Saturday, February 4, 2012

Remembering My Mom

Today is the day that my Mom died four years ago.  While I still miss her, I am grateful that the pain of her being gone is so much less than it was at first.  Lymphoma eventually won the battle, but we are thankful for the many years of strength that she had in the thirteen years from her first diagnosis.

Mom smiling and enjoying having her family around for Christmas 2007
with Dad reading from the Bible
Mom was raised in church, but she had become an atheist as a young person. While Mom and Dad were dating, they met with a pastor one evening. Mom realized that God was real and the pastor was able to lead her in a prayer of repentance. Her life was never the same again and she always wanted to make sure that other people knew that God could be real in their lives as well.  I believe her well-known laugh was a result of the joy of the Lord in her life.

I am thankful for that Christian heritage.  While this is about my Mom, Mom and Dad were always a unit.  They cooperated and worked together to raise me and my five sisters in a loving Christian home.  We were not baptized as infants.  Instead, our parents dedicated us to the Lord when we were very young.  I was in church the first time at 4 days old because my uncle was being baptized in water that night.  My parents raised us to love and serve God.  At an early age, I learned to tithe.  When I earned money, I gave 10% (or more) to church, a practice that I continue today and encourage others to do the same.

Mom had a heart for missions.  From the time I can remember, Mom was regularly writing letters to missionaries (on aerogrammes, since that was more than 40 years ago).  She always wanted to encourage missionaries by letting them know that the people back home were thinking of them.  (As a missionary today, with all the technology we have available, I can only imagine what a blessing that was!)  She served on the missions committee at her church until just months before her death.

Being the first born, Mom and I spent a lot of time together. When I was in grade school, we spent time doing dishes together.  That usually meant me practicing my spelling or learning state capitols.  Mom gave me a love for books and reading.  Today, I enjoy reading eBooks, but still love to have the real thing in my hands.  We spent a lot of time baking together.  Because I was the oldest, I was able to go to church on Sunday night with Mom and Wednesday night with Dad.  We lived 10 miles out in the country, so we always had time to talk.

I am quite competitive like my Mom.  Dad never liked us to play games with each other because we got kind of loud sometimes.  We loved playing word games or Bible trivia games together (and she was really good at both!).  We played Monopoly or Sorry too fast for most people.  Mom normally beat me in Scrabble when I was younger.  One Christmas several years ago, I enjoyed being the winner of what became our daily Scrabble game while we were home, until the day before we left.  That day she beat me terribly - and she enjoyed it!!

Mom also encouraged my love for music.  She taught me how to keep time and to read notes, playing on a chord organ.  I learned how to sing harmony when we sang hymns in church by sitting beside her.  When we finally got a piano (that we stored for someone) when I was in my teens, I taught myself to read the bass clef as I continued working on my piano skills.  The first time I accompanied Mom when she sang at church, we recorded it on a tape player so I would not have to play in front of the church.  Mom taught me how to follow as an accompanist.  Sometimes I miss the days before soundtracks were readily available.

She loved her kids and grandkids.  She did not treat all of us the same, but as individuals.  It was fun to watch her interact with her grandkids and the special connection she had with each one of them.  It always gave her pleasure when she could buy something for a gift that she would bring a smile to members of her family.  She also loved her extended family and always enjoyed family reunions, often working to organize them.  Knowing the family connection (great uncle, first cousin, or second cousin once removed) was important to her.

Mom cared deeply about other people, especially hurting women, because she knew that God could change their lives.  She spent many hours on the phone, in person, or writing to encourage new and old friends.  When I was young, I remember going with Mom, her best friend Linda, and all of us kids to visit a woman and her family in the "slums" of Cloquet (at least that's what I thought in my mind when we went there).  As years passed and we grew up, she had more time to spend ministering to other women.  Besides her family, that seemed to be her second calling in life.

She loved fellowship.  Whether it was with family, at church, at a women's event in the state, or at family camp, Mom always wanted to be there.  When Mom turned 50, we had a surprise birthday party for her with some ladies from the church in Cloquet.  She was a little upset because she would have dressed differently, but she enjoyed the visit and catching up with those friends.  When Mom and Dad celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary with an open house, she loved visiting with everyone who came.

Mom worked to keep in touch with many people, whether that was in person, over the phone, or via mail or e-mail.  Mom would have loved Facebook.  There was no one I knew who was more faithful to communicate with friends and loved ones, sending cards for birthdays, anniversaries, and other special events.

She loved to give people a hard time.  I think she got that from her Dad.  When Laura was little, Mom and Dad came to visit us in Owatonna.  After Mom took a bath, she said something about almost getting sucked down the drain.  For month's afterwards, Laura was afraid of going down the drain and had to be out of the tub before the drain could be opened.  One time, after her church hired a new youth pastor, Mom said to he and his wife, "Most people will say that I know you won't remember my name.  Instead, I want you to know that I expect you to remember my name."  When Mom saw the youth pastor's wife a few days later, it was time for the test.  The youth pastor's wife said, "I remember what you said, but I don't remember your name."  Mom just laughed.

While both Mom and Dad were very supportive of me, Mom was more vocal about it.  Sometimes it was to the point of embarrassment for me, but Mom really was my biggest cheerleader.  Now there are days that I would love to hear her say "I am proud of you" just one more time.  She knew we were making plans to go on the mission field, but I know she would be thrilled to see us following God's call on our lives.  Perhaps she always knew that someday we would be living on the mission field.

Mom was not perfect; she would have readily admitted that.  But she tried to love God with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength - and her neighbor as herself.  I am grateful for the many things that Mom taught me, both actively and by example.

How about you?  Whether you had a good Mom or not, you have most likely learned some things from her.  Have you thanked God for her and those things you learned?  If she is still alive, have you told her today that you love her?

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