I wrote about grieving and loss of relationships yesterday. Today I have a loss that I want to write about. The loss is the death of Margaret Gray Johnson or as I affectionately called her, "Miss Margaret".
Miss Margaret came to work as a housekeeper here about 12 years ago. My wife and I talked about spending every Saturday cleaning and how it would be good to have someone come in and do it. There's where Miss Margaret came into our lives.
She lived on the island and owned the Baby Grand, one of the few juke joints around. She was a wonderful lady in the truest sense of the word. When she came in, she brightened up everything.
I never felt completely at ease with the idea that she was an African-American woman who cleaned for us. At first it was done to ease my conscience, so I would fix a great lunch for Miss Margaret and then sit down with her at the table and just talk. It wasn't long before I looked forward to those meals together because of our friendship. My wife would generally have to tell her several times that lunch was ready because when Miss Margaret got started with cleaning, she didn't want to stop.
I think that Miss Margaret enjoyed life, even with it's hardships. She worked hard at what she did and took pride in the fact that she did a good job and people respected her. She lost her beloved daughter Ruby to breast cancer. Ruby had a bad time with the disease and it finally took her. I went to the funeral and know how hard it was for Miss Margaret to lose her child.
After she retired, I continued to visit with her on holidays, sitting in her kitchen and smelling the food cooking on the stove. She always cooked for more than just her family. I'd take her cakes, a ham and cookies or something special for Christmas. The last time I saw her was this past Christmas. She was happy to see me, even though her health had gone down. She was hooked up to oxygen because of emphysema and had high blood pressure. She talked about maybe coming back to work. I told her that she could come visit anytime that she wanted but that I thought she had earned her retirement.
I know that Miss Margaret wouldn't want anyone to be sad but would want everyone who knew her to rejoice in her life and celebrate it. I'm doing that even as my eyes tear up. Till you're better paid, Miss Margaret.