Grandma Skaggs with Burt Reynolds, about 1965

Grandma Skaggs with Burt Reynolds, about 1965

We remember Joe’s maternal grandmother.

Eulogy by Thomas Banks (Joe’s Brother)

May 3rd, 1910 – The United States census reports the countries population to be at 92 million, New Mexico and Arizona are granted the right to become the 47th and 48th State of the union, And Theodore Roosevelt will soon give his famous speech on the “New Nationalism” calling for widespread federal reforms.

During this time of national transition; in the town of Isonville — Elliott County — Kentucky, Martin and Mary Gilliam welcomes my Grandmother Anna Mae Gilliam into the world.

Her grandfather owned the Gilliam general store and she was surrounded by human interaction from the start. She grew up in this social, neighborly, and friendly world where neighbors knew each other and she could see how everyone is connected.

She became Anna Mae Skaggs when, in her late teens, she married her beloved husband Jay Skaggs. He would be the love of her life for over 65 years as they lived in the unfolding of the 20th century. Almost the entire history of the last century can be seen in her families’ progress. Their son Obera J., who has recently passed away, was born during the great dust bowl of the Depression.

Ray was born in a year that saw Amelia Earhart Vanish and the Golden Gate Bridge appear. And while the battle of Britain raged on in Europe, my mother Melinda Roberta, was born just in time to take advantage of the newly invented ladies nylons stockings.

She owned a boarding house during World War II. Again her outgoing sociable nature thrived. She enjoyed the work, the atmosphere, the busy coming and going of their guests, interacting with her family, and creating life long friendships like the Cantrails. Jay Skaggs was drafted to join the forces during World War II, but luckily, the war ended two weeks after he got his letter.

Ann Mae moved to Marysville Ohio in 1946 and purchased the farm many of us are so familiar with. They took great satisfaction as farmers whose greatest love was gardening and working their land. They had their own Farmers market in their driveway and would sell their produce to family and friends.

Friends who she happily helped when they needed, and who in turn helped her when she was in need. Everyone who met her was affected by her kindness and friendly spirit, maybe stopping to talk over a cup of coffee, sitting for a spell, and enjoying her company.

Her later years found her sitting by the ocean, watching the seagulls and birds over the waves. Still smiling, still laughing, still talking; still “engaged” in the continuous interaction of people and life around her.

Over the years, many of her friends and family have passed on before her, but never, I think, did it even occur to her to fade into the background, or let herself be overcome by grief, to become silent.

In today’s world, grief remains one of the few things that has the power to silence us. It is a whisper in the world but a clamor within our hearts. More so than faith, more so than death, grief is unspoken and publicly ignored — except for those moments at the funeral, that are over too quickly, or the conversations of those who recognize in one another a kindred chasm deep in the center of who we are.

Maybe we do not speak of it because death will have us all sooner or later. Or maybe it is unspoken because grief is only the first part of it. After a period of time passes, it becomes something “less sharp,” but larger too, a more enduring thing called loss. Perhaps that is why this is the least explored emotion, because loss has no end.

The world loves closure, loves a thing that can as they say, “be gotten through.” This is why it comes as a great surprise to most to find that loss is forever, that two decades after the event there are those occasions when something in you cries out in the continual presence of an absence.

Sorrow of this nature comes upon us as a great wave; but it rolls over us, and though it may almost smother us, it leaves us on the spot and we know that if it is strong — that we are stronger, for as it passes — we remain. Grief wears us, and uses us, but we wear it and use it in return; and it is always blind, whereas we after a manner will see.

I spent some time yesterday contemplating the fields and furrows of the gardens that my grandmother had tended for so many years. Coming to terms with my own grief; trying to see. I sought to imagine how she might feel about her own passing, and had I the opportunity to ask her, I believe she would have smiled, fixed me something to eat, and said something like this:

Do not weep for me, for I have lived. I have joined my hand with all my fellows’ hands, to leave the planet better than when I found it.

Do not weep for me, for I have loved and been loved by my family, by those I loved and who loved me back. For I never knew a stranger — only friends.

Do not weep for me. When you feel the ocean spray upon your face, I am there. When you heart beats faster at the dolphins leaping grace, I am there. When you reach out to touch another’s heart as now I touch God’s face, I am there.

Do not weep for me. I am not gone.

Say instead to all those who gather for me: “Here lies one who was doubly blessed.”

Say – “She was happy.”

Say – “And she knew it.”

Official Obituary

Anna Mae Skaggs, 95, of Marysville, and Estero, Fla., died Friday, Jan. 20, 2006, at Ft. Myers, Fla.

She was a member of Hayden Baptist Church. She enjoyed gardening, sitting by the bay watching the waves and birds on a sunny day, and her toy poodle “Sami.”

She was born May 3, 1910, the youngest daughter of the late Martin and Mary Gilliam. She also was preceded in death by her husband of 66 years, Jay Skaggs in 1992; her eldest son, Obera J. Skaggs; three brothers; and three sisters.

She is survived by children Melinda Roberta Banks of Estero, Fla., and Ray (Lois Brown) Skaggs of Gosport, Ind.; a daughter-in-law, Barbara Skaggs of Marysville; grandchildren, Joseph (Sheryl) Banks III, Thomas (Giselle) Banks, Jonathan M. Banks, Carl (Sheila) Skaggs, Carla (Joseph) Reinhard, Christine (Jerry) McLane, Michael Skaggs, Teresa Skaggs and Mary Kay (Carl) Mickley; six great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild; and numerous nephews, nieces and wonderful friends.

Calling hours will be Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Ferguson Funeral Home, Plain City. Funeral services will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at Hayden Baptist Church, 6729 Hayden Run Road, Hilliard, with Pastor Bill Webb officiating. Burial will be in Wesley Chapel Cemetery.