Some stories are so sad and poignant that they’re still painful a century later. This beautiful little baby was my mom’s sister, Reva Vernell.

I don’t know when the picture was taken, but I found her birth date in an old Bible. She was born on November 24, 1914, so she was five years older than my mom. The date of her death was on another page, August 18, 1916. Her little life wasn’t even two years long, but here I am today in 2017, remembering an aunt I never knew, a sister my mom didn’t know. As was the rest of her family, Aunt Vernell was well loved all the same.

Though old and faded, this is one of my favorite pictures of my grandmother. Of course she was elderly when I knew her, but I’ve heard so many stories about her that it seems as if I was a part of her entire life. 

The one story that is absolutely haunting, though not in a supernatural sense, is that Grandmother said that after little Vernell died, it felt as if she still pulled at her skirts as she went about her household chores. It’s so vivid in my imagination (I almost typed “memory”)…the lovely little toddler, clinging to her pretty Edwardian mother’s skirt, wanting to be close to her always. I can also imagine that Grandmother must have gone to bed crying many nights, after her baby died. They never knew exactly what caused her death. She was in agony from stomach pain. It could have been appendicitis. There was even some thought that perhaps she swallowed a little peach pit. That was a time still in the early stages of medical diagnostics, which left many illnesses a mystery. That uncertainty must have made the loss even more unbearable. 

My grandparents had two more girls (Pearl and Sarah) and three boys (George, Billy, and Earl), but losing Vernell after too short a time surely left a sad, empty place in their family. And their hearts.

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