A Rose for James Fredrick “Fred” Harris

James Fredrick (Fred) Harris was my maternal Grandfather. He and my Grandmother lived on a small plot outside Owensboro, Kentucky in 1959.

Summer Visit

My Father was in the US Navy and often away. My Mother took us to visit during our summer break from school that year. We, my Mother and my siblings, spent several weeks with them that summer. These visits provided us a unique vision of life without all the amenities of city life such as outhouses versus bathrooms.

It was few days before we returned home. I was in their living room and watched my Grandfather go to the front door. He opened it, leaned out, and spit. I didn’t place particular emphasis on it because I didn’t know there was blood in his spit.

My Mother and Grandmother expressed concern, but my Grandfather waved their fears away.

We returned home a few days later. I don’t remember when the call came. It was near 1 September when my Mother had my grandparents brought to our home in Beverly Manor, outside of Washington, Illinois. My Grandfather had suffered a stroke.

The Crucifix and Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart of JesusThey brought him from Kentucky and placed him on Mom’s bed.  There, he laid under the crucifix and Sacred Heart pictures my Grandmother brought with her. The cross and pictures had hung over their bed in Kentucky for many years.

My Grandfather died on 3 September 1959.

My siblings and I were attending Saint Patrick’s Elementary School and could not attend the funeral. It is a sad memory I have of him lying on my parent’s bed and not moving. Knowing he would never again.

The Rose

I remember my Mother brought a rose from the funeral. It was light-colored, white or yellow, and in a holder. The holder was spike-shaped like one might use to stick into soil, and filled with water. She placed in into the opening under Christ’s right arm as he hung on the cross. The rose’s stem was straight and stiff as one would expect of a newly selected plant.

I remember venturing into the bedroom and finding the rose was dead. The rose’s stem bent to bring the rose to hang over Christ’s head, like a halo. None of the rose’s petals had fallen, and none would.

I left home in 1965 after graduating high school, and the rose hung as before. I joined the US Navy in 1966, and every time I came home on leave, the rose hung as before.

My parents moved houses while I was in Hawaii in 1970.  I found the crucifix and pictures now hung over my parent’s bed, but the rose was gone the next time I came home on leave.

My Mother passed in 1996. My Father gave my wife and me the crucifix and pictures a few weeks before he passed in 2001. They now hang over our bed, but without a rose halo.

I felt to share this vivid memory while I could.

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