Died in Boulder, Montana, on this date in 1945: aunt Leah Myers. Leah was the youngest of Dan and Lillian Myers‘ six children, and was quite severely handicapped. She traveled and remained with the family until her teens, when she had to be institutionalized. With few stories to go on, one can only imagine how stressful it was for the family. On a practical basis, her constant care would have been difficult, even for a more settled and prosperous family. But long months on the road in the “gospel truck,” and the family’s self-imposed poverty (Grandpa did not believe in taking an offering at his revival meetings), must have made it grueling indeed.
The emotional toll was even greater. Did Dan agonize over why God was punishing the family so, or else over his faith itself? According to legend, Dan was “converted” and went into preaching after praying for the lives of Lillian and baby Esther during a difficult childbirth. How could he cope with such a cruel twist of fate as Leah’s disability?
Lillian, her health always fragile, was “sick in bed” for a full year after Leah was finally put in an institution, apparently at Grandpa’s insistence. Mom’s interpretation was that Grandma’s heart was broken. The institution was the Montana State School for the Blind and Mentally Retarded in Boulder. Leah is buried in the cemetery there.
In the late 1990s, my mother (Reatha) and sister Bonnie went to Montana to visit Leah’s grave. On the road trip, Bonnie brought a cassette recorder, and they recorded what I call “The Meme Tapes,” a record of Mom’s early life as she recalled it (not always error-free). Thanks also to Bonnie for filling me in on some of the above details.