I was talking to my Aunt Harriet on the phone the other day. She said, Aunt Vera always said, “’No one is a better mother than Nina. No one loves babies like she does!” And it’s true. My brothers and I are incredibly blessed that we were raised and loved by our mother. And she taught us so much through the years….
When we were young she taught us love and safety. She was always close by. Always caring. She was cooking her family delicious meals and sewing me sweet dresses. She signed us up for the Dr. Suess Book Club and fostered our love of reading. She was there to wash our scraped knees and kiss our owies away. She was there baking birthday cakes and hosting parties. She was there popping popcorn for Disney movie nights and making holidays special.
Mom taught us that knowing Jesus was important. She and Dad were faithful to bring us to Sunday School, and we earned perfect attendance certificates and badges. And we sat together after supper every night, while Dad read us Bible stories. Mom made sure we got to Bible School and to Bible Camp. I remember wanting lots of letters the first time I went to camp, so Mom sat down and wrote some to me before I even left.
And Mom taught us to laugh and wonder. As a young child, when I planted a plastic stem in some dirt, I was amazed to find that in a few days it had grown. When April Fool’s Day came along Mom dipped cotton balls in melted unsweetened chocolate. They looked delicious. One time she drove to where Dad worked and switched cars on him. And she liked to give her babies interesting things to taste like pickles and lemons just to see the faces they’d make.
When I started school Mom taught me that school was worth investing in. She sewed new dresses for me and bought me new shoes. She was the room mother for my class every year in grade school. She would bring in the treats for Christmas and Valentine and Easter parties. She would get to know my teachers too. And she’d have me bring them a loaf of her banana bread or a bouquet of lilacs from her bushes.
Mom was like that. She was a friendly person. She got to know most of the neighbors up and down our long street and some around the block. And when new people would move in she’d go over and welcome them. She would make a point to talk to people. And she cared.
When a neighbor across the street became wheelchair bound Mom would often pick up lunch and eat with her or take her out shopping. When her sister had cancer Mom called her long distance every night for years. Mom kept in contact with old friends from Louisiana and people she’d worked with in Minnesota. As Dad often says, “Once you are Nina’s friend, you are always her friend.”
Mom taught me that you could learn new things. When I was in sixth grade I wanted to learn to play an instrument. So Mom hunted down a used clarinet and had it refurbished for me. And she never made me quit practicing, even when I was squeaking terribly. She and Dad were there at every band concert through junior high and high school.
And Mom learned new things herself. She and our next-door neighbor, Ruth, a good friend of Mom’s, decided they wanted to reupholster some furniture. So they took a community education class together. Mom did so well at this, that it became a small home business for her. For years, with Dad’s help on some of the repairs, she was always reupholstering something for someone. She did a beautiful job at it too.
Mom taught me that family was precious. She would save up the money she made from reupholstering and babysitting and sewing and it would become the vacation fund. And except for one trip, vacation always meant going to Louisiana to see her family.
It didn’t matter if she had to sleep in the back of a station wagon or in a tent. It didn’t matter if the tent camper leaked and we needed plastic trash bags over our sleeping bags. It didn’t matter if the camp restaurant was closed and we needed to eat Jamie’s baby food. She would do it all cheerfully to go back and see her family.
When I was in high school Mom taught me about cheering your children on. She came to every performance night of every play I was in, usually dragging friends and relatives with her. When I was in marching band, Mom and Dad would often drive to the different towns the parades were in and watch and take pictures from the sidelines. Mom always gave me the feeling that she was proud of me. I’m sure she made all of her children feel that way.
When I got married, Mom taught me about sacrificial love and hard work. She sewed every gown in my wedding. When she couldn’t find the right color lace to match the satin of the bridesmaid dresses, she sent a sample of the fabric to Rit Dye Company and had them give her a recipe for making the right color. She sewed four bridesmaid dresses and two flower girl dresses.
