Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sissie

Oda Fern West
"Sissie"
November 20, 1924-October 11, 2013
 
We have known this day was coming for a few years...but it doesn't make it any easier.   It has been hard to watch the terrible disease called Alzheimer's do it's work on my great-aunt's mind and body. When I look at her hands above (clasped with Brody's hand), memories flood my mind. 

One of my earliest memories of spending time with Carroll and Sissie was at their home in Marble Falls.  They lived on a golf course and I remember being warned not to run out on the golf course.  I remember Carroll driving us around in his golf cart...and even letting us drive!  I also remember that Sissie washed her dishes by hand.  This seemed so strange to me!  I wasn't sure why she didn't have a dishwasher (especially since they had a really nice house).

I remember sitting outside underneath the pecan trees at Grandpa Walter and Granny Belle's house (Sissie and GG's parents).  We'd crack pecans and climb trees while the adults talked and laughed.  I remember Christmas's where Sissie and Carroll would come to watch us put on our Christmas Pageant (directed by my cousin Julie) and would give each of us a $5 bill as a present (big money in the mind of a child!)

Sissie had such a wonderful sense of humor.  She always made me laugh and always made me feel loved and special.  I heard story after story of all the gag gifts she and Carroll would trade with Grandpa and GG (I guess that was before there were so many grandkids...and they stopped giving gifts to each other).  She may have never had children of her own, but she loved us like we were her own grandchildren.  I think she had a special place in her heart for Mike (maybe it's because he shared her love of golf?!).  She had these beautiful white leather chairs in her apartment that were so comfortable.  Whenever she knew that family was coming to visit, she would put a sign on one of the chairs that said, "Reserved for Mike".  It always made me happy to see how much she loved my husband!

I remember many, many visits to her apartment with the kids and GG.  She would always say, "I'll let y'all go spend time with Myrtle." and we would emphasize again and again that we value her as family and we cherish the time we get to spend with her.  We wanted to be there visiting with her!  I think sometimes she felt like she was intruding on GG's family time...but there was always enough love to go around and we loved having her at our family gatherings.  I'm not sure that she every truly believed how much we saw her as in integral part of our family.

I took the kids by to see her on October 10th...knowing that the end was near.  I had gone by the day before and was never able to wake her, so I was surprised when she sat up and started talking to me and the kids.  She actually called me by name (which she hasn't in quite a while due to the memory loss) and told me she loved me.  Then her frail hands reached for Brianna and she helped me give Bri her bottle.  The boys came and sat on her bedside and she told them over and over how handsome they were and (in true Sissie fashion) told me that she was gonna keep all the kids with her and that she'd take care of them and I could go now. 

When I could tell the kids were getting antsy, I told Sissie we were going to have to go.  I was surprised when she covered her face with both hands and began sobbing.  It broke my heart!  I hugged her and kissed her face telling her how much I loved her (knowing this would be the last time I would see her on earth).  Barrett stood beside her bed and said to her, "I'll see you in Heaven, Sissie!"

This was the last time she was alert and talking before her passing.  I'm so thankful that the kids got to talk with her one more time and that they will remember her awake and talking and smiling at them.  We will miss Sissie...and we look forward to the joyful reunion in Heaven where she is no longer in pain and will have a perfect memory!


Here is the eulogy that Daddy Steve read at her graveside funeral today:

"We are gathered today to celebrate the life of Oda Fern West, who we lovingly called Sissie.  She was born on November 20, 1924 in Hamilton County and died October 11, 2013 at the age of 88 in Mansfield, TX.  She is survived by a sister, Myrtle Fay Wright, of Mansfield and a sister-in-law, Helen Merrill, of Winters.  She had many loving nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews, and even great-great nieces and nephews.

Sissie was born to Walter and Belle Sanford.  She graduated from Hamilton High School in 1941.  While in high school, she was one of the top athletes.  She won the district title in singles tennis two years and was a star player on the basketball team.

Sissie married Carroll West on July 3, 1943.  They were only married three weeks when he left to serve his country in Africa and Italy.  It was three years before he came home.  During that time, Sissie lived with her parents in Brownwood and graduated from Howard Payne University in 1944.  She started her career in government work with her first job at the War Price and Rationing Board.

After Carroll was discharged from the service, they moved to San Angelo where he began his career in public relations with General Telephone.  They had assignments in Jacksonville, TX, Springhill, LA, and Texarkana, TX.  Sissie continued working in various governmental agencies in each location and retired after 30 years of service.

Sissie was a member of the Baptist Church.  She and Carroll were faithful in their attendance.  She loved taking care of the church library.

After retirement, Sissie and Carroll built their dream home in Marble Falls on a beautiful golf course.  Both loved playing golf several times a week.  Sissie even made a hole in one at a big golf tournament.  That ball remained on display for years.  She also had hobbies of sewing, cooking, and eating ice cream.

About 15 years ago, due to declining heath, Sissie and Carroll moved to Lakewood Village Retirement Center in Fort Worth to be near her sister.  Everyone loved playing bridge, 42, and other card games with her.  Her quick wit and easy smile made her fun to be around.  Sissie continued to live at Lakewood under the watchful eye of Myrtle until about 2 years ago when Alzheimer's was getting the best of her body and mind and she had to move to the memory care unit in Mansfield. 

Ever since Carroll passed away in February of 2004, Sissie has wanted to return to Marble Falls.  She had such fond memories of the fun times she and Carroll spent there.  now, her request has been granted and she is now here near Marble Falls lying beside Carroll."
 

3 comments:

Paula said...

What a nice tribute! So sorry for your loss.

Caleb said...

Thanks for writing that up, Staci!

Sissie, you will be missed! We love you and will see you again one day!

Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful tribute to a wonderful woman. I am sorry for the loss but you will see her again and will be like the other Sissie you knew before the terrible disease took her away.

Love you all,
SEM