The following post continues the month long Fearless Females Challenge by Lisa Alzo, author of The Accidental Genealogist blog, which is focused on “celebrating and honoring ‘fearless females’ in our family trees” to mark National Women’s History Month, which is the month of March, with a post responding to unique prompts for each day of the month. (Note: Because I started this challenge late, I will be continuing it beyond March 31.)
Prompt for March 21 — Describe a tender moment one of your female ancestors shared with you or another family member.
This particular challenge is a bit difficult for me, given the fact that for most of my ancestors that I had a chance to interact with I was too young for them to really share much with me that was personal. However, this is not to say that each of my grandparents and great grandparents that I had a chance to get to know didn’t treat me tenderly, for they most certainly did. I knew that they loved me (because they told me), and they certainly bought me things and gave me lots of attention.
Nevertheless, when I read this prompt I immediately thought of one moment in particular involving my maternal great grandmother, Irene Vera (Balla) Sebok (1913-2006). Several years before she died, I had the opportunity to ask her questions about her family and what it was like growing up. During one of the sessions, she was telling me about her siblings, and her twin brothers, Frank Balla (1912-1920) and John Balla (1912), came up. Being a twin, I wanted to know more about them, since I had never met them or really heard anything about them before. John died soon after birth, while Frank died at the age of 8, after they left New York and settled in Texas. The story of Frank’s death was particularly moving for her (and me), and it was clear to me how much she loved her brother.
Frank, like his brother John, was a “blue baby,” and had health problems throughout his short life. My great grandmother recalled vividly the day he died at their farm in Texas. Their mother woke them all up early to do chores and go to school. Being early, it was cold and she liked to give them coffee with milk and cinnamon, along with their breakfast. Frank loved it and wanted more, but their mother was busy doing housework and told him to go outside with the others, even raising her voice because he was persistently asking for more of the coffee. Soon after Frank went outside, one of the horses on the property was running around out in the filed and ran into some barbed wire. The horse was a bleeding and feel to the ground, probably with a broken leg. Because of its injuries, they had to put the horse down. Unfortunately, Frank witnessed the whole thing and went into shock. He died from heart failure at 10:00 am that same day.
As my great grandmother finished telling me the story, she was in tears over her brother’s death. She repeated a few times, “if only Mama gave him some more of that coffee.” It was a very sad story and a tender moment about life, death and family that I shared with my great grandmother.