September 9, 1932 – June 13, 2021
She probably would not have described herself as strong, but she lived through a lot of painful experiences.
She was generous and kind when she could have easily hated and been bitter, but she never had a bad word about anyone. “She’s *or he’s* so sweet”, she’d say about almost everyone.
She lost her mother when she was 22 and her servant heart brought her home to take care of her father and two youngest siblings.
She married a kind and honorable man when she was 24 and over the years, was grateful for his “patience” with her. They of course had patience with each other in this marriage of 64 years.
She loved having children – two daughters of her own – and babysat for so many more, before and after having her own. Always a caregiver.
In her 20s, she lived a farm woman’s life; cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, hanging clothes out in the cold Maine winter weather until the clothing was frozen stiff, and taking the frozen clothes in to thaw in the wood stove warmed kitchen. She cooked simple meals, churned butter, and made homemade bread and doughnuts, and chocolate cakes. She loved music and hummed along. She sang to her little daughters: “I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck” and “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”
In her 30s, she moved to Connecticut, suddenly far away from familiar friends and family and spaces. She found herself struggling with clinical depression. This unwelcome visitor would return on occasion over the years but she made her way out of it with time, family support, and medicine.
She faced breast cancer later in life two separate times and survived what her own mother did not.
Her world was entwined with his, and she quoted him often, and deferred to him most times. “He only ate half the cookie….I ate the rest!” “He saves the smallest bits for leftovers”, she’d say in frustration. “He only puts ONE slice of ham on his sandwich – he doesn’t eat enough”. But they spent their days together, ultimately in a retirement lasting nearly 28 years. Their days started with a kiss and ended each night with a kiss, decades of breakfasts and dinners together. He called her his honey, darling, baby, sweetheart. She would just smile at all of this and shoo him away.
She was truly a friend to anyone she met. She had friends in Maine, Connecticut, Virginia, and Florida. Facebook helped her connect or reconnect with them all. She loved visiting, talking, and phone calls to friends and family in all the states. Facebook got a bit more complicated in the last couple of years, and we rescued her occasionally from posts she didn’t mean to post, a LIVE Chat she didn’t intend, and unlinking from some groups she’d liked accidentally – like “Mothers Who Love Vodka”. Was that an accident? 🙂 She’d sigh and wonder how she’d done it.
She had “macular” (degeneration) and six pairs of glasses that were somewhat interchangeable. I’m not sure she knew which pair worked best on any given day and she was always misplacing the “pair that worked best”.
She had a dry sense of humor and I grew to appreciate it more as something we shared.
She felt the losses resulting from aging and physical deficits, and in the last few months, mourned the loss of her hair as she was told she faced cancer once again. This time, cancer would win.
It felt like a full circle moment one morning when she looked up at me during one of her dressing changes on her head, and said “I don’t know what I would do without you”. So many times, she had told me about her own mother saying the same words to her when she helped her mother in her last months. So many dressing changes, but also so many conversations that would not have happened. We bought doughnuts or milkshakes on our drives home from appointments since “I guess I don’t have to worry about that now”.
A little over a week before she died, we returned home very late after a blood transfusion. I helped her into bed where he was already sleeping. He woke as I was helping her in under the covers. I re-checked her bandage under the cover one last time, and saw that they were already holding hands. We all miss her, but he misses her the most. Being prepared for the loss is not the same as experiencing and living with the loss, he says.
Her faith was both simple and complicated – believing in a God who loves everyone, but feeling unworthy of that love. Depression, early childhood trauma, and a black and white view of faith and right and wrong and sin and worthiness and Depression can complicate belief, trust, and faith. Eighty eight years of being unsure, and now I believe she is at peace and knows at last that God always did love her.
https://poets.org/poem/notes-other-side A link to the poem my sister read at our Celebration of Life.
2 thoughts on “Remembering Mom”
A beautiful tribute, Valarie. Love the family pic. Knowing your Mom (and Dad), not well but enough to observe over a lot of years her many trials, I too would describe her as strong. For I also saw, though she had doubts (who doesn’t) her grip on God by faith never let go. Also, your Mom and Dad’s devotion to each other is inspiring and, I for one, think they are remarkable people.Faithful. Indeed Carmen is feeling the embrace of her Savior’s love. No doubts now.
What a wonderful tribute