Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Day 11 - Andrew

Andrew was sick. Jane noticed that his appetite had changed and he was no longer “starving” like he always said when he came in from the fields. At 14, he was an eating machine so it worried her that he wasn’t hungry.
On Tuesday, he came in complaining of a headache. That too was unusual for Andrew who was the most robust of all her children. He had a fever and that was worrisome. She sent John Carter into town for the doctor. She usually treated the children herself using what she had learned from her Cherokee grandmother but this was scaring her.
On Wednesday, the doctor arrived. Andrew had a red rash on his chest. The doctor took one look at the rash and knew what he was seeing. He had seen plenty of this during the Civil War. The symptoms were those of Typhoid.
“Jane, are any of your other kids sick?” he asked. “Does anyone else have headaches or spots?”
“No,” said Jane. She had checked.
“Has Andrew been anywhere where the other children haven’t?”
Jane had to think. “No, except to the Brewster’s on the other side of the river. He took some corn over for them.”
“I think we need to take him to the hospital in Loudon. I think he has typhoid fever. They have new medicines there I don’t have here. I will take him myself. If he was indeed infected at the Brewster’s farm, we will need to warn the other residents to stay away. They may have bad water. I will send the Sheriff over to check it out. Jane, pack a bag for Andrew and yourself and I will pick you up in the buggy in an hour. It’s a couple 100 miles, a three day trip but if we travel from sunrise to sunset, we can make it in two.”
Andrew looked scared. “Am I going to die?” he asked.
“No baby, you’re not. They have better medicine there to make you well.”
“Jane, how long has he been sick?” the doctor asked.
“Well, his appetite dropped off about a week ago but the rash is new.”
John Carter looked scared too. He carried his son to the buggy and helped him get settled. Andrew was tall for his age so it was difficult for him to get comfortable. John rigged up a makeshift cover. He hugged his son and giving him a quick kiss, bid him goodbye.
John hugged his wife. Because she was worried, so was he. When it came to the kids, he took his clues from her.
“Is he going to be all right?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied. She always told the truth and so her answer was more awful than he could bear.
“Take care of my boy,” he said and with bowed shoulders, walked away.
“Papa”, said Della who was three, “When will Mama and Andrew come home?”
John Carter looked at his daughter and unlike his wife lied. ”Soon,” he said.
The doctor was true to his word, making the trip in 2 days. It was rough and with Andrew getting sicker; it felt like an eternity. She hoped the rest of the kids would be OK but her only concern was getting her oldest child better.
The hospital was a frightening place. Jane who had never been out of her valley was appalled at the noise and the people. They seemed to be everywhere. There was no quiet and no river. Loudon was smaller than Knoxville but to her, it was the big city.
Andrew was put in a ward with many men. He was terrified. There was groaning and crying. It smelled awful. The nursing staff did their best to make the young man comfortable but he was getting worse and nothing helped.
Within two days, Andrew had a raging fever. He was in pain on his right side. The doctors decided that he might have bleeding inside if the organs had ruptured and they prepped him for surgery. Jane sat at his side, sleeping in the chair beside his bed. He was afraid and needed her. The nurses tried to get her to go rest but she refused. He was her baby.
They rolled him into surgery. Jane walked with him until she could go no further. Kissing him she told him how much she loved him and would see him soon. She leaned against the wall, slide down to the floor and started to pray. When the doctor came back, she already knew. Joseph Andrew Rhea died on September 15, 1879.
Doc Campbell carried the body to the buggy. Jane did not cry. Crying was for times when she was alone. It would do no good. She sent a telegram to John Carter. She wanted him to know before she got back. He would do what was needed. She wanted him buried next to the Cliff House. They had saved a small plot that would be used as a cemetery if needed. She had hoped to die before her children and never have to use it but it was up high with a view of the river. Andrew loved the river like she did.
Della heard the buggy first. Screaming as she ran down the stairs, she hollered, “Mama and Andrew are home.” 10 year old Laura and 12 year old Leoni came running too. They hoped to get to Della before she got to the buggy. Papa had told them about Andrew but Della was too young to understand.
There was nothing for her to do. Once John Carter had received the telegram, the family had gone into action. His brothers split the tasks. Sterling, James, George, and Abijah constructed a wooden casket. His sisters Elizabeth, and Sarah and Jane’s sister Sarah lined the coffin with bleached muslin and edged it with lace. They added some extra cotton under the muslin so Andrew would be comfortable. They covered the box with black cambric and added some gold braid. Jesse, Robert, and Lafayette went with him to the Cliff house to prepare the grave site.
Jane washed and dressed Andrew in his best clothes. Della kept coming into the room, trying to get Andrew to wake up. There was nothing Jane could do to help the child understand that Andrew was no longer there. John Carter would come and carry her from the room. Finally, Sarah took her home with her. Jane combed Andrews unruly light brown hair thinking that it made no difference. There was no way to tame it. In death, as in life, his hair had a life of its own. She kissed him goodbye and allowed John Carter and George to put him in the coffin.
On a cold, blustery day, they laid Joseph Andrew to rest. He was buried on the knoll behind the cliff house. The Cliff House was Andrew’s favorite place. He was the only child who had memories of living there and it held a special place in his heart. When Jane couldn't find him, she knew he would be there. She always respected his privacy and left him alone.
It seemed the whole valley had made the trek. The Rhea’s were well liked and everyone loved Andrew. Of course, there was family and that was no small number. Caroline made the long trip alone from Virginia but family mattered. Grandma Lucy and Grandma Polly stood with their children. Both of them had suffered loss and knew the darkness that filled their children’s souls. The only thing they had to offer was their support and love. It wouldn’t be enough, it never was.
The Preacher talked about Andrew being in Heaven. He read from 2 Corinthians, sharing verse 4. “Who gives us comfort in all our troubles, so that we may be able to give comfort to others who are in trouble, through the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
At the end of the service he asked all of them to join in singing, "God be with you till we meet again."
The old and the young together sang as one voice.
God be with you till we meet again,
By His counsels guide, uphold you,
With His sheep securely fold you,
God be with you till we meet again.
Till we meet, till we meet,
Till we meet at Jesus’ feet;
Till we meet, till we meet,
God be with you till we meet again.
Jane believed that she would see Andrew again. She knew that God would comfort her but she was not yet ready. She was the last to leave, there was one more thing she needed to do. She sent everyone away, not wanting to make things worse for her children. She waited until everyone reached the road below and then sat down and cried.

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