Julia Josephine (Smith) Wiggins Eulogy
Julia Josephine (Smith) Wiggins
Mother was a caregiver to family/friends throughout her life. As early as 10 yrs. old she was a babysitter for the offspring of her much older sisters who lived close and worked their fields/gardens. While she outlived many of those ‘babies’ who are now in their eighties, the few who are still here maintained a close relationship with Mother through frequent phone calls.
From Murphy North Carolina to Titusville, Florida nieces and nephews called Mother just to check in. I heard stories of death bed comfort, young hearts soothed during family crises, helping hands extended when jobs or marriages were being challenged. Over it all, Aunt Jo was the go-to person in the family whether it was for a room for a night or a month. Sometimes it was simply a shoulder to lean on while tears flowed.
All calls did not garner stories of death and sickness. When a niece became engaged, Mother loaned her a dress and shoes for the wedding. Then she and Daddy opened our home for the service. 60 years later, the niece called me daily during Mother’s second hospital stay even though she is now 81 and battling breast cancer.
Mother’s helping heart never failed. When my son, Michael, was in a car accident where he sustained multiple injuries, including broken bones in both legs, she took care of his daily needs. During this time in his life Michael ate a lot of Chicken Fettucine with Alfredo sauce. This isn’t his fondest memory of Mother. He has a truly happy memory though. He loved Arthur Fonzarelli, on the show “Happy Days”. One Christmas, the only present he really wanted was a “Fonzie” jacket. They were way outside of my Christmas budget, but not Mother’s. We spent an hour in Pizitz as Michael “sold” the jacket to Mother. I swear we had an audience of other buyers as he demonstrated how comfortably the cuffs fit around his wrist, the perfect way the collar stood up and quality of the inside lining with its embossed logo “The Fonz”. Looked good on him for a lot of years.
Mother could make a mean roast and work miracles with ham, but she did not really enjoy cooking. She had a general lack of interest in food. In later years, her diet was more about convenience than sustenance. She lived on chicken pot pies, peanut butter crackers and coffee. Her love of those crackers was evident to all who knew her. When my husband, Garland was fighting cancer, his doctor challenged him to eat more. Garland told his doctor he had eaten a peanut butter cracker for breakfast and that was enough food as he “had proof positive you could live on peanut butter crackers!”
Mother was not perfect. When my daughter, Juliana, was a toddler, Mother’s favorite “bye word” became obvious. Mother and Daddy would take Julie out to dinner frequently. Being a normal two year old, Julie loved Jack’s French fries. As I heard the story, Daddy whispered to Mother: “I do not think I can eat another Jack’s hamburger. Let’s go to Shoney’s. She can get fries there.” Mother just nodded in agreement. Julie was standing between them on the bench seat of the Impala with her elbow on Daddy’s shoulder. (No seatbelt requirement and she lived, imagine that!) Julie never took her eyes off the Jack’s sign as they drove past the entrance. She just sighed and said, “Well, crap!” (Not exactly the four-letter word she used but you get the drift). Mother changed her bye word immediately.
Mother never stopped helping others until her scoliosis made most movements painful if not impossible. She stayed with family members from Helena to Gardendale to Center Point. She provided physical and emotional support during times of illness or need. She babysat her great-grandchildren sometimes staying for weeks at a time to help before traditional day care was available. She was even supportive of Garland’s farming efforts. So much so our local NAPA and Sun South staff still ask about her every time I go in for parts.
She was faithful, supportive, passive-aggressive when crossed, and she was always verbal with her opinions. Julie, Mike and I have frequently been on the receiving end of her generous heart as well as the payback for same since there was not anything wrong with her long-term memory.
She was much loved and will be sorely missed. I do not begrudge her the happiness of being with the Lord and with those who have gone on before. I can only imagine the reunions which have occurred in these past weeks as she walked with Jesus and greeted friends and family.
Mother enriched the lives of those around her in many ways and never stopped trusting in God’s promises. This faith carried her through the pain and stress of living as well as dying. If she could leave but one challenge to each of us, it would be to follow the greatest commandment of all “Love the Lord with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself.”