My Mom passed from this life to her heavenly home in March of this year … on the first day of Spring. Her passing has taught me some lessons on how I might choose to remember and honor her life.
As I wrote in Part I (What Mom Didn’t Like), dementia tried to steal so much from us. Our focus fell solely to who Mom was the last three years of her life. That Mom was struggling … confused … full of up and downs … sad about not being able to control her life … funny one moment … depressed another … sweet and compassionate the next day … stubborn and unresponsive the day after that …
But Mom should never be defined by the dementia.
Mom… the WHOLE person … was a very special, impacting human. She is deserving of recognition beyond her struggles, so this is a mini-series of posts intended to highlight Mom. It springboards from what was shared at the celebration of her life and celebrates a life well lived.
Things Mom Loved:
Ice cream, especially chocolate soft serve. We were raving jealous as kids, when my Dad would stop for the rare treat at a local drive-in and allow Mom a second chocolate cone after we had all finished ours. “Not fair!” whined four little people in chorus. “This …, ” Dad would answer, “is exactly why she deserves two.”
Cookies. Cookie eating and cookie baking had been passed down from my grandmother’s (Mom’s Mom). “We might be poor,” Mom would say … in the very same way Grandma had said it to her, “but we can always find something to turn into cookies for a little treat.” Peanut bars, oatmeal buttermilk cookies, gram cracker squares … just nothing with raisins.
Ironically, oatmeal cookies with raisins were served at the Celebration of her life. I completely forgot to mention the raisin situation when I told our caterer …”Just make any cookies”. Oops! Mom would have laughed … well, after making a “yuck” face about the raisins.
I should also add that Mom would probably be mad at me for highlighting her sweet tooth. I can hear her now … “You make me sound like a pig.” She was not at all … it’s just that many fun family memories revolve around our baking and eating ventures. That’s just the way we were. And part of the point is that she was a very good baker except for pie crust. I had to make the pie crusts, but she had to roll them out. I can’t roll out a good crust for the life of me!
Mom loved …
Drives in the country
Dessert First (Oops … that sweet tooth thing again!)
House plants. Well … she didn’t really like them … they liked her … she had a knack for making them flourish but sometimes she was overwhelmed with the work and the results.
Old rocking chairs
Old butter churns
Old sewing machines
My Dad was several years older than her so I guess you can say she loved old men too.
Bears … huge collection
Practical jokes … if she was the instigator rather than the receiver
The scent of lilacs and of lavender
Music by the Gaither’s and all their guests
Antique hunting. She had a knack for talking people into giving her things that were going to be thrown away or that no longer had a use to any one … anyone, but her.
Her kids. She never felt like a perfect parent. It was certainly a challenge to have four children underfoot while hardly more than a kid herself. And as an only child, she only knew what she experienced in her own childhood … which was sometimes pretty rocky with older parents who didn’t know how to handle a very spirited child. Mistakes were made for sure … but there was no doubt that she loved us.
Her grandkids. Having grandchildren brought out something soft and carefree in my mom I’d never seen before. They taught her to say “I love you,” more freely than she did with us kids … they lightened up her tendency to worry, although not completely. Worrying was her one true talent, she said more than once.
My Dad. Although they had to endure a lot of “robbing the cradle jokes” and those who wanted to analyze whether or not she was simply looking for a better father figure in her life, Mom loved my Dad. Their age difference created friction (more like combustion) from time to time, especially in my teen years, when I think Mom wished she’d taken a little more time to start a family. But she certainly loved Dad. She enjoyed pulling him out of his shell and doing what she could to keep him young. After a sort-of-separation (she lived with my grandmother to care for her for several years, but visited with Dad daily), they lived together again and Mom took care of Dad until he passed. He died a week short of their 40th wedding anniversary, and Mom honored the day by bringing 40 red roses to the memorial service.
My stepdad. L. lumbered into Mom’s life the year after Dad passed, encouraged by mutual friends to pay a visit. Their relationship opened a whole new life for Mom just as she thought it was pretty much over. He pushed her into adventure and taught her to live life again. They adventured together into the antique business, into long rides in the country side, into caring for neighbors and friends, into silly conversations at the local restaurant. He was patient through her depression and health struggles and can be summarized by nothing less than saying he is the most loyal human I’ve personally ever met. He visited her every day when she first fell ill and was 40 miles away in a nursing facility. He gathered up favorite treats to try and entice her to eat when nothing else was working. He ran any errand she asked of him and spent countless hours trying to convince her everything would be all right when she was in the worst of doldrums. I don’t know where we would be without L. They spent 23 years together.
Kindness. Kind people and gestures struck deep with Mom, and she was pretty good as initiating kindness herself … most days. If you got on her bad side she’d either ignore you or rib you until you knew that you’d better make amends.
You … if Mom had a chance to meet you … she would love you. Even if you’re a crusty old soul, Mom would have liked you … probably even more so because she’d say she could relate … that’s just the way she was.