A different Weekly Comments
WESTON, West Virginia: Today as I write this, the Attorney General has resigned, Michael Vick confessed, and dozens of Presidential candidates continue to spout off. The Federal Reserve saved the stock market from overly optimistic home buyers and the Yankees are back.
But I’ll leave all that for others to argue and mull over because my Mom passed away peacefully on Thursday, at 88. She led a full life until Alzheimer’s started interfering about ten years ago. Since January she had been in a fine nursing home, incapacitated and unable to talk. In some ways death was a blessing. But it ends a 66-year romance with Dad. (Although I have my doubts that the love between them will ever end.)
Readers who knew Hazel Reeder may see a couple of parallels with the main subject of the following Weekly Article from 1925. Will Rogers is better expressing his feelings than I am. Will’s mother died when he was only 10, and the two sisters he writes about below were ten and sixteen years older than Will, so they often filled the role of mother to him.
Historic quote from Will Rogers:
Weekly Article #128 (May 24, 1925) [included in its entirety]
IT’S WHAT THE HOME FOLKS THINK OF YOU THAT REALLY COUNTS
“A few days ago I was asked by one of the big Ministers of New York City to come to a Luncheon and speak to over 300 Ministers and prominent Laymen. He sat in my dressing room for over an hour. I tried to explain to him that I was only a teller of jokes and that I would be all out of tune with the audience he would have. He is the Methodist Minister here who is building that wonderful big Church [Broadway Temple] which will be the tallest building in New York. A Club, a home, a meeting place, a recreation place for everybody that is interested in trying to live a nice clean wholesome life, and wants to be thrown with people interested in the same thing.
Well, I had worked at affairs for every denomination in the World here in New York, because one is just as worthy as the other. Old New York, the so called heartless city, houses some great people in every denomination in the world, and I can’t see any difference in them. I haven’t been able to see where one has the monopoly on the right course to Heaven.
I told him I didn’t know what to talk about. Saying the erection of this wonderful Church, and worthwhile center, was of course understood as everyone knew that it was a wonderful undertaking. But, anyway, I went and never in my life did I face an audience with as little preparation. Well, I floundered around from one subject to another. The Minister in introducing me had said that I had been raised a Methodist, and I had. So when I got off on that I just couldn’t help but speak of a thing which I didn’t want to speak of. I knew what would happen if I did.
Out of a large family of which I am the youngest, I have two sisters living [Maud Lane and Sallie McSpadden]. And I couldn’t speak of any Church without bringing in the work that those two sisters have done, in the little town in which they both live. It’s Chelsea, Oklahoma, which means nothing in your life, but it has meant a lot to people who have lived in association with them.
They started in this little Western Town some 35 years ago. They helped build the Methodist Church, the first church there. They have helped every Church, they have helped every movement that they knew was for the best upbuilding of their community. They have each raised a large family of boys and girls who are today a credit to their community. They have carried on the same as thousand of women have carried on in every small and big town in the World. They don’t think they are doing anything out of the ordinary. They don’t want credit. They do good simply because they don’t know any other thing to do.
The reason I spoke of this personal thing is because I couldn’t help it. My wife was waiting at the train right then for me to see her off to the sickbed of one of these sisters. I didn’t tell this to the Ministers because they are my sisters but because none of them who has given his entire life and time to God could have given any more than they have. They have given their all.
Now when I had finished my little talk to rush to the train to see my wife off, I had something happen that had never happened before and I have spoken at a great many affairs. The entire 300 stood up and offered a silent Prayer for my poor afflicted sister. That was days ago.
Today, as I write this, I am not in the Follies, the carefree Comedian who jokes about everything. I am out in Oklahoma, among my People, my Cherokee people, who don’t expect a laugh for everything I say.
That Silent Prayer that those 300 Ministers uttered didn’t save my sister [Maud]. She has passed away. But she had lived such a life that it was a privilege to pass away. Death didn’t scare her. It was only an episode in her life. If you live right, death is a Joke to you as far as fear is concerned.
And on the day that I am supposed to write a so called Humorous Article I am back home. Back home, at the funeral of my sister. I can’t be funny. I don’t want to be funny. Even Ziegfeld don’t want me to be funny. I told him I wanted to go. He said: “I would hate you if you didn’t.” I told W. C. Fields, the principal comedian of the show. He said: “Go on, I will do something to fill in.” Brandon Tynan, my friend of years said: “Go home where you want to be and where you ought to be.”
After all, there is nothing in the world like home. You can roam all over the World, but after all, it’s what the people at home think of you that really counts. I have just today witnessed a Funeral that for real sorrow and real affection I don’t think will ever be surpassed anywhere. They came in every mode of conveyance, on foot, in Buggies, Horseback, Wagons, Cars, and Trains, and there wasn’t a Soul that come that she hadn’t helped or favored at one time or another.
Now, we are in the South, of the South, and according to Northern standards we don’t rate the Negro any too high. Well, I wish you could have seen the Negroes at her home on the day of the Funeral. Before her death, she said: “They are my folks, they have helped me for years, they are all my friends. When I am gone I don’t want you Children at my Funeral to show any preference.” That’s the real South’s real feelings for its real friends. Death knows no Denomination. Death draws no color line.
Some uninformed Newspapers printed: “Mrs. C. L. Lane, sister of the famous Comedian, Will Rogers.” They were greatly misinformed. It’s the other way around. I am the brother of Mrs. C.L. Lane, “The friend of Humanity.” And I want to tell you that as I saw all these people who were there to pay tribute to her memory, it was the proudest moment of my life that I was her brother. And all the honors that I could ever in my wildest dreams hope to reach, would never equal the honor paid on a little western Prairie hilltop, among her people, to Maud Lane. If they will love me like that at the finish, my life will not have been in vain.”
Note: Mom’s middle name was Maude. And I’m proud to be the son of Mrs. W. Howard Reeder.