A painful loss remembered

Published 8:18 pm Tuesday, July 20, 2004

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS -- She remembers the red barn with its silo at the home of her youth in the hills of Pennsylvania. Eleanor (Martin) Van Dyke of Niles was one of the older children, of her parent's brood.
The year she was 18 was a memorable one, one which she turned into a story which she told to those at the Front Porch Tales at the Cass County Council on Aging (COA) in Cassopolis Monday morning.
Eleanor's brother John, born exactly four years apart, was the subject of her story. She told of how in that red barn her brother got stabbed with a pitch fork. Another brother ran to a house which had a telephone to call a doctor.
But the story turned especially sad when she told how John got very sick. Oliver, one year younger, believed it was due to blowing a puff ball in John's face.
Her father brought her home from high school, as he feared the worst. That night, Eleanor saw something while in bed which she never told the three sisters who shared the two beds in her room, or her parents. She saw "a grey blue curtain by my bed."
Her father called them to gather around John's bed, and like the doctor, who had returned to the house for this sad call, stood around helpless.
Delirious, John had one surge of power and ran into the closet, before he returned to the bed, where he laid down and died.
She described her first experience with death and their inexperience to deal with grief. Since Oliver felt guilty, her parents took him into their bedroom to sleep on a cot, where he heard them crying in the night.
That same year, Eleanor's mother delivered her 12th child. Also their entire herd of dairy cows, from which they made their living selling cream, died from TB.
Eleanor's husband Edwin died nearly 25 years ago. She taught fourth grade in Niles, after attending college in Missouri and receiving her master's.
More Front Porch Tales are being planning at the COA in the future.