My Great Grandma’s Story

By Claire Walk, grade 8

Many people are blessed with many good things in life. Many people are burdened with trials and sorrows. It is sometimes amazing to see people who have had struggles in their life turn their newfound problems into a gift. My great-grandma, Mary West Faircloth, was truly an amazing woman. When she was born on May 8, 1928, she lived in Cleveland, Ohio. Later, her family moved to California, and she had to run away from home because she was being abused. All of this occurred at the tender age of 14. Her life for the next five years was a series of setbacks and problems. She decided to start a new life in Florida, all alone. She found a roommate to live with in Florida and got an apartment. Unfortunately, because of this roommate, she came home from work one day to find that all of her possessions were stolen from her. Fortunately, her strong will to live kept her moving forward. In fact, she was known for saying the phrase, “Always look forward.”

She then took a train from Florida to Edwardsville, Illinois, where she met my great-grandpa, Jack West. After two months, she married him and started a family. When she was pregnant with their first child, she had lots of complications with the pregnancy. The doctor asked Jack, my great-grandpa, which one he wanted to survive the childbirth, the baby or my great-grandma. He told the doctor, “Both,” and that is exactly what happened. In fact, when the doctor told her she should never have any more children, she said, “I’ll have a dozen!” And, when she was finished, she delivered 11 kids, with one dying due to premature complications. 

Having all those problems in her youth inspired Mary to want to help children from that day forward. After her own children had grown, she began taking in foster children who needed love and a place to stay. Then, seeing the need for working mothers to provide a quality and nurturing place for their babies, she opened the first day care center in Effingham, Illinois, calling it Mary’s Day Care. Later, she became an LPN and helped with the new babies at St. Anthony’s Hospital. My great-grandmother was always seen at our Christmas get-togethers playing with the kids and babies. She loved singing to them and getting them to dance.

As my great-grandmother grew older, she was unable to help people like she had always done. It was now her turn to be the recipient of some of the care she had shown to others all those years. About six years ago, her memory began to fail. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. During this time, she started to forget the names of her children, friends, family, and everything important in her life. She was convinced to sell her house and move into an assisted living center so she could be monitored and helped. As her condition grew worse, she again moved into a facility that cared for people with severe memory loss. Throughout that time, even though her memory was gone, her lust for life never disappeared. We would go to the Alzheimer’s unit to play and sing Christmas songs around the piano, and she would dance and sing along with us even though she didn’t know who we were. My great-grandmother, Mary, passed away at the age of 90 recently. I saw her on November 8, 2018, smiling and looking at us intently. I feel like she was trapped in her body and wanted to say something to us, but she had lost her ability to speak. 

Without even knowing she was doing it, my great-grandmother was an example of what pro-life really means. When faced with so many difficulties, many people would have just given up hope, but not my strong great-grandmother. When told she should not have a baby, she defiantly disagreed and then ended up having 11 kids, 31 grandkids, 32 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild. I am proud to say that she understood the value of each and every life and made it her mission to improve the life of anyone she could, especially children. As she grew older, and her health declined, it would have been easy for her to be forgotten about and pushed aside. But, because all human life is important, hers was too, and she wasn’t forgotten about. She had made so many friends and helped so many people that her legacy will live on for many years to come. She was a caring and sweet woman to all around her to the very end of her life. 

I believe that the whole world should see and follow her example of charity and mercy. It could help make their life and everyone else’s lives better, just like my great-grandmother did. She would have loved to see the world carry on with respect and love for others, especially for all children. She wanted all children to be given the respectful, safe, nurturing home life that she missed out on when she was a child. She turned her trials and sorrows into a gift of life-giving and life-living to the fullest. We all should try to copy the examples that were made by my great-grandmother, as she triumphantly carried her cross through life. 

© 2018 Claire Walk. Published with permission.