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Born With a Rusty Spoon: Episode 83

...She even started attending church! She laughed when I told her she got nice "just in time to squeeze under Heaven's gate."...

Artist Bertie Stroup Marah recalls the final days of her beloved mother.

Mama lived for ten years after P.G. died. She missed him terribly and took comfort in having her kids nearby. During that time she also lost her remaining two brothers, Bill and Murrel. Bill died of a heart attack. Murrel had succumbed to alcoholism and committed suicide. Only her sister, Virginia, outlived her.

Every chance I got I visited Mama in New Mexico. I knew she looked forward to our time together. She had long since lost most of her "fight." She'd become more subdued and she took comfort in her religious convictions. She even started attending church! She laughed when I told her she got nice "just in time to squeeze under Heaven's gate."

The most difficult thing I ever did was caring for her at the end of her life. Not because of the physical demands, it was my privilege to attend to those, but because her illness robbed her of all she had stood for.
My mama had always kept her fears to herself. However reckless she could be, she had always shared her courage with others. For me, that made her helplessness all the more unbearable. Like other members of her family, she had developed emphysema. I stayed by her side night and day as she deteriorated. The sight of this once vivacious, wildly independent woman reduced to a husk of her old self would forever haunt my memory.

Again and again she reached for my hand, whispering, "Bertie, I don't know what I'd do without you." Even as she was slipping away, I preferred to think of her as that sturdy, strong-willed woman I called Mama.


To buy a copy of Bertie's wonderful book please visit

To see some of her pictures click on


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