Gone Home…

This last month has seen some dramatic changes for our family. My 91-year-old mother had been dealing with some dementia for a couple of years, but she was still able to live in the somewhat independent living section of her nursing home. She had periodic trouble remembering how everyone in the family was connected–but we were still able to get her to holiday family gatherings (including last Christmas), where she enjoyed sharing, even though she wasn’t sure who everyone was.

However, in January she developed aspiration pneumonia and ended up in the hospital. While she was there, she began a downward spiral from which she didn’t recover. Both physically and mentally it became necessary for her to move into the skilled nursing section of the nursing home–hopefully for a short stint in rehab and then into a long-term room.

That wasn’t to be. The downward spiral continued, and we called hospice in on last Friday. The next Tuesday morning, we received a call from the nurses, indicating that Mom had died in her sleep.

She was the last of our surviving parents. Each of them died in their own way–and she was the only one who chose to die without any family present…a gift in many ways because of some family dynamics that could have left some of her family feeling left out if they weren’t there at her passing. But since none of us were there, that was a non-issue.

Her memorial service is tomorrow afternoon. I will be playing the organ–as I did for my dad’s. I can’t speak; tears come too easily for me to be able to do that. But I can gift her with my music. I am going to ask someone to read something about my memories of her…a woman of strong faith:

Helen memorial photoAs I grew older–and was pursuing advanced college degrees–I became aware that Mom had always felt rather self-conscious at what she perceived as her lack of education.  Her siblings and her children all had college degrees, and at times she felt intimidated by conversations and unsure that she had anything to offer.

I think most people were unaware of that…and I regret that feeling of inferiority she sometimes had. It was so unnecessary.

She reveled in her role as a stay-at-home mother while we kids needed her. I can remember numerous times coming home for lunch from elementary school for tomato soup and toasted cheese sandwiches when the weather was cold. When Dad was out of town with our only car, she would gather us all up to walk to West College congregation for church.

Later she delighted in her work at the Mid-Continent Library Distribution Center…and still later in her work as a school secretary. She was always concerned for the people she came in contact with–whether they were adults or children who came to the principal’s office for various reasons.

She was a gracious hostess for the many visitors who came to our home–especially during World Conferences–always making people feel at home.

She and Dad looked forward to being grandparents–and thoroughly enjoyed their grandchildren, even though they were a little shocked when their first ones joined the family not as babies but as 8- and 9-year old children! They took them into their hearts, though, and delighted both in these first grandchildren as well as in later ones to come. In the last few months, Mom couldn’t always remember who belonged to who–but visits from her grandchildren and great-grandchildren brought positive responses. She also enjoyed playing with her first great-great-grandchild…and one thing she definitely remembered that there was another one on the way.

In her later years, she enjoyed her service as a chaplain at Community of Christ headquarters. She had a knack again for making people comfortable…for sensing their needs for a brief “thought of the day” or a prayer or a hug.

Her life was truly a life of faith–a strong and deep faith that stood her in good stead in the various adventures she had with Dad. I remember on their 50th anniversary Dad giving her frog jewelry–in appreciation of her willingness to take that leap of faith with him.

Perhaps the best description of the memories I have of Mom is found in selected verses of Proverbs 31 as expressed in The Message version:

A good woman is hard to find,  and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve,  and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously  all her life long….
She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast  for her family and organizing her day….
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,  rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,  is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,  diligent in homemaking.
She’s quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows;  their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear….
Her husband is greatly respected  when he deliberates with the city fathers….
Her clothes are well-made and elegant,  and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,  and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;  her husband joins in with words of praise:
“Many women have done wonderful things,  but you’ve outclassed them all!”

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