When Marie gazed out her kitchen window, she felt a bubble of indescribable joy grow within her. Her kitchen window in her house was a portion of the joy. Too long all windows belonged in a distant cousin’s house, where she was paid to clean, cook, and care.
Lewis emerged from the barn, a laughing two-year old son on his shoulder. Her husband and her son. Marie’s heart burst at the sight of them.
Dinner was steaming hot on the table when Marie finally sat down next to Lewis. A six-month old baby girl Minerva tugged at Marie’s breast, as Lewis dished out a plate for Bobby, his little boy. If a photo could have been taken, it would show a glow around the table, ringed with laughter and great happiness.
It was the summer of 1922, a glorious summer when the crops were good, Lewis and Marie were rejoicing over their life together, and the children were healthy.
|Marie Cardiff holding baby Minerva; Lewis Cardiff holding Bobby; their dog, Spot|
Like a summer storm rolling across the flat fields, diphtheria moved over towns and farms all across the country. Over 100,000 children would die that year from this horrible disease.
Bobby woke up feverish one morning, coughing, and crying, “It hurts, here!” pointing to his throat. Immediately baby Minerva was sent away, to a relative’s farm out in the countryside, away from town. Doctor Edwards was summoned and confirmed the worst fears of diphtheria, which was affecting too many children in the area. The next seven days were text-book in the progress.
For all those nights and days, Marie worried over little Bobby, with Lewis at the foot of the bed. His face was a mask of pain, remembering the death and dying behind him in France. Day by day, Bobby struggled to breathe, his throat swollen and his eyes desperate. Finally, his little heart gave out.
|Bobby Cardiff, b. 1920- d. 1922|
Folks said that Marie’s screams could be heard a mile away, but then, a lot of mothers were heard screaming during that long month.
In a day or so, Lewis boarded the train, carrying with him a lead-lined coffin containing his dead little boy. Taking the four hour train trip to his family’s home cemetery in Oakford, Illinois, Lewis sat in the cargo boxcar holding the coffin under his arm. Slowly teardrops covered the top of the lid.
When Lewis returned to his farm after five days, Marie was stone-faced and quiet, so quiet. Her breast milk had dried up, requiring that Minerva be fed by a friend. Marie’s dark hair had started turning silver white. They sat side by side on their marriage bed, holding hands, silent. They would not talk about Bobby again, until 1941.
Her home and her family, Marie had to hang onto them even tighter.
|Add captionSource: EveBlackwood|