The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


July 20, 2013

The lives of the quiet ones should be celebrated, too

— All week, I planned to write about the Trayvon Martin trial verdict. The death of a 17-year-old is important. But so is the death of an 86-year-old saint.

She lived a humble life and the world will not mourn her death, but if you knew Iris McNeer, you knew the biblical definition of a virtuous woman.

She was kind, generous, caring and faithful. She was an example to me of a godly single woman. She always had a smile and a good word for everyone.

Aunt Iris was my first cousins’ aunt, but she didn’t mind that we considered her our aunt, too. She enjoyed working hard at the family homeplace. We often teased her that she mowed her yard every day because it was pretty common to see her on the lawn mower every day of the week.

She and Grandma Blanche raised a big garden every year and had chickens. They also had a rooster who was pretty proud of himself. It wasn’t unusual to hear him crow at all times of the day. To this day, I miss hearing their rooster crow when I’m home.

Aunt Iris was a true servant, faithful in her attendance and support of the church. Every time I left for a mission trip, she pressed money into my hand. “You use that to help those people,” she usually said. When I went to the Navajo reservation, I used her money to buy little gifts for the children that we gave them at the end of Bible School each day.

When her mother fell into ill health, Aunt Iris took early retirement from Celanese to care for her. She gave up what could have been a higher pension to be faithful to her mother. That was a real lesson to us about selfless giving and loving.

Every year at Christmas caroling, Aunt Iris and Grandma Blanche invited us into the house to sing. Aunt Iris made church window cookies because she knew I liked them. She made sure I ate at least two and left with at least two more in my hand.

When our 4-H club decided to put the lighted star and cross on the top of Jimmie Hutchison’s hill, Aunt Iris and Grandma Blanche gave us the largest donation. They had already given money when Aunt Iris told us to come back by the house and she gave more. She said, “Mother and I talked it over and decided we should give more because we’ll get the most good out of it.”

Aunt Iris couldn’t turn away a human or a critter that needed help. And she loved her family — all of them. She kept up with what they were doing and how they were doing. And they loved her back. They always made sure to visit her regardless of whether they were home for a day or a week.

Aunt Iris was part of Mom’s walking club that included me and Aunt Betty. We’d take off up by the church or out by the post office for our morning walk. Aunt Iris collected aluminum cans to give one of the men in our church to donate to Ronald McDonald House. Every time she spied a can in the ditch, she was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning.

One morning, it was just Aunt Iris and Mom — and they went dumpster diving. They were out past the post office and noticed a lot of loose cans in a neighbor’s trash can. Aunt Iris whipped out the plastic Kroger bag she always carried for collecting, and Mom nearly went head over heels into the trash can to rescue their booty. A couple of minutes later, the neighbor came driving down the driveway and almost caught them.

Another time when it was just the two of them, they noticed a car coming up from behind. Both ran to the center of the road and smack dab into each other. The man behind them was laughing so hard he could barely drive past them. Both of them laughed about that for months.

I fear the world is not making enough Aunt Irises today — God-fearing, hardworking, mountain mommas who could tame a wild cat and a weedy garden. So we should doubly count our blessings that we knew this one.

Enter into rest, Aunt Iris. You’ve earned it. We’ll see you soon.

— Young is a

Register-Herald columnist.


© 2013 by Nerissa Young

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