Eulogy for my amazing father, Nelson Williams

Eulogy for my amazing dad

The following are my most profound thoughts, love, memories, and knowing of my papa, Nelson Williams, who passed away during the early morning hours of March 8th, 2019.

It’s been 29 blog posts and 21 months since I wrote my eulogy for my beloved mother. And this is my 100th post on Take It Upon Yourself. It feels fitting to me also, in the grand scheme of things, because my dad was the most independent person I have ever known.

My papa wasn’t ill, so when he went to sleep and didn’t wake up the next day, we were all stunned and bewildered. We are still in a state of unbelief of his passing. However, I know dad missed mama everyday since her passing, so to think of them together again, is comforting. Now, they are reunited on the magnificent and grand other side of the veil.

113-mom-and-dad-in-golf-cart-at-flywheel-festiver-2012-or-2013

The early years

When my dad, Nelson (nicknamed, Old Hickory) was growing up, times were tough. He grew up on a large farm, but it was depression days and money was tight. You can gain a bit of insight from seeing this picture of dad (middle, tallest) here in the one room schoolhouse, where he attended school.

Dad at school as a boy

Nelson was one of six children. There were three girls and three boys. Dad was the second eldest son. I can only imagine, from the years I visited the farmhouse where dad was born and raised, how they lived. But dad told many good stories from his childhood and what it was like to grow up on the farm. And he loved the farm, having kept an acre or so of land there, even after his parents passed away.

School years Nelson

One of those stories involved dad’s mom bathing the kids outside on the porch in a big metal wash tub. The same one his mom would use to wash their clothes in with the washboard. I knew he grew up without indoor plumbing because as a child I witnessed dad and uncle Jack building a bathroom for my grandparents in their farm house. I also remember having to use the outhouse.

I’ll come back to this later, but dad always enjoyed the water. Swimming, boating, and so on, as evidenced by this swim card I found!

4H Red Cross swimmers card - Nelson

I haven’t found many pictures from dad’s youth, I’m thinking folks just didn’t take many back then, but here are a couple that must have meant a lot to dad, since he kept them.

Dad and friends at school

Dad and friend

Perhaps some of my family can enlighten us (in the comments) or with a phone call, and let me know who was in these pictures with my dad.

Dad played football for a time during his high school years, but after a rumble on the field or a tear inside one knee (depending upon who’s relaying the story), he quit and never played again. We never even watched football on TV.

Dad was also a member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and used to tell me stories about raising animals.

FFA card 1955 - Nelson

By the time my dad met mom, he owned his first car. He was so proud of it! 

Dads 1956 Ford

Mom loved to take photographs, and took these photos of dad at her parent’s home.

Dad July 1960

Dad at moms parents July 1960

Marriage

Dad and mom met at a drive-in restaurant. One of those curb-side service kind. As the story goes, dad spotted mom in her car (she’d went with a girlfriend of hers), receiving food on the tray. He walked up and asked her for a bite of her sandwich! Stunned, she told him he could buy his own.  Read mom’s eulogy for more.

BettyAnn and Nelson Wedding Day 1960 in her parent

BettyAnn and Nelson Wedding Day 01061960

Even at age 20, when I look at dad and mom in these photos, they look so young! I can only imagine how it was for them then, how happy they were and full of dreams.

BettyAnn and Nelson Wedding Day (3) 1960

They were married at mom’s parent’s home. See them holding hands?

BettyAnn and Nelson Wedding Day (2) 1960

Incredible know-how

One of the best things dad did, was make me! Well, obviously with help from mom. 

Daddy and Sheila at age 3 months

When I was a baby, we lived in a mobile home on a hillside. And more cars were to come and go. Dad had this white convertible top car for awhile (pictured first, at the farm where he’d grown up, and next, where we first lived). I actually found a vehicle registration card from 1957 for a ’49 Chevy.

Dads first car

First cars 1964

By the time I was 3, dad and mom had bought a house. I was sure “daddy’s girl.” Cars were such a big deal for us all. Dad would own several in his life, more than I can recall or count. Mom used to say that by the time I was 4 I could tell her the make and model of any driving by. That had to be something dad was teaching me. Papa loved to drive!

Dad also made me curious about electronics, which has served me well (since I’ve had a 30 year career in digital electronics and computer software). I think of dad often while problem solving (tear!).

When I find a picture of the Browning Golden Eagle and linear he used to have (or one like it), I’ll come back and post it. It was meaningful because as I would fall asleep at night, I’d hear the ping of dad’s mic as he communicated with the world via that CB radio. Mom would fuss at dad about that, but as the kid and always wanting to make peace, I somehow learned to “tune it out.” The linear would boost dad’s radio reception and he would often tell me the next day of how he had “talked skip” with people as far away as Japan! Plus, all that stuff about talking skip totally fascinated me!

Dad and Sheila at Alberdias 1966

And speaking of radio, dad also loved listening to music. In the 1960s, dad especially loved Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In), was one of his favorite songs. Dad usually always had a little AM radio on, and gave me several when I was little. I remember waking up in the mornings to songs of the 60s. Papa was first to give me a radio. He even gave me a couple stuffed animal ones with the radio inside.

Being a Pappaw (and later, a great Grandpa)

Daddy was thrilled when my kiddos came long. First, my daughter, then my son. He loved them as his own. 

Dad feeding Marie with mom 1980

Dad mom and marie 1981

dad holding Matt with Marie playing Boaz Feb 83

Right from the start, my children called my dad, “Pappaw.”

Dad with Marie and Matt at Boaz house Jun 1983

Best pic of Dad with Marie and Matt in Boaz 1983

Dad with the kids out back in Boaz 1983

Dad even got to meet his first great granddaughter (when they came to visit us in Florida). Unfortunately, though I prodded him to do so, he never made it to New Hampshire to meet his twin granddaughters who were born 5 years after the first.

