Little House on the Prairie

Season 1 Episode 6

If I Should Wake Before I Die

Aired Wednesday 12:00 AM Oct 23, 1974 on NBC

Episode Recap

At the Ingalls home Miss Maddie Elder is entertaining Caroline and the children by playing the auto-harp while they sing. At her home, Amy Hearn and Charles are decorating the place for Maddie's 80th birthday party. Doc Baker stops by with a letter for Maddie and Amy knows what it says without looking: Maddie's family can't make it for her birthday. That evening, Maddie is sitting in her rocker, crying softly and clutching the letter. While Amy is talking to her, she passes away. At the funeral, Amy is standing back with the Ingalls children when something Laura says strikes a chord within her: "We ought a have our funerals while we're still alive so as we could say goodbye to everybody."

At home, Caroline tells the family that she had seen Amy Hearn at the store settling up her accounts. After visiting Amy, Laura runs to the mill to tell Pa that Amy is sick. Doc Baker visits her but can't find anything wrong. Amy gets Charles and the doctor to promise that they will wire her children before she passes and that they will hold a wake for her using the priest from Mankato. When they agree, she gets up out of bed and tells them that the wake will be held Wednesday on her birthday.

Charles and Doc Baker refuse to go along with the deception but Amy presents a compelling argument: she wants to see her absentee children and grandchildren before she dies. She asks them why they would be willing to please her ghost but not her flesh and blood. They try to reason with her but she is firm and they agree. She dismisses them but not before reminding Charles to spare no expense on her wake and describing the menu. She tells Doc Baker to go ahead and wire her children. At home, Caroline is dismayed when Charles outlines Amy's plans. She agrees to go talk to Amy.

In bed that night, Laura tells Mary that she wants to live forever and that going to sleep is like you're dead. At Amy's the next day, Charles and Carrie are pacing while waiting for Ma to finish talking to Amy. Caroline comes out and silently gets in the wagon. When Charles asks her how she got Amy to change her mind, she says simply, "I'm baking the cake." After school, Laura and Mary stop by Oleson's and ask Doc Baker how Amy is getting along with Laura giving him a big conspiratorial wink. When Nels begins discussing Amy's health, Doc Baker leaves. Later, he and Charles clandestinely help Amy move out of her house to take up residence at the Ingalls until after the wake. As Mary and Laura walk home from school they meet Father Gorman riding a mule and he asks for directions to their place. Laura excuses herself and runs home to warn everyone about the priest's imminent arrival. Mary leads Father Gorman home. He is a new priest and asks for information on Amy, her life and friends. Caroline is about to spill the beans when Amy comes out of their bedroom and asks to speak to the priest outside. Caroline is relieved that the deception is over but to the priest, Amy is Mrs. O'Hara (her maiden name) and Amy agrees to help them prepare the feast.

At the wake, Mary and Laura are acting as servers as the entire town is gathered at Amy's place. Mrs. Oleson has reservations when Caroline unveils the chocolate birthday cake but Father Gorman says that Amy would have wanted this to be more like a birthday party than a wake. Caroline visits an all-in-black Amy in her bedroom. She puts down her veil and joins the party. Amy stands next to Caroline in the back of the room as Amy's kids and grandkids are introduced to the party-goers. Hanson knows Amy's oldest son, Sean, as he used to work for Hanson. Doc Baker and Charles are nervous about the ruse. As the evening progresses, Amy eavesdrops on Bridget and Sean discussing some childhood events. Later, Amy's youngest son, Andy, a career soldier arrives. As the three of them lament their mother's passing, Amy decides to reveal the deception but immediately launches into individual tirades against all three of them for not keeping in touch. They are horrified at her deception but soon realize their folly and the family embraces. Charles, Caroline and Doc Baker exchange nods indicating their satisfaction with the outcome. Charles picks up his fiddle and announces to the gathering that they are here for a birthday party not a wake. He even gives Doc Baker permission to dance with his wife.