Sunday, May 9, 2021

Mosaic Monday #130: Keeping Her Memory Alive

On April 28, 2021, my Mom joined my father, one of my sisters, a beloved niece and all of her siblings in Heaven.  If it is like any other family reunion I have attended, it would begin with Mass.  Faith was front and center for the German Catholic families on both sides, and especially for my Mom; you wouldn’t think to begin anything without having given thanks to God.  And THEN you could tuck into the bountiful buffet before you – home-made fried chicken, roast beef, chicken with noodles, potato salad, Jell-O with the requisite shredded carrots or cabbage, and desserts that seem to outnumber the stars in the sky.

It is not lost on me that today is Mother’s Day in the U.S.  I couldn't bring myself to write this post last week, and then it occurred to me the post would fall on Mother’s Day – how appropriate!  What is motherhood?  Sacrifice.  Nurturing.  Passing on traditions and values.  My Mom had a heart the size of Texas.  How else would she have raised 7 kids and looked after my Dad until he passed in 1998?  Who can count the washed diapers (cloth, you know), the meals, the number of sick kids, etc.?  I am pretty sure I could not have done it. To borrow a quote from one of my nephews on FaceBook: "She is selfless, humble, a crochet master, a gooseberry pie chef, and a shining example of love." 

So, I begin this post with gratitude.  I was blessed to have my Mom for 92 years (or 33,274 days, as my younger brother posted on FB).  I am thankful that my parents welcomed every child that the Lord sent; as number six out of my seven siblings, I would have been out of luck if they had decided to stop after 2! Like many children, the years spent raising my own children and building my career translated to less time with Mom, but we were fortunate that she often came to visit us.  Texas for the birth of our daughter (with Dad).  Arizona for the birth of our son (Dad passed away right before his birth). England during our expatriate assignment.  Cleveland, Ohio for multiple events, including the graduation of both of our children.

You asked her to go somewhere, and she said yes.  (Although she was a bit more reticent if she was footing the bill … she was legendary for picking the least expensive item at restaurants when she was paying.  Well, on second thought, it didn't matter who was paying!)  But that penny-wise mentality fed and clothed 9 people on a tight budget, and you might be shocked to know the value of savings and investments she had accumulated by her retirement.  It was important to her to leave money for her children, even though most of us don’t need it.

Toward the end of my career, I spent most of my working days in Troy, Ohio, which was only a 45-minute drive to Mom.  One night of every week, I would join her for dinner (she almost always insisted on feeding me rather than going out).  We ate, watched Wheel of Fortune and played cards (almost always Kings in the Corner).  Treasured moments.

Both of my parents gave us the gift of a strong work ethic.  I especially admire my Mom because, after nearly 30 years as a home-maker, she went to work as a shoe salesperson and became very successful.  Introverted most of her life, I can only imagine the mental strength it took for her to do this.  She was my very first role model for what women can do in the workplace.

After we moved to Montana in 2017, Mom visited us twice.  The first time she traveled with my oldest sister, a trip they made via Amtrak, thus fulfilling a dream to travel overnight by train. This coincided with my early days of blogging, and I documented the visit in several posts  (9/10/2017, 10/9/201712/8/2017, 2/9/2018).  By that time, Mom had begun using a walker (nick-named the Cadillac), and it still amazes me that she would walk anywhere as long as the ground was fairly level. 

Mom loved Cardinals, and one of her favorite colors was red.  Her Cadillac and her tri-cycle were red!

The second visit was part of a larger trip in September 2018, encompassing Colorado, Utah, Yellowstone and the Tetons along the way.  Two of my brothers and their spouses, along with my oldest sister, were accompanying her.  The whole gang stayed with us at our freshly minted log home.  It was a very special day when Mom harvested the first of the apples from an apple tree that had been planted in her honor.

Mom always told us that she moved off the farm because she didn’t like dirt.  Later in life, she relished gardening, and had quite the collection of thriving African violets.  She also enjoyed crocheting (see July 16, 2017), and created many baby blankets for her grandchildren.  She crocheted many animals, especially giraffes for great-grands.  Lest you think she was completely soft-hearted, woe to those who might have her for a euchre partner when she was wasn’t winning!  She might have a word or two for you if you dealt the other team a good hand, or she felt you mis-played a hand!

