk to us. She was dead serious, too. ‘Don’t ever be afraid to die,’ she said. She had wanted to stay there in heaven with Jesus. She said it was the most wonderful place she’d ever been, but then she heard Momma crying and Jesus nodded to her and let her know that she could go back if she wanted to.” Mother stopped, her voice choked for a moment. “Then she turned her face to the wall, and cried.”
“Why’d she cry,” I asked. “She was alive. Didn’t she want to live?”
Mother dabbed at her eyes a little and said, “It wasn’t that she didn’t want to live, Karen. We all cried with her. We knew she was missing her real home in heaven.”
Karen Brode is a senior contributor for Jet Planes and Coffee. She grew up in Denison, TX and graduated from Denison High School in 1972. She took courses at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and worked in a church office for 25 years. She and her husband, Gary, have been married 39 years and they have one son, Brandon. Karen’s hobbies are writing, sewing, and gardening.