My mom was my advocate, advisor, confidante. It sounds almost cliché to say she was my best friend, but she was. No matter what choices I made, her love remained unconditional. She didn’t always agree with my views or actions, but she gave me gave me room to grow and the freedom to speak my mind. She trusted God to have His way with me, and didn’t feel it was her job to change me.
She didn’t see herself as finished yet, and continued to experiment and explore as she grew older. She encouraged me to make old and young friends. “That way you’ll never be without one.” She encouraged me to love God, love others, work hard, attend church, enjoy the world God created, be kind to others, share resources with those less fortunate, never judge. I wish I could say I had done all those things.
“Boredom” wasn’t in her vocabulary. “Find something to do,” she would say. Staying inside the house wasn’t an option. “Go out and get some fresh air.” My brother and I dug tunnels and built forts, climbed trees, hiked, biked, swam, had camp-outs under the stars.
Mom shared Dad’s belief that public service jobs are not just necessary, but a calling. They viewed their careers (police work and nursing) as a way to give back to our communities and a sign of responsible citizenship. She didn’t believe anyone should have “a free ride”. Those who want to work will find work – even if volunteer work is the only thing available. She believed a hand out strips a person of pride as well as initiative, while a hand up gets people on their feet and able to move forward, head held high. She had strong opinions about many things, but didn’t get into length, impassioned debates. She lived what she believed and gave others the freedom to do likewise.
Having lived through the Great Depression, Mom was frugal, especially when it came to buying anything for herself. She and Dad had a budget which included preparations for the future when they would have less money coming in. They loathed debt, and paid everything off as quickly as possible. If they couldn’t afford something they wanted, they waited and saved until they could. Even in regard to health, they saved for “a rainy day”. Dad underwent three open heart surgeries. After the first, they were told he would need another in seven years. So they set money aside, out of Dad’s pension, making sure they had what they needed when the time came. Even during times of “tightening the belt”, they continued to tithe.
I loved Mom’s sense of humor. She and Dad pre-paid all burial arrangements. They showed us where they intended to rest. The road to the cemetery was called Dead Wood, and a sign just before the entrance said Dead End. They both laughed heartily over that.
Dad passed away in 1989. Mom’s vulnerability worried me. She was seven miles out of a town that had no hospital, and a full day’s drive from me. She wanted to be independent. With time on her hands, she did more crafts, more volunteer work. She helped with Meals on Wheels, served as a nurse for blood drives, volunteered every time the church had a function and needed help. When she became aware of other struggling widows, she got them together for lunch after church each week so they could encourage one another. She continued to write up-beat letters. Even when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was more concerned about others than herself.
Mom passed away in 1994. I miss her in new ways each year. There are still times when I reach for the telephone and want to dial her number. As crazy as it sounds, I drove up to Brookings, Oregon a few years ago and half expected them both to be at home, just a tap on the door away. Standing at their grave site made it real. I hurt all over again, but took comfort in knowing God’s promises are always fulfilled. They are with Him.
My daughter and grandchildren were with me on that trip. We both have wonderful memories of visits with my parents: daily picnics and walks on the beach, trips north to wander the Prehistoric Gardens and hold lion, bear and tiger cubs and hand feed the free-roaming dear at Game Park, backyard explorations of “the elf forest”. We took the children to Whaleshead and Lone Ranch Beaches. After beach-combing and exploring tidal pools, we searched for heart shaped stones. On the way the way home to California, we made one last stop at the cemetery and left the stones on the rose granite where Mom and Dad’s names are engraved.
When we drove away, I didn’t leave them behind, but carried them with me in my heart. As long as I live, they will continue to bless and inspire me to serve the Lord with gladness and come into His presence with thanksgiving.