That December, we threw a party in Ohio to commemorate her 90th birthday (see 1/19/2019 post).    Part of my contribution was a memory book, aptly titled “GG at 90  Still on the Go”. 

At that time, Mom had 17 grandchildren and 20 great-grands.  At this writing, she has 25 great-grands and one more on the way.

In between all of these visits, I had weekly Skype calls with Mom.  For a woman that grew up with no running water, electricity or radio, I was always impressed with her willingness and ability to learn new technology.

I will miss her, but since she is at peace, I am at peace.  Isolation must have been difficult for her, even though she was a fairly introverted person.  You don’t want someone close to you to die, but you also do not want to see them suffer.  

Fast forward to June 2020.  The U.S. is three months into the pandemic and Mom goes on 24-hour oxygen to help her burdened lungs and heart.  As I wrote in my June 21, 2020 post, it was time to give back just a small portion of what I had received.  I prepared the meals, a turning of the tables after 90 years of Mom’s cooking.   I could tell she was becoming frailer, and the oxygen issues affected her short-term memory.  (Ultimately, my two older sisters would move her from independent living in Dayton to assisted living in Cincinnati in late October).  But the rest of our traditions remained intact.  Playing cards.  Watching Wheel of Fortune.  Eating Butter Pecan ice cream from Graeter’s.

She could also be incredibly stubborn about letting go of things.  For years to come, I think we will tell the story about her cast-iron skillet.  Used for decades to cook everything from eggs to roast beef, it was “seasoned”.  When my sisters moved her, the skillet was one of the things to go.  For months afterward, we heard about that skillet.  One time she even asked me if I thought we could find it if we made the rounds of the thrift stores!

With the benefit of hindsight, I can see the deterioration.  She was sleeping more.  She had a hard time remembering how to use her cell phone.  For cyber security, we removed her laptop and it became quite difficult to reach her by phone, and scheduling Skype calls through her facility was challenging during the height of the pandemic.  On April 12, 2021, she was admitted to the ER for shortness of breath.  By the end of the week, the doctors would conclude that there was nothing more that they could do, and that, without extraordinary measures, her congestive heart failure would lead to her death within six months.

Many family members visited her that weekend, saying their “good-byes.”  Each in our own way, in those final days, told Mom that it was OK to go.

I flew to Ohio on April 19, and joined Mom and my older sister at the hospital.  (I was happy to give my sister some relief – especially because the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day at the florist shop can be quite busy.)  After my arrival, the doctor planned to lower the oxygen level gradually, which was expected to cause further deterioration in her condition.  It could be fast, or she could linger.  They would keep her comfortable from pain.  I spent much of that first night watching for any change in the rising and falling of her chest.

From the FB post of a niece-in-law:  I have loved getting to know you over the past 6 years.  I love how we have bonded over our shared love of sauerkraut soup.  There have been many amazing memories, but the one I will hold close was seeing you meet and hold our second daughter, and have our first daughter collect sticks for you, just 19 days before your passing.  Heaven is happy to have you!  We are thrilled you are there playing all the euchre your heart desires.

The next afternoon, she was transferred back to her apartment, and she seemed to rally.  We ate together (she consistently consumed ALL of her breakfast), played cards and chatted.   Nurses from hospice provided care around the clock in two shifts.  I didn’t see the same nurse twice during my three days at the apartment; they were wonderful women and would ask about our family.  One of the first nurses asked Mom if her husband was handsome, and Mom replied “Well, of course!”  There was nothing wrong with her repartee those last few days.  And it didn’t take long to figure out that we should show the nurses my memory book and the one made by one of my nieces for her 80th birthday; while Mom was sleeping, it could bring her to life for them.

From the FB post of a niece: I am happy that she is finally dancing with her husband again after 20 years since his death.

“Old Mom” peeked out at random moments.  My oldest brother celebrated a birthday during my stay with Mom, and she wanted to call and wish him a happy birthday.  Darn it if she didn’t sing it for him!!!  And at every meal, she would offer us some of her food.  Until the very end, she was still worried that everyone was getting enough to eat.

