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An Angel Among the Azaleas

The Southern plantation where I grew up was a 250-acre Eden. My beautiful mother took special care to preserve and reverence the beauty of the formal gardens and the breathtaking vistas surrounding the house. Many things on the plantation were scary for a little child—who, at age four, had a heart murmer. I tagged after Mama everywhere as she lovingly cared for each plant and bush and tree on the grounds. My favorites were the indio azaleas which bloomed in profuse abundance. I used to beg to pick just one branch, and Mama let me do this once a season. I spent many hours wishing I were an azalea shrub—the glorious arrays of pink, purple or coral blossoms as my sweeping, Southern Belle, hoop skirt. The beauty my mother brought to the grounds was an inspiration for me. I wished to be beautiful and as perfectly poised as her flowers. Mama suffered greatly from crippling osteo-arthritis, but her time outdoors seemed always refreshing and not over-exhausting for her condition.
A remarkable thing occured one day as I worked with Mama in the front yard. The groves of sycamore trees were shedding strips of bark from their white skins. Mama and I were placing circles of concrete mixed with oyster shells around the trees to make them pretty. Near the end of the row was a fragrant gardenia bush which housed the summer duck and her brood of babies. As I approached, they flew out, and the mother duck came hissing toward me, protecting her young. I was afraid, and I turned to call Mama, who always responded right away whenever I called for help. But Mama didn't respond. She was talking to someone else, though clearly no one else was there. I yelled again for her to come save me from the duck—though the duck had waddled away by then. Mama continued her work, head down, still talking out loud to nobody I could see. When I approached her, she said, "Why did you call me, Carol? I was busy." I asked, "Who were you talking to, Mama?" She said, "To my mother." And this is how I came to know that my mama could see and communicate with her own angel mother while she worked outdoors in the open air. Mama's mother had died two months before I was born. The doctor wouldn't even let Mama travel to the funeral—a full day's trip in the Hudson car over hundreds of miles of bumpy dirt roads.
My beautiful mother was just 14 when she married my father. He was 16 and a self-made and proud young man. They raised a little niece until she was four, and at age 18, my mother had her own first child. My parents never inherited a penny from anyone, nor received any money that wasn't a loan. But my father worked hard, and eventually he owned the only Hudson car dealership in Charleston. Later, he bought the plantation which became our home. Mama indeed had everything she needed but good health. And in raising us five children, I'm sure from time to time she needed to talk to her mother when no one else was around. And Grandmother Louzenie would oblige and come for a visit. I'm sure she gave Mama good advice, having raised seven children herself. Many times, out amidst the flowers and trees, we would start singing hymns of praise to our Lord, and I know at those times, my grandmother was close at hand, giving praise with us and singing those old hymns. We were a blessed trio, indeed, out among the azaleas.

Carol Ruth Resch
(Adapted from "My Mother Saw An Angel, Too," © Carol Ruth Resch.)



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