In the Company of Angels

          My grandmother, Winnie Eugenia McWhorter Cox, passed away in her sleep, in her own bed, in her own home on June 9, 1966. Afterwards, my parents decided that it would be a good idea for one of their sons to move in with my grandfather, Robert Leighton Cox, Sr. so he wouldn’t get lonely in his big rambling house. Because we lived next door to my grandfather, this didn’t involve much of a move for my brother Jim. Jim slept, did his homework, and ate breakfast with my grandfather until he left for college in August 1967. Then I moved in with my grandfather on the same terms.

          My grandfather and I shared the same bedroom, which was an addition to the rear of his two-story house. This addition had been built when his mother-in-law (Anna Lee Nelson McWhorter) moved in and obviated the need for her to have to climb the stairs to go to bed. After Anna Lee died, having a first floor bedroom came in handy when Winnie developed heart problems some years later and her doctor advised against climbing stairs. For me, one of the better features of this added bedroom was its tin roof. On a cold winter night, it was the greatest feeling in the world to go to sleep with the sound of rain pattering on that tin roof.

          Another feature I really liked was the big quilted feather bed that was at least one hundred years old. Because of his bad back, my grandfather had moved to a hospital bed across the room several years earlier. So I had the whole feather bed all to myself. I bet I grew at least two additional inches in height just because of all the room I had in that bed during my growth spurt as a teenager.

          One day while I was in high school, I was bragging about the feather bed and tin roof to my classmates, when one of them, fascinated by the age of the bed, inquired as to whether anyone had died in it. Very nonchalantly, I replied yes, and explained that my grandmother (Winnie McWhorter Cox, d. 6/9/1966), my great-grandmother (Anna Lee Nelson McWhorter, d. 10/8/1945), my great-great-grandmother (Jeanette Whichard Nelson, d. 2/1/1919), and my great-great-great-grandmother (Lizzina Moore Whichard, d. 1/15/1900) had all died in that bed. As I ran down the list of ancestors who had died in the very bed in which I slept every night, my classmates’ eyes widened and they demanded to know if I was scared to sleep there.

          That question really took me by surprise. While I knew the history of the bed, I never thought about it in bad way. I always found the thought of being surrounded by the spirits of all these old ladies soothing and I had imagined each of them doing their best to comfort and aid me.

          But, I guess my attitude about my deceased female ancestors speaks volumes about how male Coxes are treated by their female relatives.