Visit dad first met his great granddaughter

Here are a couple of pictures of papa holding his great granddaughter.

Papa and Jennifer

Papa looking at his great granddaughter

Learning all the time

Dad knew a lot about many subjects. He was always learning. And always talking with people. Yes, a real social butterfly!

One subject I didn’t realize dad was so well-versed in was plants and trees. After mom passed away, my husband and I drove to WV to be with dad (my son also drove up the next day). Dad and I took a walk through the grounds of a KOA campground (behind the hotel where we all stayed) and he could point to any tree or such and tell me what it was. I was amazed and thrilled to hear such things!

It was no wonder that I called daddy, “Mountain Man” because he really knew a lot and could figure anything out. He was a tinkerer. A hands on and practical DIY kinda guy for sure. One could even call him a modern day survivalist or “prepper”, as he knew how to survive on next to nothing and through thick and thin.

Varied accomplishments

Here are some of my dad’s amazing accomplishments (without ever graduating from high school – and having a learning disability that caused him difficulty all through life with reading and spelling):

Dad went to Hollywood for a short time (at age 18) to pursue acting. He said one of his high school teachers had encouraged him to do so, after seeing his acting performance in a school play. But, dad didn’t like Hollywood. He would only give me the reason of, “They teach you how to lie.”

Papa moved 100 miles from his home to work at a bread factory. For years dad would go out of his way not to have to drive down 19th street where the Storck baking company factory was though, because he had grown such a dislike of the smell of bread baking.

At some point, and I didn’t know this until I found this card, dad was even on the radio as a new reporter!

dad radio reporter card

Dad sold electrolux vacuum cleaners door to door for a few years and seemed to enjoy it. We always had the best vacuum one could buy, though I thought that was because of my asthma and allergies. Years later, I realized it was because of what dad had learned about vacuuming. Also on that note, when I was a kid, papa kept all of our cars, boats, campers, and such meticulously clean.

On the advice of my uncle Bob and my grandfather (mom’s dad), dad got a job driving semi truck and became a member of the Teamsters union. Dad also learned how to repair the big truck engines as well. And papa was so proud of driving truck. Papa took me out in the truck a few times. I remember going into the Helms trucking terminal in Parkersburg to this day, the way the guys had to load the trucks and the paper logs they had to fill out.

People talk about having home-based businesses or side gigs nowadays, but my dad was the first I knew to run a side hustle from home when I was a kid. He ran a CB business – we used to go to “roundups” on Sundays (which is why I love the flea market type of environment)! I grew up hearing the ping of his Browning Golden Eagle running a linear too, which caused me to have to learn to “tune out” the noise in order to fall asleep at night.

After we moved from the mobile home, dad and mom bought a small buff brick house about 17 miles from mom’s parents. We lived in that house from the time I was 3 til I was 11 or so. A keen eye will observe the sign above the garage door about the 2-way radios. And you can see how tall our CB radio and TV antenna was in the back of the house. Yes, others had TV antenna’s, but you can see the difference between those and the CB radio antenna.

Dads VW Beetle

cars in the driveway 1972

Buff brick house July 1965

Here’s one of dad working on a motorcycle, with mom and I watching, along with our neighbor and friend, Greg Bruce (on his little Hot Wheels trike). 

Dad working on a trike mom and Sheila watching with Greg on hot wheels

Before we moved, I remember mom saying we should take a couple of pictures to remember our little house. Dad took one with mom and I in front of her white Thunderbird she loved, and then mom took one of dad and I.

Dad and I in front of moms white thunderbird about 1973 

Homebuilding

Dad and mom bought 6 and a half acres not far from that house. They’d only bought land though, and had to improve it before we could even put a temporary mobile home on it to live in. Because the land was highway frontage and unimproved, dad traded for a dozer and other heavy equipment to fill the low land part of it. He also had to put in a road, before he could even think about digging the hole for a basement. Dad’s repair know-how served him so well over the years, that it led to his interest in owning, repairing, and using heavy equipment. The following are a few examples:

drilled well on Boaz property 1973

Dads backhoe

Improving the Boaz property

Dad and Sheila working on old boat 1976

That land was where we all worked together to materialize my parents’ dream home–a huge multi-brown color brick & white Georgia marble stone home. (I was a teenager and could only do so much, but do remember helping to build the rafters for the roof, and carry lumber and supplies around.) It took my folks five years to complete the house, during which time we lived in a couple of different mobile homes on the front of the property.

Another construction pic of the house

Our house under construction

More of the house under construction

Dad in Boaz house Sept 1983

Dad laying stone on house

Dad laying the white Georgia marble stone on back of the house

Boaz house dad built 1983

Dad and mom both literally put their skin into building this house, which still stands today, though it looks a lot different since later owners covered the beautiful brick with siding. (Gasp!)

Dad on phone in Boaz house - Apr 1983

Dad had also acquired a 17 acre farm and horses, I know we had a pony while we lived in the first house, so I’m not exactly sure when the farm came into our possession, but they must not have thought it would be a good place to build their big home (in retrospect, it might have been the better move).

I recall cleaning out the barn, bailing hay, and riding with my dad. Those were truly father-daughter bonding times. One of my favorite memories was riding my Shetland pony named Betsy alongside my dad (he was riding our American Quarter horse mare named Sue), along the top of the ridge of our farm.

Factoid: Mom used to tell a story about the time country singer and legend, Mel Tillis was interested in buying that farm. Seems it was the highest elevation in our county!

Once the house was done, dad sold used cars on the side. For a few years, we always had different cars around.

