*To honor the memories of Glenna, Denzil, Cassandra and especially Ginny, I am once again putting Ginny's Story here on this, the anniversary of the Silver Bridge tragedy.*
~The following story isn't a happy little Christmas vignette. What it is, in fact, is a true and rather long tale based on conversations with Ginny, the daily journals in which she wrote, and the cards and letters she treasured for so many years. It is a story of love and loss, and a lesson in humanity. You never know for certain what life is truly like for another person until you take the time to listen to (and really hear) them. It is very important to me that it be told, especially on this day. I think that if you'll do me the honor of taking a few minutes to read it you'll understand why.~
It was December 15, 1967. The Christmas card arrived that morning, Glenna’s familiar handwriting gracing the envelope. A short note was included, asking about Mom, Daddy and Gramma, and saying that she and Denzil would be traveling to Gallipolis Friday evening after work to finish up their Christmas shopping. It was signed “Merry Christmas! With love, Denzil, Glenna and Baby”. This was Friday and the card had been mailed two days before. Ginny read the card aloud to her husband and her mother that morning, not knowing what the rest of the day would hold for them all.
Denzil and Glenna did head out to Gallipolis that evening, just as the Christmas card had foretold. Ginny knew they would because Glenna had been having some problems with swelling and, with the baby due in January, she needed to finish her shopping before she was unable to do so. Ginny, Ginny’s mother and Buck were even going to make the long drive to Denzil and Glenna’s small mobile home to celebrate this year because they knew the trip would be too much on Glenna. That’s why Ginny had no doubt that her daughter and son-in-law would do just as they said.
That’s why, when she heard that the Silver Bridge crossing the Ohio River between Pt. Pleasant, WV and Gallipolis, OH had collapsed, taking with it all of the rush hour travelers who were crossing it at the time, she knew in her heart that Denzil and Glenna were gone. In her mother’s heart, she knew that her precious daughter, her unborn grandchild, and her son-in-law had fallen to their deaths in the icy waters of the Ohio River.
Glenna’s childhood bedroom still sat much the way it had before she married Denzil some 4 years earlier. In the days following the accident, while Buck and Ginny awaited word on the recovery of bodies, they gathered Glenna’s belongings from her new home and took them back to that childhood bedroom, tucking them neatly into the cedar chest that sat by the foot of the bed. There were dresses, skirts and blouses; maternity tops and coats; and, saddest of all, there were the tiny, embroidered gowns and the hand pieced crib quilt that had been lovingly crafted for the baby. They were just sure it would be a girl. Her name was going to be Cassandra.
Ginny eventually went on with her life, but things were never the same for her. There was always that missing piece, that hole that couldn’t be filled. She and Buck traveled extensively throughout the U.S., pulling their camper from state to state and taking pictures all along the way. They had photos, reels and slides that recorded every trip they took over the years. Buck would set up the projector on the weekends and they would relive their travels, sharing them with friends and family. Ginny’s sister and brother-in-law, Peanut and Howard, sometimes joined them on their journeys. They had never had children themselves, so Glenna had been like a daughter to them as well. They felt the sting of her death just as surely as if she’d been their own. Ginny and Peanut were already as close as two sisters could be, but this shared grief somehow drew them even closer.
In 1970, their mother passed away. She had resided in a house right next to Ginny’s and again, Ginny had an added grief to bear. In the early 1980s Peanut became very ill with cancer. Before she was able to come home from an extended hospital visit, Howard fell ill, too. They soon discovered that he had cancer as well and Ginny brought them both home to care for them in their last days. They passed away within weeks of each other. Then in 1987, Ginny lost the last of the loves of her life, Buck. He, too, was taken by cancer. Ginny had never been more alone.
My in-laws had become friends with Ginny and Buck in the early 60s. My husband, born in 1965 and only 2 when the Silver Bridge collapsed, had been a comfort to them to have around over the years. I can’t help but think that he helped to ease the pain of the loss of the only grandchild they would ever have, the one they never got a chance to meet. Since three of his four grandparents had already passed away, Buck and Ginny were very important figures in Phil’s life. Before long his family began taking vacations with Buck and Ginny, traveling to state parks and visiting popular sightseeing destinations. Even now he talks about how they got together most weeknights to play Pinochle and Pollyanna, and the Saturday morning trips into Harrisville with Buck and Ginny to do their banking and visit the five and dime where Buck always allowed Phil to pick out a comic book to take home. These are the threads that were woven together over the years, forming the fabric that is Phil’s past and foundation. Precious memories, indeed.
In the last few years, we watched Ginny’s health fail remarkably. Her diabetes was out of control and she refused to eat the way the doctor said she should. She would have ‘spells’ when her sugar dropped too drastically and she sometimes was unable to even remember what happened. She had an aneurysm in her stomach that caused her frequent pain. The doctor warned that it could rupture at any time, but there was nothing they could do because Ginny wasn’t strong enough to withstand surgery. Her kidney function declined rapidly but she adamantly refused dialysis. “I don’t even know why I’m still here” she’d say, always wishing that she would just die. She wanted to be with Buck and Glenna, Peanut and Howard. She always asked her doctor how she was going to die, wanting details so she would know if it was happening. He kept telling her he couldn’t give her those kinds of answers, but because he had once told her it was a possibility, she convinced herself that she would simply fall asleep and not awaken. That was somehow comforting to her.
Through it all, Ginny stayed as busy as she could. Still driving long after she should have had her license taken away, she would play Bingo several nights a week. She would tell you that she didn’t really even enjoy the game so much. It was the company. Ginny made a whole new set of friends when she started playing and they became very important to her. Bingo gave her a reason to look forward to getting up in the mornings. When she wasn’t at Bingo, chances are she was sitting in her lounge chair or stretched out on her couch sleeping. She slept several hours a day because congestive heart failure left her unable to take in enough oxygen.
Ginny always said that when she was gone, there would be no one to remember Glenna. She just knew that Glenna’s short life was all for naught, that she was the only one left to keep her memory alive. When Ginny gave us an old wash stand that had been her mother’s, my husband did a beautiful job refinishing it. He sanded away an aged, dark finish and restored the beauty it had originally held. When it was done and we had brought it to our bedroom, Ginny came for a visit and we asked her to come upstairs to see what we had. Needless to say, she was stunned at how lovely it had become! And then she saw what we had placed upon it. Two double picture frames, one on each side of the bowl and pitcher, holding pictures of Buck and Ginny, Denzil and Glenna. I told her that day that we wanted those pictures there so she would know that none of them would ever be forgotten, that I would see to it that they were always remembered.
On April 5, 2009 Ginny passed away. I hope and pray that she has now found the peace that she could not find in life. When I think of her, I see her sitting with Buck, Peanut, Howard, Denzil and Glenna, and she’s holding a beautiful pink-cheeked cherub named Cassandra. And Ginny is smiling, a smile that reaches all the way to her heart.
Glenna Grose Taylor
Never to be forgotten.