It’s really safe to say that I haven’t dealt very well with my mother’s passing. I didn’t have her long enough. I didn’t appreciate her enough. I didn’t say I love you enough. And it occurs to me that I need to express my feelings about her. This blog post is a tribute to her.
More than a decade before my mother passed away, she wrote a poem about dying, entitled “I’ve Gone Walking.” This message to her seven children is a reminder that life is fleeting and that while we are here we should look for beauty in our imperfect world.
My mother was a poet, a writer, a water-color artist, an avid quilt-maker, and a home-maker. She found great beauty and inspiration in many types of flowers, and to her they mirrored the grace of God. She was born in the Great Depression era, suffered through a war-time unlike any America has seen since, and thus understood the value in the small things of life. Because of her love for nature, she walked each day. She kept her eye on wild flowers that grew along the path and she would tend to them to make sure they stayed beautiful. It infuriated her when the city mowed them down and often she scattered seeds to encourage them to grow.
My mother was beautiful. She had the classic beauty of any film star, but was down-to-earth and gracious. She was quiet, unassuming, and a little introverted but also full of vim and verve. Do you remember the cowardly lion from Wizard of Oz using that expression?
It’s sad, believe me, Missy,
When you’re born to be a sissy,
Without the vim and verve.
But I could show my prowess,
Be a lion, not a “mowess,”
If I only had the nerve.
She had vim and verve in spades. Even when struck down by Alzheimer’s and up until nearly the very end, my mother was striking, intelligent, and absolutely the antithesis of a quitter.
Sometimes my children ask me what she would think about this modern generation. Mom loved children, likening them to flowers in a garden. They are lovely to watch as they grow. They have their season. They have a life path that doesn’t necessarily make you (as a parent) happy, but still you will always look back fondly at their glory. When my mother reached the dark stages of her disease, she clung to stuffed bunnies. At some point she had several in a basket. These gave her some sense of the seven children she had ultimately forgotten. This fact still reduces me to tears.
Because Mom lived through the great hardship that came from the Great Depression, she understood frugality, self sacrifice and budgeting not just money but food, energy, and even emotions. My grandparents built a farm in rural Arkansas with their own hands. They raised eight children living off vegetables they grew, chickens they tended to and a cow they milked. Even when she had very little of her own, Mom was a generous person who regularly sent money to those less fortunate, particularly those in other countries. Mom had lived through the era of the holocaust and the threat of communism, as well as the ugliness of the Vietnam War. She had married a career military man. She would look at the state of America today with grave concern. She would not want us to plummet back into the darkness of the first half of the 20th century. She would not sit idly by. She would fight for what is good and right.
The legacy of my mother is that even amid great darkness and suffering – love, grace, beauty and strength of character will win.
I love you Mom.