Dad in his Triumph mid 1970s

Dad built an apartment building in Marietta and a house in Vienna in the Hickory Hills subdivision. The house dad built a few miles away from where we lived was what some people would call a spec house, and at one point, he wanted us all to move into it. Ugh, but I didn’t want to change schools. Another regret. 

Dad became a licensed single engine VFR aircraft pilot when I was in my teens. He loved to fly! When I had my daughter, he took her flying! I never had much interest in the Cessna.

Dads plane WV

Dad also bought and used a sawmill to build a log home on the 6 acre property. However, the economy took a tumble and people weren’t buying log homes and dad’s home building business failed. The business failure was devastating for my parents, but dad wouldn’t go down without a fight.

Dad took a couple of dump trucks to Florida, traded for some property (on which we would place a double-wide mobile home) and worked these dump trucks daily to scratch out a living. That move also enabled dad to make my dream of moving to Florida come true. The best example of “turning lemons into lemonade” I have ever seen!

When dad traded for the Florida property, which would become their home for nearly 40 years, I had came to Florida with him. Dad sat me down with a newspaper and asked me to look for a nice double-wide mobile home. I found one. It was cheap, but had to be moved. Dad did it all himself! I had thought he might kill himself trying to wench each of the two halves of the home together!

FL Double-wide moving it in 1984

FL Double-wide 1984

The Wheeler Dealer

Always the practical, mr. fix-it one, dad traded for many items, found discarded items, repaired and sold them for a profit. Dad retired from full-time, punch a time-clock work at age 40, which is nearly an unheard of thing for most.

After moving to Florida, dad was always finding items at the dump or at yard sales, fixing and reselling them. He loved to tinker! And then the stuff just kept piling up. 

Dad worked at McDonalds for a few months, maintainence and trash. I think he just wanted to get out of the house. He also worked for a concrete company driving truck for a year or so. He only quit due to the seat in the truck having broke and he received a neck injury from which, I do not believe he ever fully recovered.

Speaking of injuries received from accidents, dad was also once hit by a drunk driver in a corvette (dad was driving a Metro and his seat broke backwards upon impact). Mom and I both thought that accident could have killed him. And dad never swallowed right after that. The hit and run driver, (whom we later learned was an attorney) wrote dad an a sob story apology letter. Though I called several attorney’s and strongly suggested dad sue the guy (who had left the scene and the police had to catch him and bring him back), but no, dad wouldn’t go to court. The law still made the guy pay restitution, but it was small pittance to the open and shut million dollar lawsuit dad could have won had he only gone to court. 

Few vacations

Because dad and mom were both such hard workers, we hardly ever took a vacation. Most people wondered how mom and dad acquired so much in their lives, believe me, it was due to bone-grinding WORK. A solid work ethic like few I’ve seen in my life, I tell you.

Freda Dad Mom me and my cousins 1967

And a few trips to the beach, either Virginia Beach or Ocean City, Maryland. This was on the way to Virginia Beach, VA.

Dad and I on way to Virgina Beach first vacation 1968

Most of the times we took a vacation were when we drove to a family reunion, wedding, or somebody died.

Williams family when grandmother died 1976

Williams family 1979

Reunion Williams family 1995 or 1996

Only once did my folks fly a commercial jet to go to Washington state and Nevada to visit relatives. And I didn’t go. 

Mom and Dad in Las Vegas with April 1979

Loved the water

One of my favorite pictures of mom and dad had been taken of them while swimming in Veto lake. I asked dad not long ago, who took that picture? He replied, “Oh, there was always someone around willing to take a picture.” 

Mom and Dad at Veto Lake 1960

During one of our few beach vacations, I snapped this one of mom and dad, and it’s still one of my most favorite pictures.

Mom and dad at the beach about 1970

Though we didn’t take many vacations, but we did hang out at the river a lot while I was growing up, and a the lake near where dad grew up. As well, when mom and dad would watch my kids, they would take them boating. 

Dad in our Glastron boat at Sutton Lake with family

Dad mom and Marie and the Williamstown bridge 1984

Dad at the river Sept 82

Dad Marie and Matt boating in the pool

Dad in boat in the pool with Marie and Matt 1983

Holidays and more

One year (when I was a kid) mom was into wigs, and in this picture, she was wearing a blonde one. This was a memorable Christmas. I decided to add this happy moment when dad surprised mom with what I think was a $50 bill.

One of the interesting points for me while looking at this, is that I actually found the rock ashtray (while going through mom’s things after her passing) that’s on the table behind them. Another is that my husband and I bought the same La-Z-boy recliner chairs this last year for our RV (though we got the cloth versions). The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Dad and mom Christmas maybe 1970

Later on, we tried to spend every Christmas together in Florida.

Dads great smile at Christmas 1988

Dad great smile at Christmas maybe 1992

I recall dad being surprised with any gifts that were bigger than a bread box, because he and mom often shopped at flea markets. 

Dad at Christmas Daytona Beach 1992

Dad opening VCR at Christmas 1992

Here’s dad and I with my daughter.

Marie Sheila and dad Christmas Daytona Beach 1992

And this is dad and mom with my daughter. We were always close.

Marie mom and dad Christmas Daytona Beach 1992

Matt Mom and Dad Christmas 2000

And then there was that time papa walked me down the aisle for the second time.

Dad walking me down the aisle at my second wedding 1991

Dad mom and me at my second wedding maybe 1991

Perhaps one of the best takeaways I have from my second marriage will forever be this grand picture I have of my parents. I know there is value in Everything.

Mom and dad at my second wedding in FL June 1991

Enjoying our visits

Here’s a couple pictures from one of the times my son and I met them at the Daytona Beach flea market.

Dad mom and Sheila Daytona Beach flea market 2000

Dad mom and Matt at Daytona flea market 2000

I think it was when my son and I had returned from Texas and they drove an hour to meet us. We would always do our best to meet somewhere for a visit, no matter how brief. It was always important for us to stay Connected.

