When my mother was a little girl growing up during the depression in rural Ohio, she knew her family was different. Her five sisters and two brothers looked nothing alike. The fact that her maternal grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian originally from Kentucky played a huge role in her life.
Jewell had dark skin and hair, high cheekbones, and was of short stature, but a temper so fiery; her dark eyes turned jet black and seemed to shine. One look from her and you knew to go home in a hurry, my mother remembered. Yet, she was kind and loving, especially to her favorite granddaughter, Jennie. They seemed to click on a spiritual level. Seeing and hearing things seemed to draw them together. But nothing prepared the small child for a night of frightening terror.
After a long hot summer day, my mother and her two sisters went upstairs to bed. She couldn't get to sleep right away and lay awake. She heard voices coming from her parent's room downstairs but couldn't make out what they were talking about. She said they never stayed up that late as her father had to get up early the next morning. He worked for the railroad,. Finally, she started to doze off when she heard the sound of footsteps on the stairs. She sat up in bed expecting to see her mother walk into the room, but a woman in a long black dress with buttons running from her waist to under her chin walked in. She looked right at my mother and said, "One gone and two remain..."
Strangely, neither of my mother's sisters heard this ghostly figure. Finally, realizing that was not her mother; the trembling child yanked the covers over her head. She stayed that way for a long time, barely able to breathe, sweating under the covers. She desperately wanted to wake up her sisters, but she couldn't move or say a word. At last, she peeked over the edge of the blanket, no one was there. She hardly slept at all the rest of the night. When she heard her mother, Edna, in the kitchen at daybreak, she went downstairs.
"What are you doing up, Jennie?" she asked, as my mother climbed up on her lap. Her eyes were filling with tears. "Did you come upstairs last night, Momma?" she asked. "Yes, I did but you girls were sound asleep, why?" She told her mother that a woman dressed in black came into the room and what she said. Her mother was about to tell her father when the phone rang. After she hung up, she looked pale and shaken, "Jake that was your sister from Kentucky. Your brother just died. That leaves two boys left..."
Mom was confused. What did that have to do with the woman in black? It seems she was a death token warning of the approaching death of her father's brother. Later, she asked her grandmother, Jewell, about it and she assured her it was real. In fact, she believed my mother had inherited her ability to see them. Cherokee Indians believe a ghost is a "guide" that appears when they want to communicate with the living - only to visit or bring messages about good or bad health for a person.