And then a couple months before the wedding I had second thoughts about borrowing the dress I’d planned to. I asked Mom if she’d sew my dress, and she actually seemed delighted to do so. And she did a beautiful job. She also made all the food for the reception, except the cake. And she made lasagna supper for about fifty friends and relatives that evening, too! That night, my brother Michael woke up in the wee hours with a kidney stone. Who do you suppose took him to the hospital?
Mom was brave too. When she got the opportunity to do secretarial work again, after about twenty-six years out of the field, she went for it. She learned to use the computer, dusted off her typing and bookkeeping skills, and loved working for S***** Design, the same company Dad was working for as an engineer. Even after Dad retired, and Mom could have, she kept working for a few more years.
And then Mom started teaching me more than ever. It was hard to see her change. She began to struggle with cooking and sewing and writing checks. She would lose things often. She seemed confused. Finally we got Mom to see a neurologist. By that time she was very forgetful and I wondered if she’d even remember what the doctor said.
But the next day Mom called me. She said, “I have Alzheimer’s. Cheryl, I hope you never get Alzheimer’s.” That is the only conversation we ever had about it. But it continues to strike me that in the pain of that horrific diagnosis she was thinking about her children, instead of herself.
Through her journey with Alzheimer’s, Mom taught us so much. She taught us that we could still laugh, even when things are hard. I still remember a day years ago. I had helped her wash her hair and I was drying it when Mom started chuckling.
“What are you laughing at, Mom?” I asked.
“Oh,” she said, “I’m just laughing at myself.”
“But what’s so funny, Mom?”
She answered, “Darned if I know.” I laughed all day about that one.
Another time, just months ago, Annie and a caregiver were talking about boy problems. Someone said, “Boys never grow up.” And Mom instantly piped in, “Never, never, never!
She helped us laugh. But she taught us deep lessons in this time, too…
One time Mom had fallen and Dad called me to come over and help get her up. As I came in the door, I found her laying on her side cheerfully singing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” And I thought, what a perfect example of what to do when you’re in trouble. Do what you can to get help and then while you’re waiting for your situation to get better, sing to Jesus. Remind yourself to pray and give all your problems to Him. Remember what a friend He is and that He is with you.
Another time, though Mom knew nothing about a family conflict we were having,she said out of the blue, “Keep the love.” And it felt like a message from the Lord.
Probably my favorite Mama lesson was one she taught us just two weeks before she passed. After a very scary night, when we were afraid we were losing her, Mama recovered and the next morning she said, “God is here. He is bigger.” And I’ve thought of that often over the last month and I’ve used it as my motto. God is here. He is bigger. He is bigger than our grief and sorrow. He is bigger than our stress and problems. God is bigger. And He is here.
And some of our best moments were with no conversation at all when she’d lean her head on my shoulder and pat my arm or squeeze my hand. She liked to lick her finger and try to wipe the freckles off my arm for me. Or we’d cuddle in bed and she’d rub and tap my back. There was such a comfort in her mama touches. And in just being with her.
And one last favorite—a few years ago I said, “I love you, Mom.”
She answered, “I loved you, too. Always.”
“You always loved me?”
“Yes, I did,” she said confidently. And even though she rarely knew my name anymore, I knew it was true. I knew she had always loved me. And I know I am so blessed she is my mom.
P.S. Dad especially wants everyone to know that Mom passed Home to Jesus with a gentle smile on her face and looking incredibly peaceful. He believes she saw an angel coming for her, which could be. I’ve never seen her look more peaceful and she looked just beautiful.
Love and prayers
Just found this sweet remark from you left on January 22. I finally got back into the site in preparation for writing about Mummer’s HomeGoing (10/09/16). Have been thinking about your family (Jenni shared your photos from Prom). Trust Steve will soon be home with y’all. Blessings.