Factoid: My folks always seemed to live a couple hours from wherever we were living in Florida, so a favorite meeting place for years (that was half way) was Titusville.

The following is a sampling of pictures we took during some of our visits:

Marie Mom Dad and Sheila April 2010

Dad and us one Thanksgiving

Matt Richard Sheila Mom and dad at Matts Oct 2012

mom and dad sheila richard and matt Oct 2012

Mom Sheila dad Richard and Matt Oct 2012

dad and sheila dec 2008

dad and marie dec 2008

As things go, many years later, we meet at the Daytona Beach flea market again, but this time, for mom and dad to get a quick visit with their granddaughter and great granddaughter.

Marie Jennifer Mom and Dad at Daytona Beach flea market 2012

Dad and mama got to spend a lot of quality time with my son in the last 10 years or so. More reasons to be thankful.

Dad and Matt maybe three years ago

Mom smiling at Matts Christmas Dec 2013

And I would visit when I could.

Dad Mom and Sheila

Nelson Sheila BettyAnn and Matt

The Caregiver

Dad eventually became a full-time caregiver for my mom, as she was memory impaired and what medical professionals call “a wanderer” for about the last 4 or 5 years of her life. Sadly, last 2 years of mom’s life, dad had to put her in adult diapers. He fed and  clothed her. In short, he did everything for her. She never wanted to go to a nursing home, and she never did.

Mom and Dad Christmas at Matts Dec 2013

Dad and I had our differences over the years, perhaps, most likely even, because I am stubborn and fiercely independent like him. Or for other reasons, yet still undiscovered. However, over the last ten years or so, I grew to hold immense respect for my papa. I watched him do the best he could as mom’s sole caregiver. And I witnessed his enduring love for mama. It really was profound. I will never really know how dad took care of mom. I always encouraged him to put her in a dementia day care center (at least during the half of the year they were in Florida), but he would ask me, “Will they give her back”? And honestly, though I told him they would, I didn’t know.

Because mom and dad were inseparable the last ten years or so, after mom passed, dad would tell me every time we talked, “I just miss her so much.” And I knew he did. When I would see dad, his eyes were bleary at the mention of mom’s name.

Unless you’ve lived it, there’s really no way to explain the futility of Alzheimer’s disease on a person, or on their caregiver. Bless my mother’s heart! And bless my dad’s heart! Dad always told me, and my kids, “Just do the best you can.” I believe he did his best for mama too. 

Mom and dad at Matts in Melbourne 2015

Actually, dad did have some experience with caregiving, as the reason he and my uncle Jack built an indoor bathroom for his mom was because she’d suffered a stroke. This was one of the times dad had mom bleach his hair blonde before a get-together with his mom, sister, and more.

Dad with his mother Gela and girls

60 years together

Mom and dad met in 1959. And as the story of their meeting goes, mom was with a girlfriend and dad was with his buddy, Dick Kight. Dad saw mom at a drive-in burger place. When the girls’ food arrived, dad asked mom for a bite of her sandwich. She told him he should buy his own, but being the kind soul, also gave him a bite. Dad retold this story many times as well, especially reminding me that he’d been with his best friend (synchronistically, Dick later moved to St. Petersburg, Florida and was killed while installing a CB radio antenna.)  In order to find out mom’s name, he had to meet her at church on Sunday.

Dad and mom 2001

mom dad and beau dec 2008

After mom passed away, June 8, 2017, dad told me he wanted to be with mom forever. He also asked my thoughts on our family church and baptism. And he surprised me the morning after mom’s memorial service, stating that he wanted mom’s brother to baptize him.

Obviously, though dad hardly ever attended church with mom and I over the years, her influence from their first meeting at church, until her death, made quite the impression on him. After mom passed, dad asked my uncle (her brother) to baptize him. And so the circle is complete.

 

Dad’s unexpected passing

I know what people say. When a couple’s been together many years and one goes, the other will often follow within a year. But, dad had been doing good! Yes, I realize that he was depressed. Yet, I thought that was the grief process. I know every time he spoke to me about mom, he’d tell me, “I miss her so much.” And that was hard to hear, because I knew he was sincere.

We took the following pictures in West Virginia (after mom passed). Mostly I wanted to get the bear in the photos because dad’s father used to do taxidermy. Plus, the Black bear is a symbol for the state of West Virginia. Even a day after mom passed, I was trying to cheer dad, albeit in whatever small way I could. Dad really didn’t want me to take pictures, but he’d just gotten some new teeth and wanted to see what they’d look like. You can see however, he wasn’t smiling. But I wanted some pictures of dad and my son, and dad and I with the bear too because I didn’t think I’d be back that way for many years.

Note about dad’s beard: Dad was always reinventing his look, dark hair, blonde hair, silver or white hair, long hair, short hair, or he’d shave his head. And he’d gone for years without a beard (as mom never liked it), but as her memory started to go, he’d began wearing a beard.

dad-with-the-bear-jun-2017-1

Dad and Matt with the bear at Days Inn June 2017

Dad and Sheila with the bear June 2017

The next photos are of dad in Florida.

Dad and Matt Fellsmere 2012

My son had quit his job and moved to the same property with dad in south Florida, to help dad organize and sell some things. And while it came as a bit of a surprise, they got an offer on the property (where mom and dad had lived for nearly 40 years), on dad’s birthday in 2018. Dad called me and asked me, “What do you think”? And I said, “I think it’s a sign from mama that the offer has come in on your birthday.” Maybe that was all he needed to hear, but he agreed to the sale. Of course, he had second thoughts later, especially when it actually came time to move. He looked back on a lot of things about that time though, and wondered if it wasn’t too late to sue some people. (And my parents never sued anyone in their life, so I knew dad was doing a lot of thinking.)

