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