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Ballad for Jimmy Ray

Ballad for Jimmy Ray

by Mary Elizabeth Burgess
Publication Date: 03/01/2014
In this fictionalized account of the author's only sibling, born crippled and with soft bones, many fractures and illnesses cause Rebekah to become her brother's nurse, as Mama has to work because Papa died when the children were young. Jimmy Ray disdained going to doctors and hospitals after failed surgeries to correct his deformities and never told Mama how ill he was one summer with a high fever and sore throat. Rheumatic fever left him with a heart murmur discovered years later. When he marries sickly Betty Lou and has a son, he assumes the burdens of housework and baby care. He has worked in the refrigeration room of a dairy for 25 years before it closes, causing his heart to enlarge. Freezing temperatures plus rheumatic fever contributes to severe mitral valve prolapse. Realizing his chances are slim, he consents to surgery even though his white blood count is extremely low. The siblings reminisce about their childhood, but when Jimmy goes into cardiac arrest, Becks knows she can't tell him Mama had a stroke and died, nor what really happened in the schoolyard forty years ago.
After Jimmy dies, while she is visiting his tombstone following a church service, she realizes he would have forgiven her years ago. Now she must forgive herself.
Contemporary fiction
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United States
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