Dad sitting Fellsmere 2012

The move (from south to north Florida) went pretty good, I think. And thankfully, my son was able to help dad through it all. 

Dad and Matt in Fellsmere

I’d just visited dad and my son in January at the new property to celebrate what would have been mom and dad’s 59th wedding anniversary, and pre-celebrate my birthday. Dad gave me a 4-way lug wrench. Mostly because he wanted me to put it under the front seat of our car as a weapon in case anyone attacked me. That’s how dad’s think I guess, no matter their age.

My son and his girlfriend spent the last day with dad. Matt and dad had gone to bring back a boat from south to north Florida. The picture of dad and Matt was taken a few years ago.

Dad and Matt in the boat dad moved the day he passed

These are the last pictures of dad with my son, and also of dad with his beloved dog, Annie.

dad and matt last pic together

Dad and Annie

Back to the bear

When my son and I went back to WV a day after dad passed (to tie up loose ends), and I walked back into the same hotel where we’d stayed 21 months prior, I lost it when I saw the bear. 

As I grieve the loss of my dad (in the physical), I find that I could never really know him. And this knowing takes me back to two of my favorite series, Six Feet Under and Dexter. As Scott Buck, a writer on both series often made a foundational point of saying, “We never really know a person.”
I like to compare our personalities to facets inside a kaleidoscope or disco ball. We reflect what we see or imagine others to be.

Dads haircut 2009

During the last 21 months dad would make comments to me about how people in the far past had told untrue stories about him. I suppose that could be true. Even the unpleasant things I remember from my youth, I acknowledge now, were all filtered through the pain of my mother, and my child-eyes. It would take me most of my adult life to understand even a fraction of what they lived through. How could I really? I wasn’t born and raised in their era, with next to nothing. I struggled in my 20s and 30s, yes. But they struggled even more, literally working their fingers to the bone to achieve their American Dream.

Mom Dad Sheila at Canaan Family Reunion 2001

I feel guilty about what I’m about to say now, but as it became ever more clear that mom was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, I once looked at dad and said, “You are paying for the sins of your past.” And he looked shocked and sad. In that deeply connected moment, I felt his pain and disbelief. And in the next moment, I vowed to myself never to utter anything like that to him again.

Dad and mom portrait at age 30

While I don’t discount my memories of past hurts, I realized it was not my place to judge my dad (or really, anyone). And it certainly doesn’t matter now, as all that remains in my heart and mind for my dad is LOVE.
❤️🦋🌀

Eulogy for my loving mother, Betty Ann Williams

Eulogy for my loving mother

The following are my warmest thoughts, love, memories, and knowing of my mama, Betty Ann (BettyAnn) Williams, who passed away during the early morning hours of June 8th, 2017.

Where do I begin? Ahh, at the beginning, of course!

Betty Ann was the middle child of three. She had an older sister, Alberdia (also passed) and a much younger brother, Jim.

Mom, her sister, and parents lived through the depressive days of the 1940s. Life was hard back then. My grandparents taught my mother and her siblings the importance of hard work, honesty, integrity, establishing and maintaining a solid reputation, faithful church attendance, and service to others.

For many years, my grandfather was a truck driver, owning a maintaining a semi-truck tractor. He was also a farmer. I recall stories of my grandmother and grandfather putting in a large garden and raising animals. Mom always spoke fondly of those days, in particular about how her mother loved roses (grandmother had real knack with growing rose bushes), and that mom’s sister loved ducks! Mom gravitated to the cats–especially the calico variety of kitty cats. She naturally attracted them.

My mother’s parents always had farm animals around too, and would butcher one every so often. My mom used to tell me stories about that. Mom didn’t want to like a certain pig too much, as eventually she knew it would be on the dining table! I know a lot of people don’t care about such things, but my mom did. She just couldn’t get emotionally attached to something that she knew would end up being food!

I still hear mama’s voice in my mind about her early life, and how she loved helping her mother string beans, cook, and bake–oh, the banana nut cake that my grandmother taught my mom to bake was so delicious thatthe memory of it makes my mouth water! She also taught me about eating my vegetables (as most of my friends’ moms taught us to do!) though often we didn’t want to listen or heed that necessary instruction.

Mom grew up eating the freshest of food and knew exactly where her food came from. I barely recall the farm though, because my mom’s dad passed away when I was six years old, and after that, grandmother only kept a small garden–the animals were gone.

Many years later, mom would work at a grocery store, and use her knowledge of various meats to educate her customers. Isn’t it amazing how sometimes the very things we learn when we are little, continue to assist us throughout our life?

Early life

BettyAnn had the most amazing naturally curly hair. My mom used to tell me about how her mother would take her hair, section by section, and wrap it around her fingers to create a stunning look. Even as a young girl, in this portrait, you can see how mom’s ringlets would dangle. You can also see that back then, the middle part was a way of parting one’s hair that would stay with mom for most of her life.

Mom said she didn’t like the special attention that the look of her hair used to bring. And that’s because mom never sought to be front and center. She preferred to be in the background. When singing in church, for example, mom didn’t want to be highlighted. BettyAnn never sought the spotlight. Though mom worked hard, and dutifully in a variety of jobs during the course of her life, she only wished to be privately acknowledged, if that. My mother was humble. She had a heart for service.

As a student, mom put a lot of time into her studies–she loved to read. She dreamt of being a writer. She told me many times that she had a book in her and that she hoped to write it one day. As meticulous as my mother was, and as many notes as I found of hers over the years, I know that is an aim she would have loved to accomplish.

Devout Christian

Speaking of reading, BettyAnn loved her Bible. I have mom’s three in one Bible that is probably about 80% marked up with notes and underlining!