Spousal Unit recalls his first visit to my Mom and Dad’s house, before we were married.  Mom served sauerkraut soup and home-made bread.  He always loved her bread; it took him a few more years to acquire the taste for the soup!  Mom was also legendary for her gooseberry pie, and from an early age I recall that she made popcorn with bacon grease – you can’t beat the extra flavor!

Our daughter lives in Cincinnati, and she was indispensable, bringing food for me and my sister, keeping me company and providing transportation to and from the airport.  She was there the last night of my stay, and took these photos as we played cards.  These are the last pictures I have of my Mom.  That night, as she was getting ready for “bed”, I sang her a few songs and she mouthed the words along with me.  “Row, row, row your boat.”  “America the Beautiful.”  “Amazing Grace.”  I reminded her that I would be leaving in the morning, and that I loved her.  She nodded, and said she would miss me.  The next morning, she had slipped deeper into sleep and didn’t respond to my touch or farewell.  How blessed I was to have those final days with her.

In December 2013, when my Mom was 85, she gave each of her children a book “Mother’s Memories to her Child.”  Each page had prompts, and Mom’s unique handwriting captured her responses.  I hope I have taught you that God is in control and continue to do His will.  “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.”  The thing that I most look forward to about heaven: Reunion with your father and sister, my Mother and Father.  One great reunion.  Seeing God.

At her service, Deacon Larry spoke about the Egyptian belief that people die twice – the first is the physical death, and the second death is when no one remains to tell stories about the person.  This post was certainly for me, but it is also about perpetuating her memory through stories.  Until we meet again, Mom!


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  1. ...a wonderful look back at a beautiful woman in your life. I hope that you are having a great day.

  2. Happy Mother’s Day! What a sweet picture of your mom at the top and what a full and glorious life she led, leaving behind many happy memories. I was in my twenties when mom passed away suddenly. Not sure if I’m still over the shock. Every moment with loved ones is precious.

  3. Wow... what a heartful Post. This remberings are wonderful. You can be lucky, having such a fantastisc Mom.

    Happy MosaicMonday

  4. So good to have beautiful memories.
    In Sweden we celebrate Mothers day the last sudnay in May, so, for us it is not yet time.
    Have a great week.

  5. I'm very sorry. A wonderful tribute to her.

  6. What a lovely, lovely post. It made me smile through the whole thing. You mom was awesome! Paragliding at 80? She was hot stuff!!

    I am so very sorry for your loss. I'm sure you will miss her terribly.

  7. That was such a beautiful and loving tribute to your very special Mom. Happy Mother's Day!

  8. A beautiful post about your Mom and a wonderful blessing that you were able to spend time with her. Thinking of you and the family.

  9. So sorry for your loss. Your mom sounds like a great woman. I am glad she was active late into her life and experienced and learned new things. What a great tribute you give her.

  10. Hello my friend. I am so sorry to hear about your Mom's passing. This was a lovely post. So wonderful to read her story. And yours. Take care. 💕 Kit

  11. Dear Angie, I am so very sorry to hear of your mother's passing. I loved reading about her in your post. She sounds like a very special lady, full of love and deep faith. May you find comfort in your memories and knowing she is with the Lord she loved.

  12. I am so very sorry and saddened with the loss of your beautiful mum, Angie. A most beautiful, poignant and heartfelt tribute. How wonderful she is no longer in pain and is dancing with your dad, in heaven. You cannot wish her back as she is now at peace with her Lord who she has loved and served all her life. Your mum sounds like the most wonderful lady, loving her family and being kind to those who passed her way. A well lived life overspilling with love and faith. May you hold those treasured memories of her close to your heart. Take care, dear Angie. Xx

  13. My deepest sympathy on the loss of your mother, Angie! What wonderful photos and memories you've shared with us all of her incredible life and spirit. She had the same sweet smile in her last year as she had on her wedding day. May she rest in peace and glory with the Lord. (((Hugs))) and prayers for you and your family.

  14. Wow! My goodness, what a wonderful story and tribute to your Mother. My Mother died at age 95---sharp as a tack to the end. She said she was tired, ready to go and so she did. I said good night to her that night and that was it. She had quite a life---she should have or she could have written a book.
    So, sorry for your loss but the memories will be with you forever.