This is one of your best posts ever. Like you, I find writing very comforting. Your sweet Mama &Mummer could have been “soul sisters (they are now)! Your memories of Mama remind me of the comments I made about Mumer at herMemorial Service 10/15/16! I found a letter from me which she had in her Bible. I wrote about her love for me & her creativity! I wanted to encourage her since Dad suffered a massive stroke 01/02/96 & was cared for by Mummer for 3 1/2 years in a nursing home. She was everyone’s Caregiver. That’s why asking for help was something she REFUSED to do. My own these days without her are difficult! Praying for God’s comfort. Hope care for your mother-in-law is going well.
I am sending you my life verse. It describes our Lord’s personalized & loving care for us: Zephaniah 3:17!
Blessings & love,
Dear Mary Beth,
Thank you, this actually is what I wrote for and read at Mama’s memorial’s service. Your mother sounds amazing. What a comfort your letter must have been to her that she kept it in her Bible. I continue to pray that God will comfort you as well.
We have up and down days, but knowing that Mama is with Jesus and that we will see her again is an amazing comfort. Thanks for thinking of my mother-in-law. She is doing well for where she is at this point.
I love your life verse. Thank you for sharing it!
No worries about not proof-reading– I have that problem myself often, so I can relate!
Love and blessings to you as well,
P.S. Sorry, I didn’t proof read!
Such sweet memories of a life well-lived. Your mother sounded like an amazing woman! I’ve followed your posts for the last few years as my own dear Mom was living with this heartbreaking disease. I feel you and I had a lot in common as I was also caring for my father who was legally blind like your dad. Both of my parents have since passed and we look back at the last 5 years and wonder how we did it as the caregiving was so very hard at times but we remember the funny times as well. My mother had her sense of humor until the very end. Your posts were so poignant and heartfelt, you really need to write a book! Peace to you and your family.
Sent from my iPhone
Thank you, Sandy! I have appreciated your comments over the years. I’m sorry both of your parents have passed now. The caregiving is overwhelming sometimes — I’ve wondered how we did it, too, with Mom. But I’m so grateful now that we did. And we have so many sweet memories to cherish now. And yes, many times of laughter as well! It’s wonderful your mother still had a sense of humor to the end. Mom didn’t smile or laugh much the last year, but somehow she could still say things that cheered us up.
Thank you for your encouragement. I’ve thought of editing my posts into a book, just so I could read it easier and recall all the lessons and tears and laughs and precious stuff of these last years, if for no one else. Maybe that would be a healing thing to do. We will see.
Much love and peace to you and your family as well!
This is a MOST PRECIOUS post! 🙂
Thank you so much, Joyce!
I stumbled across your blog and shared it with a friend who just lost her mother to Alzheimer’s. Thank you for your beautiful words. My own mother has been gone from this earth for 14 years, but I cried when I read your words, “There was such a comfort in her mama touches.” Indeed. Thank you for blessing others even in your own sorrow.
Thank you for your kind encouragement, and for sharing the blog. You have blessed me with your sweet encouragement, because I wonder if I should keep writing or not now that Mama is gone. Maybe the story has ended. And then I get a comment from someone like you and think maybe there is still purpose in my sharing. Thank you. May God continue to comfort you in your loss. ~Cheryl
There will always be a purpose in your sharing. You will know deep down inside when to stop but I don’t think you’re there yet. Your words will have a lot of meaning for many hurting people. Please carry on.
I came across your blog back in 2013 and posted to my FB because I felt people should have more understanding about Alzheimers. Today, I was feeling sad, longing for my own Mama and Daddy (I really don’t like this orphan stage) and went looking at my past posts and found your blog again. I then read a few of your other posts. You had a very special Mama and I wouldn’t be surprised but what my Mama and your Mama are there in heaven just watching us and chuckling at us as we find our way. God Love you and thank you for sharing, I don’t feel so alone now Jeanne.
Thank you for your message, Jeanne. I’ve been missing my Mama so much, but your sweet note made me smile. And I’m always blessed to hear that something I’ve shared has helped someone else in any way. Thanks for letting me know. You are not alone. ~Cheryl~