Mom’s mother and father always had their children in church, and mom used to talk with me often about summer church camps she attended. She really enjoyed those outings!

Mama was also very proud of her father, my grandfather, who built many churches of their faith. He was also quite devout and he lead his family in a steadfast way. Their beliefs were followed up by wonderful good works, seen as a natural outcome from having solidly developed one’s faith.

My grandfather cultivated such a steadfast reputation around their hometown, that my mother, in particular, took that very seriously. Their “name” meant everything to them.

In this photograph, which included my grandfather’s brother and his wife in the back row, from left to right you see my aunt Alberdia (my mother’s sister), my grandmother, my uncle Jim (he was a young boy then), my grandfather, and then, kind of off to the right–my mother.

Mom was a prayer warrior and deep thinker. Whenever mom was trying to resolve something she said that she’d turn it over, again and again, in her mind.

Most of the things mom loved to study and talk about were of a religious and spiritual nature–my mother had a thirst for God!

Betty Ann was devoted to her family and church, and was as solid of a witness for Jesus Christ as I ever knew. She would defend the Lord until her dying breath, that was how certain she was.

My mother read a lot. She spent long hours in prayer and solitude. Looking back, I have wondered about all of the books she read.

She loved John Wayne, and later on, Clint Eastwood. Mom sought the hero, the tough and rugged kind of man who would take care of her, and whom she would help to build a solid life with.

Mom also loved her parents home, and loved property. She never really liked small plots of land, always dreaming of having a house on acreage. That dream must have begun even as a girl. To this day, I learned all I know about mineral rights, from what my mother taught me as a teenager. It always amazed me to know how intelligent my mother was.

Little things really meant a lot to my mama. She thought deep thoughts, and ruminated over many things. She would tell me, “Whenever you’re trying to figure something out, just turn it over and over again in your mind until an answer comes to you.”

Mom also had many dreams and experiences with the Holy Spirit over the course of her life–especially her young life. I always felt that mama had a strong faith in God, and particularly in Jesus–so I kind of had a problem when worry and fear would set in. Even when I was about eighteen years of age, I realized that just having a strong faith, did not solve all of the problems in the world.

Yet, my mother’s strong faith allowed her the ability and stamina to reach out to others, even though she might be going through her own problems.

I recall many a night that mom would take me to one of her friends’ house to visit, often staying up until the wee hours of the morning talking about God, Jesus, Christianity–especially how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was a true Christian faith, and how the Book of Mormon was the second witness, or second testimony of Jesus.

My mama could explain the Book of Mormon and the history of the RLDS faith better than almost anyone I knew. I’m sure my grandfather could too, but I was too little when he passed away to remember any of his sermons or such.

Spending years in church though, yes, even Sunday school, taught me many things, and created a Divine curiosity too.

Mama used to tell me if loving God was the only thing she’d ever taught me to desire for my whole life, then that was good enough for her to know she’d raised me right. Awe!

Mom used to talk with me quite a lot about her spiritual experiences, and always hoped that I would also have similar experiences. Therefore, I believe my mother would be very pleased to know that I allow myself to be an open channel for God. And not only that, but that I meditate and seek the LIMITLESS Omniscience that I perceive God is.

I am gifted that my mother, and her parents too, were believers in present day revelation, which means, that God is ALIVE, and communicates to us in myriad ways.

I honestly believe that my mom would be the most proud of me, not only because I raised two loving children, or have a successful 30+ year career in technology, but that I am humble and OPEN to God–at all times, and in ALL ways.

I know mom wanted me to save more money, but I also know now, that from where she IS, where she continues to exist, she knows that none of us are defined by the money or things that we possess.

Again, this validates for me the great value my mother placed on the environment. She knew God placed us all here to be good stewards of the Earth and all of the creatures in and on it.

In this picture, mom, her dad, her mother, and her little brother Jim, went to Fayetteville, North Carolina to visit her sister, Alberdia. I love this picture because I have so few of my grandparents. And because mom was smiling so sweetly.

My aunt Alberdia had lived in North Carolina for some period of time while her husband, my uncle Bob, was serving in the military.

My mother was always very happy to drive, and if memory serves, mom had driven the family to North Carolina on this trip, which may have helped to explain the lovely smile she had!

Mama used to tell me that her father was always so busy giving to others (of course, a wonderful trait), that they did not often take trips together as a family–this would later continue to be the trend with my mom and dad during my formative years.

(NOTE: I’d love to hear comments from any of our family about these and the other photos.)

I recall mom telling me about someone that she might have married, but the gentleman was Catholic. Mom’s RLDS faith was so important to her that she couldn’t bear to marry this other man (whom she’d known for some time before she met my dad) because any children they might have, would have had to be raised Catholic. And while the structure of both the RLDS and the Catholic religions are similar, they are nonetheless quite different. Thus mom ended the relationship with that gentleman, before it could get serious.

Some of the best days of my childhood was spent going to church with mom, my grandmother, my aunt Alberdia, and my uncle Jim, along with many close and long-time family friends. We sang in the choir or simple enjoyed being a quiet member of the congregation, while learning about the many wonders of God. We had prayer meetings, testimony services, baptisms, and more. And every Easter was a celebration of our resurrected Lord.

As I grew older, and even when my faith wavered, mom always reminded me that God had my back. That God would never, ever leave me. A strong faith she had, oh yes, absolutely.

School days

I don’t know much about my mother’s school days, but mom did ride the bus to school, just like I did. I can only imagine her sitting alone most of the time, perhaps reading a book or daydreaming.

Mom never liked the color yellow.

When people say that words don’t hurt, don’t believe them. (Though I have since come to know why words hurt us emotionally.)

