Tribute to a Cousin and Role Model
Living about a mile apart, sharing the same grandmother, and having only six years between us, my first-cousin Deloris and I were close during our preteen and teenage years. My first memory of her brings her walking to the home I shared with our grandmother and my mother (her aunt) just before the dusk of many evenings. There were no phones by which to give notice that she was coming. She simply showed up and spent the night. For me, the only child residing in the house, her company was welcomed and never lasted long enough.
My mother and grandmother liked to have Delores spend time with me. We loved each other. She was a churchgoer, a Bible reader and a morality practitioner–honest, decent, respectful and respectable. To them and many others who knew her, she was the lovely image of a sensible teenage girl stepping purposefully into productive womanhood. She was a desirable role model.
What I remember vividly about those days, more than the food we ate or the conversations we had is how beautiful Deloris was. Photographs were not a regular feature of life in the 1950s, at least not in our family; but I wish that her children and grandchildren could see just one picture of the lovely teen girl named Deloris. She was tall, medium brown, and attractive in features as well as physical form. The silk in her black hair suggested a racial mix, and never looked prettier than when she wore them in two plaits falling down on either side of her face.
Deloris, the First
In retrospect, Deloris possessed another kind of beauty that impacted me even more. In today’s society, it might not be deemed worthy of mention; but for the impact it made on an impressionable young girl who adored and admired her older female cousin, it has to be told.
Our grandmother and her four sisters were all single mothers, having borne their children out of wedlock. Two of the sisters married in their senior years.
Our mothers and their sister all bore their children out of wedlock. None of them ever married. We did not judge our predecessors. Instead, we were mindful that they encouraged us to pursue a lifestyle different than theirs.
Among three generations of women (on my mother’s side) Deloris was the first to become a young bride, establish a family complete with a husband and wife, and bear all her children within her marriage. She broke the circle of unmarried motherhood, which in my opinion was a testament to the beauty of positive womanhood. Her achievement influenced me to strive for the same. She also has daughters who followed in her steps.
In workshops for women over the years, my reference for strength of character has often been my cousin who grew up like a lily in a swamp, refusing to settle in the muddy tradition surrounding her, and instead, absorbing and reflecting the radiance of the life-nurturing sun.
Deloris and I grew too far apart after I migrated for college. She stayed at home and became a mother. The constant theme whenever I inquired about her was how industrious, how hardworking a wife and mother she had become. We did not communicate directly, but neither did we doubt our mutual love.
I had been gone for many years before I returned home and discovered that my cousin had remained true to the God of her childhood and true to the principles of wise womanhood which we had learned from our mothers and grandmother. Her children had done well academically and professionally, and they put her on equal standing with the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 of whom it is said, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” (Verse 31)
The following quotes are dedicated to the memory of my cousin:
"A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.” - Marion C. Garretty
“In my cousin, I find a second self.” - Isabel Norton
“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the cousins together.” - Woodrow Wilson
“Cousins are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.” - Ed Cunningham
"At Christmas, cousins are the presents under the tree." – Karen Decourcey
Her Final Days
Deloris survived some health complications, and then spent her final years confined to bed. She was honest about her aches and discomfort, but they did not erase the sweet memory of better days. On occasions, she still joked and laughed and she habitually prayed.
On the day that she passed, I visited her in the hospital. To my untrained eye, there was no evidence that death was near. She was alert and talked clearly enough. Visiting hours expired, and I left with a promise to return. Delores said okay, but shortly after, she said her final goodbyes to her children and passed on. We will miss her, but the memories of our early childhood and of her later years will remain a treasure.
May her beautiful, loving, hardworking, persevering soul finally rest in peace!
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© 2018 Dora Weithers