Many of the people I interviewed as I researched The Healing were elderly and it was clear that their rich memories held the answers to who we are as a people. I felt a certain urgency to get down their words while I could, but there were times when I forgot to ask the right question and called back later, maybe a few months or a few years, only to be told that they had passed. It brought home the saying, “When a person dies, a library is lost.” One loss that was particularly painful to hear about was that of Mrs. Willie Turner.
Mrs. Turner was a midwife from Midnight, Mississippi, born in 1911. I came to her home in 2002 and spent two hours enthralled, listening to her tell me of how she “caught” 2063 babies in her home county of Humphreys alone. At the time we spoke she was 90 and deaf. I had to write down the questions and she shouted back the answers. I have the tape and listen to it often. In fact, in writing The Healing, I often drew from Mrs. Turner’s spirit, her compassion and the fierce love and pride she for her calling. She obviously adored her “her babies,” all 2063 of them, and they all adored her, still calling her “Mother” until her death in 2010.
When we parted that summer afternoon, she told me, “Jonathan, don’t forget God, ‘cause He is the Head of the Heaven. In your work with that book, put God in front and you’ll make it. That’s what I did and I done made it to 90 years old.” She made it to 99, and I’m sure God was in front all the way. I tried hard not to disappoint her.
1. How many children did you help birth? 0.16
2. How busy did you stay? 1:00
3. Did some mothers get scared? What did you do to calm them?4:25
4. How did you get around to your patients? 5:44
5. Did any of the women fight you? 10:09
6. How did you raise a family and be a midwife?10:42
7. What were the homes like? 12:54
1. When did you decide you wanted to be a midwife? 0:15
2. How did you learn? 0:34
3. Tell me about a typical delivery. 1:13
4. What were some of the most difficult deliveries? 5:20
5. Were some babies born not breathing? What did you do? 8:26