Dad has recounted that even when he would buy a piece of heavy equipment that was yellow, mom wouldn’t like it parked anywhere within range of where she’d have to see it.

When dad or I would ask mom why she didn’t like yellow, she would recall a time when she’d worn a yellow dress to school and about how a boy on the bus had commented something crude about “girls that wear yellow…” were easy, or something to that effect. After that, she never wore that dress again and grew a strong disdain for anything yellow.

Ironically, my five year old granddaughter, my mother’s great-granddaughter, Jennifer Ann, loves the color yellow–in fact, it’s her favorite color and has been since she could name a favorite! I think there’s some karmic healing going on there. At least, I hope so.

I’ve often looked at the photograph of my mom in the white blouse and dark colored shorts, looking down. I am sure it was one of those pictures when a person isn’t ready for the shot. However, it does say something about how meek my mother was. She was as gentle and humble as anyone I’ve ever known.

My mother loved animals too! All kinds of animals, but especially the little ones. Bunny rabbits, kittens, and squirrels were some of her favorites. Once when I was little, mom found a mouse that had just had babies, and she even cared for each of the babies, as if we needed any more mice around! It was kind of funny, but, oh so very heart-warming that she cared so much, even about the seemingly needless little creatures. And those I’m sure most women would have wanted to kill.

Growing up, mom was very close with her family, as well as many special church friends. While raising me, she emphasized the importance of friendship. She remained friends with many of the same members of our church, who had became the same as family–even until the last 10 or so years of her life as dementia set in.

BettyAnn held all of the priesthood members of our church in high esteem. In reading many of the passages mom underlined in her 3 in 1 Bible, she had strong feelings about women holding priesthood office. That, among a few other things that I don’t need to go into here, caused mom to quit attending church; even though mom stopped attending services, she never disavowed her faith, and always prayed for her friends, otherwise called her church family.

When mom started working, I think she put as much of herself into her work that she could. She didn’t just take pride in her work, she literally worked to a higher standard, as if God only was her supervisor. She put forth the very best of herself that she could when she was working.  I only wish that my mother had been more appreciated, at the time, for all of the effort she put forth, and for her incredible integrity.

Looking back, it seemed that my mother was always working–often two or even three jobs at a time. When I am sad about my mother’s passing, it usually centers around how hard she worked, and that in the end, I question how much of it mattered.

Betty Ann knew the value of a dollar and could make a penny squeal. She worked and saved for everything she ever had, beginning in her teenage years, if not earlier. Mama knew how to buy quality and well made clothing, like the jacket in this picture. She put several things aside at her mother’s home in a cedar closet, and it surprised and warmed my heart to receive those items after her passing. I hope she will be honored to know that I am passing most of the clothes–even after 40 or 50 years, which are still in good enough condition–on to her great granddaughters to wear one day.

Many times mom did without things in order to save money. She sure knew how to prioritize! In fact, mom left a legacy to me of how to only spend on what’s important.

Betty Ann was so happy to graduate high school. Her mother, my grandmother, only had a 4th grade education and though it didn’t stop my grandmother from accomplishing many things in her life, she was certainly proud of her children when they graduated high school.

Mom graduated in the Parkersburg High School (West Virginia) class of 1957. When the Statler Brothers song came out about the class of ’57, my mother loved it!

Whenever I would fuss about having to walk very far during my high school days to change classes, mama would tell me of all the times she would have to nearly run across the huge PHS campus to get to class. Looking back on some history though, I now read where PHS was one of the first high schools in West Virginia–and perhaps, that’s why it was such a large school!

Though my mother loved school and believed in education to help a person become successful, I do not recall that she had any desire to attend college, preferring rather to work and earn money. As well, I remember mom telling me that she even worked while she was in her last year of high school.

I love how my mother signed her high school graduation portrait to her beloved parents. I think that might have been the thing to do back then. But again, it shows the honor and respect mom had for her parents.

Speaking of respect, that word meant so much to my mother. And she always strived to respect anyone she met.

Love of driving

Betty Ann loved to drive! Mama often told me how excited she had been once she was old enough to drive to work. She saved her money to buy a car. She often volunteered to drive her church friends to church services, church camp, or other types of activities.

Thinking about my mother’s love of driving then, it would make total sense that my parents would first meet at a drive-in restaurant. Looking back, I can see how unique it must have been for mom to have a rare night out that didn’t involve church, in order to meet my papa!

Some of my best memories as a child was when mom would take me with her and go out for a drive. We usually had plenty of reason to drive since we lived 17 miles from my grandmother’s house (the one in these pictures). If I couldn’t sleep, had a belly ache, or other health issue, mom would put me in the car and just drive. I am sure it calmed her down, as much as it did me.

Mom told the story for years about how once, when I was a wee toddler, I’d somehow managed to open the car door while the car was in motion! It scared her about to death, but she reached over and grabbed me by the hood of my winter coat, saving me. Whew!

Beautiful loving soul

By the time my mom met my father, she had grown into a beautiful young woman. In fact, when my father took her to his small home town to meet his family, some one hundred miles from where my mother was raised, he has told me often over that many of his family, friends, and neighbors had thought he was bringing a movie star home.

As beautiful as my mother was on the outside, it was her genuine heart and love for God and desire to help others, that really touched people’s hearts.

Mom was a friend to many, no matter their outward appearances. She always taught me to never judge a book by its cover, in relation to meeting new people. She also taught me the importance of being a trusted friend.

Granted, if someone–rare though it was–would deeply offend mom, she could turn away, but I can only count on one hand (in my whole life), any such occurrences. Someone had to cut mom to the quick so to speak, striking mom’s abiding faith, before she would turn and walk away. And since I believe that eulogies should always focus on the positive, that is what I will do.

