Today my mother would have been 88 years old if she were alive. She died in the Spring of 2007. Her last couple of years were shrouded in the fog of dementia. It was difficult to watch. She had always been a reader. In her professional life, she was a librarian. To see her so passive and unengaged was sad. It just wasn’t “her”.
She was very active all her life. I was not one of those people who grew up thinking I had no value as a woman. I didn’t “get” the women’s movement when I was in college in the 60’s. It made no sense to me. All this talk of women not feeling valued. My mom grew up in Virginia. She and all her sisters graduated from college. I can remember her telling us at VERY young ages, that we were going to college and we weren’t limited to any certain job because we (my sister and I) were women. (I also have a brother…and a sister 20 yrs. younger. Of course she wasn’t there for those conversations!)
RAISED BY CHRISTIAN WORKAHOLICS…WHO DIDN’T HAVE MUCH INCOME!
At various times during my childhood my parents were in the pastorate (short), missionaries, christian school education (in the years when it was NOT a popular concept–it was more like what homeschooling was a few years ago!) Whatever my dad was doing, my mom was in there and involved 100%. They probably were the equivalent of christian workaholics. They were in full-time christian work so for all the hours they put in, there was not a lot of money to show for it. God took care of us. But our parents were often very tired by the time they got home from work and all the responsibilities involved. There wasn’t a lot of time left to enjoy their family…or much of anything.
TALENTED MOM…OFTEN OVERWHELMED BY HER SHORTCOMINGS
My mom was very talented. Of course, I didn’t realize how talented she was at the time! Her undergraduate degree was in music. She had voice training and could play the piano and violin. She was more of a 1/2 glass empty person. She had no idea how talented she was. She only realized how far short she fell of being the pianist/violinist/singer that she should be. She was a good cook and seamstress so having all that ability in our home was very helpful for my sister and me. We learned how to do all those things–preferred some over others…well, we didn’t learn to play the violin.
She was not really into kids in the traditional way. Surprisingly, for a few years, she taught school but working with kids really wasn’t her thing. She didn’t have much patience for the frailties of her own children. It probably was more basic than that. She had no patience for her own frailties. I think she enjoyed her grandchildren more than she was able to enjoy her children. It might have had something to do with the fact that the 3 of us were born in a 3 year period. During that time, my parents moved to Bolivia and were learning 2 languages, living in very primitive conditions with my mother struggling with frequent ill health. By the time my brother was 1, she had a “nervous breakdown” and they returned to the U.S.
I think she struggled all the years after that with depression despite almost no counseling options. When she was late in her 70’s, she started taking antidepressants that were very helpful to her. I can’t imagine struggling with depression for that long!
WIDOWED SUDDENLY AT 51!
She was widowed VERY suddenly when my dad died of a heart attack at the age of 54. She was 51 with an 8 year old. It is very interesting when one parent dies. Then you see what part of the marriage was from which person. There were some surprises…at least to me. I didn’t realize how much of my father’s humor was a part of the equation. I also came face to face with how depressed my mom could be! My dad had been a great buffer. She had always seemed to be very independent to me until that point, but when my dad passed away, I realized how close they had been. His career had been her anchor in a way. With him gone, she lost the joyful part of her life…aside from my sister of course. As I look back now, I see what a really huge loss my dad’s death was to her. I think they really were soulmates.
She went on to work in a Christian boarding school in North Carolina for a number of years as their librarian. About the time she would have retired, she remarried…a family friend who had been widowed. They moved to Florida and lived out their days there. She continued using her gifts of hospitality, prayer, reading and study to encourage friends around her. She learned to use the internet so she could keep up with the many friends she had written to over the years. This way she could use email AND snailmail to keep up.
As she entered her final illness and had to be admitted to the nursing home, she became more docile and passive (fortunately). She was there about 2 years. The staff and members of the community where they lived were all so kind to her. It was a wonderful place!
THE POWER OF GOD’S WORD CHANGED HER LIFE!
My mom had a difficult childhood herself in some ways, but at an early age, she developed a love for God’s Word as her mother repeated the scripture to her that she was memorizing. (Each year her Ladies’ Bible Study would memorize a book of the New Testament. I know Ephesians was one book and Hebrews was another.) My 4 year old mother would listen to her mom repeat the scripture and she picked up large portions of those scriptures for memory. There are things about my childhood that I would like to change of course. But the parents I had, though imperfect, did love God and desired to please Him. It was a good model for me. For that I am grateful and want to give tribute to one of them today, on her birthday.
Thank you mom, for the many sacrifices you made for us. We rarely appreciated them at the time. We do know that you are delighting in being in the presence of God now. It must be breath-taking!