20 October 2011

A Promise Fulfilled

My only sister and sibling remaining out of a family of six children born to Walter and Victoria Elliott, Avanelle Elliott Newman, died on July 14, 2011 at the age of 82. She would have been 83 had she lived until November 12. Avanelle was born in Dekalb County near Elliott’s Crossroad which is located about 3 miles south of the small town of Henagar, Alabama in the year of 1928. In 1933 my parents and three children moved to Trion, Georgia for work in the Riegel Glove Mill and Cotton Mill.
Before Avanelle died, she learned that her term insurance had expired so there were not sufficient funds for the burial expenses. Individual Christians of the Buckingham Road church of Christ in Garland, Texas where she was a member and some relatives gave the money needed to have her body cremated. Her daughter and only child, her three grandchildren, along with the congregation, had a memorial service for “Ninny” on Sunday, July 24. I shall always remember the compassion and love manifested toward my beloved sister by the members of the Buckingham Road congregation. After several weeks had past, I make arrangements for her remains to be sent to the Kirby Funeral Home in Henagar. On Thursday, October 6, Virginia and I drove up to Henagar and took possession of my sister’s remains. A cousin of mine, Wendell Elliott, of Rainsville, Alabama and I prepared a grave site where my sister’s remains would be buried. There was a space between the graves of our parents and our younger brother Frank who was killed in an accident at the age of 35 where my sister’s remains would eventually rest. Avanelle had always expressed a desire to be buried in the Unity Cemetery next to our parents and I promised her if it was possible, I would fulfill her wish.
Over the 50+ years that I have been preaching and speaking at funerals and at graveside services, I had never experienced such as this one. On a beautiful autumn Friday morning, October 9, 2011, I spoke in the presence of a few relatives and friends who had gathered in the quietness of the rural surroundings near an old church building. I spoke of Avanelle’s struggle to survive after she became a single mother with a teenage daughter to rear. The daughter earned a degree  from a university and became a nurse. When our mother died in 1988, Avanelle moved to the greater Dallas, Texas area where Vickie and her family lived. She existed only on a meager income but she survived. She suffered with emphysema for years and finally cancer took her life.

When most of the relatives and friends had left, I went to the car and removed the container that held my sister’s remains. I still think of the weight of the ashes in my hands that once was my dear sister. I knelt down beside the opening in the earth and with love in my heart and as gentle as I could, I placed the container in the small grave. I then took a shovel and began filling the opening with the dirt previously removed by my cousin and me. Needlessly to say, I had difficulty in controlling my emotions. We all made sure that the sod of grass that I had removed was situated just right and Virginia placed a vase of flowers that she had bought where the marker I ordered for my sister’s grave would eventually rest. When we drove away, my emotions were mixed but I felt like I had done what my sister desired and that was to be buried next to mother and dad. I had fulfilled my promise.