Mother’s Day is bittersweet for me because my mother went home to be with the Lord twenty-five years ago. We always knew my dad would not live a long life. He had his first heart attack at thirty-nine, and two open-heart surgeries. He used to joke and say the doctors should put a zipper in his chest to make it quick and easy to change parts. Mom was healthy. As a young nurse, she caught tuberculosis (in the hospital while caring for patients), spent months in a sanatorium, and came out determined to always live as healthy a life as possible. She went back to work, maintained a balanced diet and remained physically active up until a few months before she died of cancer.
Every summer, Rick and I kissed good-bye, and I drove our three children up to the Oregon Coast to spend a week with my parents. Mom always had my favorite “stone stew” waiting in a big pot on the stove. That stew had everything from chunks of beef, potatoes, carrots, to onions, celery, turnips and tomatoes. She also filled a big canister with chocolate chip cookies, and homemade pies on reserve.
Mom loved nature and kept a tidy yard and vigorously productive vegetable garden. The children and I loved the path through the “fairy forest” of ferns, rhododendrons and azaleas to the big tank that filled with fresh spring water. A small creek wound down to a pond, lichen on fallen log bridges. It felt like a primordial paradise. Mom knew every inch of it. She walked one mile on the property every day and literally wore a path down to the gate, back up to the far fence. It took several times around the worn figure eight to make that mile. She stayed trim and fit all her life and walked every day until the cancer went into her bones.
The beach was one of Mom’s favorite places. Every morning while we were there, she packed a picnic lunch and we would all go to Whaleshead or Lone Ranch to run and play on the beach or in the surf. We loved exploring the tide pools. My children collected sea creatures in a bucket; starfish, hermit crabs, tiny fish, crabs and sea snails, while Mom and I sat on the sand and talked. We beachcombed for seashells, driftwood and heart-shaped stones for Mom’s arts and crafts projects. When it was time to head home, we returned the creatures to their tide pool and sorted our treasures from the sea. (I still have a small tray of beach stones on my deck, touchstones of wonderful memories.)
It’s been thirty years since my dad passed away, twenty-five since Mom was laid to rest. I have returned to Brookings-Harbor several times with my grown children and their children. We visit Whaleshead and Lone Ranch beaches and search for heart-shaped stones. Before we head south again, we go up to the cemetery and put those stones on my parents’ grave, thankful for the wonderful memories of times past, accepting the sorrow that they are gone, and joy that one day, we will be together again in our true home with Jesus.
I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day. I miss you.