  15. I send my love and thoughts to you at this sad time. But it wounds like your Mum lived her life well, and that you have many precious memories of her. and that you will keep the memory of her alive. hugs. Stay safe and thankyou for sharing your Mum with us today. Stay safe.

  16. Hello Angie,
    I am so sorry to hear about your Mother passing. It sounds like she had a wonderful life. You have beautiful photos and happy memories of your Mom. This is a great tribute post for Mother's Day. Sending my prayers for you and your family.

  17. Oh my friend, I am so sorry for your loss. She was a beautiful lady and I know you have so many good memories to share and enjoy to make it less painful. We lost my dear mother in law one year ago this month so I know how hard it is to lose someone so precious. I'm so glad you were there at the end and she had those amazing Hospice workers to help. Sweet hugs and prayers for you and your family. This was a beautiful tribute to her.

  18. What a wonderful, heartfelt and beautiful post this is, Angie. Your mother sounds like an amazing person and the memories you and your family you have of her are strong and touching, and they certainly move not only you, but people like us who read of them here. May you all be well and remember her with love!

  19. Deepest condolences on your loss, Angie. Losing a loving parent is a heavy blow.

  20. Oh Angie, I was smiling and let out a little chuckle about the cast-iron skillet, but by the end you had me in tears. What a beautiful tribute to your mom. You are so fortunate to have been able to spend those last days with her doing all the things you loved doing together. What a blessing. I'm so sorry for your loss but she certainly did live a very long and loved life. The book she gave each of you for her 85th is truly a treasure. Sending you lots of hugs, Tammy

  21. What a wonderful tribute to your wonderful Mother. I am from a large German Catholic family also. The greatest!!! Wrap those memories around your Heart and they will be with you forever. Happy Mother's Day

  22. I'm sorry for your loss. But what wonderful memories. The perfect Mother's Day post. I still use my Mom's cast iron skillet. The same one she used forever. It was in great condition until I left it in the broiler, thinking it was a storage area. (twenty years ago) It is a little ugly, but I still use it all the time. I heat tortillas in it, make egg bakes and popcorn.

  23. What a wonderful tribute to your dear mom. Just perfect for Mother's day. So sorry for your earthly loss. May God comfort you and all who love her with peace and hope.

  24. Angie, My deepest sympathies! What a wonderful tribute to your Mom. I am glad you got to visit before she passed. Happy Mother's day to you. My Mom is 87 later this year. I am blessed still have here. No visit again this year due to COVID. Have a good week. Sylvia D

  25. Dear Angie - I'm so very sorry to read of the passing of your mom. What a lovely tribute you have made for her by sharing so many memories. Sending you my sincere condolences from Saudi Arabia.

  26. That's a wonderful tribute. Your mother sounds like a fantastic person.

  27. Dear Angie - So sorry to hear about your mother’s passing. I read this heartfelt post remembering my late mother including her final weeks and found so many I can relate to regardless of our different background. Motherhood is universal. Sad but there is also peace when parting is part of the order of things. Her children have inherited her spiritual patrimony. I especially like the photo of her riding on tri-cycle and #18 where she’s eating something directly from a pan. She must be rest in peace with her loved ones and be beside you smiling whenever you think of her.


  28. Dear Angie, a most beautiful post.
    Lovely photographs and special memories you have shared.
    Thinking of you ...
    God bless.

    All the best Jan

  29. Heartfelt commiserations Angie. You came up with a lovely post that is a wonderful tribute to you mum.As you intimate - mums like your own are the backbone of our respective countries. Mums like that are an inspiration and a shining example to the young ladies of today. This post should be shared wide and far.

  30. Pictures of your family. Sorry about your mother.

  31. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman and mother. You have a treasure of memories that honour her and you forever.

  32. Angie, this is such a beautiful tribute. Your mom was a wonderful lady; I am so glad you got to spend that time with her not too long ago...that was special. And I think I remember when she visited you in your beautiful new Montana home. I enjoyed this post so much.

  33. My sincere condolences to you, Angie.
    What a wonderful tribute to your lovely Mother.

  34. You did your mother proud with this beautiful tribute. I really enjoyed reading about her life. God Bless you as you mourn her passing and give you peace and comfort.


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