By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
This week’s column an excerpt from my aunt, Maggie Hedrick’ eulogy. She passed away last Wednesday.
Whether she was known as Sis, Mom, Granny, Aunt Maggie, or just plain ole Maggie, each of us here have had some sort of relationship with Maggie Johnson Hedrick.
If I had to describe my Aunt Maggie in one word, that would have to be “strong.”
She endured a lot of trials in her life, more than most of us could ever imagine. She fought cancer several different times in her life and it eventually got the best of her. But it was a hard-fought battle and every time she stood strong, even in the final battle.
Aunt Maggie was always taking care of somebody. She took care of her mother and father and her Aunt Lea until their deaths. Even though it was hard for her, she stood strong.
She lost two sons in infancy, and nearly lost her daughter Kathy. She worked full time but still made the trek from London to Lexington, from Chattanooga to Lexington, from London back to Chattanooga, in the midst of a gasoline war and gas rationing, whenever and wherever Kathy had her next surgery. But she always stood strong.
She outlived two husbands, both of whom died unexpectedly, and even when she wavered, still she stood strong.
She buried her grandson, and was terrified when her great-grandson underwent surgery when he was just days old. I’m sure the memories of her two sons and her grandson put fear in her heart. But again, she stood strong.
Aunt Maggie was very sensible and had a good sense of humor and was fortunate enough to keep both even in her last days. We’re all so grateful for that.
She also had a temper, and ours clashed — a lot — over the years. Sometimes I really didn’t want to hear what she had to say, especially when it involved being logical instead of being my way. I told her once it wasn’t what she said that made me mad, it was the fact I knew she was right.
No matter what crisis I had, she was always there to listen, advise, and help. She helped a lot of people in her lifetime, whether it was loaning them money, keeping their kids, giving them food and clothes, giving to a church, or giving to the veterans’ organizations. Both of her husbands were in the military and she appreciated the veterans.
She raised Kathy, Reanna, Josh and Holly, and David since he was around 19, then Emily and Harlan, Desiree and Jonathan. She was a mother and mother figure to many, even those who were no blood relation to her. She was a firm believer that ‘blood’ didn’t dictate love and she proved that over and over even though some people didn’t always understand why.
She was Granny to Emily and Harlan, Desiree, Jonathan, Mikayla, Hunter, and to Crystal, but she was known as Granny to far more than just her own family. She didn’t care a bit. In fact, she liked the name.
To some of us, she was just always Aunt Maggie, even during the hard times when we weren’t always on good terms. But the one thing that mattered is that despite our differences, we knew she still loved us. I’ve heard her say a thousand times that she loved people, but she may not always like them at times! But even when she maybe didn’t like us, she was one of the first to let us know she was there if we needed her.
She didn’t give up when things got bad. She just got back up on her feet and kept on going because she knew that’s what she had to do. I’ve often used her as an example to other people who were overcome with grief. I’d tell them that my Aunt Maggie had lost two husbands, two babies and a grandchild and she never sat back and wallowed in sorrow. She did what she had to do for the other people she had left. Maybe those losses made her want to protect the ones she had and how she always went to their defense. Maybe she was trying to hold on to the living because she’d dealt so much with death throughout her life.
Her death is especially hard because this is my last aunt. My own parents, my uncles and now all my aunts have gone on. Aunt Maggie is the last of what was my Mammaw’s family.
It’s up to each of us to embrace her memory and follow the example of strength, love and caring that she showed.
Hopefully, we were able to let her know how much she meant to us before she left this world.
You lived a long life, Aunt Maggie — a life that had more than its share of heartaches. But you always stood strong and dealt with each trial you faced, you never stopped trying, and despite the hardships, you managed to find joy in family and friends.
Rest now and be at peace. We will truly miss you.