Selfless connection. Yes, that aptly describes the inherent love my mother felt towards nearly everyone she ever met.

From my teenage years on, I questioned my mother many times about God, Jesus, our church, and family history.

Mom always had much to say about her father, who not only built their family home, but also churches and other homes; he loved to build. Mom had the utmost respect and love for her father, my grandfather. I have vague memories of him and his green leather recliner that had heat and massage built in. I imagine that it was a necessary health luxury for him because of all the manual labor he performed.

Mama also loved her mother very much. And we enjoyed spending time with my grandmother, taking her to church, out to eat, or to the hairdresser weekly (in later years).

In a way, you could say that my mother worshipped her parents–and their marriage set the baseline for the one she dreamed of having.

When my dad met mom, they were each out with friends. My mom had ordered a sandwich at the drive-in restaurant and my dad walked up to mom’s car window and asked if he could have a bite of her sandwich. At first mom told him that he should buy his own, but if I recall the story right, she did oblige him to take a bite. When dad asked for her name and number, she gave her name, but said he would have to meet her in church if he wanted her number.

Betty Ann was ever so surprised the day (I think it was the following Sunday) that my dad walked through the doors of our church. He found her, and the rest–as they say–is history.

Both would recount the story later about how dad asked how old my was and she replied, “Twenty.” Then, she’d asked how old he was, and he replied, “Twenty, too.” It was not until they were filling out the form for their marriage license that mom would learn that dad meant he was twenty also. She had thought he was two years older than her, apparently for a some time, and was a upset at the revelation of his true age!

Mom and dad were married at her parent’s home in 1960. And as my parents were married in a home that my mother’s father built, I was also married in the home my parents built. The synchronicities have not been lost on me. However, just so you know, I am not romanticizing or placing my mama on a pedestal–yes, she was human–but for certain, if you knew BettyAnn, you knew how she felt about you.

Many years later, I would come to know that even after my first husband and I had problems, my mother continued to talk with him. She never held a grudge against him, though as one might imagine she could have, for I was her only child. And we all know how most mothers can be a fierce lioness when it comes to their babies.

I love the many early photographs we have of mama. She was always simply elegant and statuesque. I’d commented on more than one occasion how she could have been a model, but mom said it was never her way. She preferred to be in the background. She never sought the spotlight. She was shy, so being the center of attention in any given scenario bothered her.

Beloved Wife

My dad reminisces of his and my mama’s wedding day (January 6th, 1960). They married at my mother’s parental home with mom’s family by her side.

Being as honest as the day is long, my mother wore a beautiful light cream colored suit, a-line skirt, with a mink collar pinned to the suit jacket’s collar. With all of my mother’s family in attendance, I know from the photographs, mom was supremely happy.

Dad still marvels about mom’s 17″ waistline and how he could put his hands around her waist until his fingers touched! The way mom used to explain it to me, she accomplished that feat by wearing those skinny belts and cinching the belt in, one hole at a time (day-by-day), until she her waist was the size she wanted it to be.

You can really tell how tiny mom was in these wedding photographs.

As a child, I always loved visiting my grandparents at their home.

So much efforting

Over the entire course of mom and dad’s marriage and life together, mama followed her Biblical principle of being a help mate to my papa.
Mom would help dad with manual work around the house, especially during the years when they built our home in Boaz. Mom handled any contracts that needed analysis, preparation of business, banking, insurance, and all other manner of legal documents.
I look back now and realize that watching mama assist my dad with these things, most assuredly paved the way for me to learn how to use analogies to explain complex topics to others (and why I became a techie/business analyst).

It is amazing to think about all of the effort and struggle that at the time seemed so harsh, but were the very hurdles that helped my parents master and achieve their desires.

Newlyweds

Mom and dad were so in love, and so passionate. At times, they’d argue about things that made no sense to me, but they were yin and yang, and to achieve balance, at least at times during their marriage, they needed to till the rocky soil in order to come to an agreement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently asked dad, “Who took this picture”? He just said there always seemed to be someone around to take a photo.

I’ve always loved this of mom and dad, kissing, while out in the lake’s water. I think it sums up their life together very well.

Water is often moving, never standing still, just like a marriage. It can get rough, even produce outrageous waves that can topple huge ships. But water can also become smooth as glass when there is no wind, no resistance against it.

No matter the storms of life, my parents’ marriage survived. Until the end. And my mother knew love that only few find in this life. May she rest in peace knowing her husband and family have loved her beyond words.

Endless love.

Miracle Baby

Mom and dad had only been married two years when I came along. And during my childhood my mother had so many miscarriages, that she would later call me her “miracle baby.”

For a long time, I wasn’t quite so comfortable with that label because it made me feel like she expected so much of me. And I was sure that my getting married so young, and having my own children, let mom down. However, the last visit we had together, Easter Sunday 2017, I told mama something that had only recently dawned on me. That between me, my two children, and my daughters three children, mama had back all six babies that she’d “lost.”

When I look at these photos of mom holding me as a newborn, and even how my mother’s mother looked at me, I can see such an abundance of love that it still gives me “God bumps.”

My grandmother was not always the most warm and loving grandmother, and for years I struggled with that. I know my grandmother had been a wonderful mother to mama and her two siblings, because mama always told me so.

It’s funny isn’t it? How each of us perceive another so differently, even from how that person is / was most of the time. And how our memories of people change over the years.

I find it fascinating now, to look back and remember with much more fondness and adoration. And interest! I’d love to know more about my grandmother and her lineage.

And as the baby in these pictures, I am so curious as to what the conversations were about at that time.

You’ll see this picture, taken at Christmas time, and how happy mom and I were to be at my grandmother’s house. It looks like we had so many presents that they spilled out from under the tree (which was in the corner to the left) and in front of the television set in the living room. Grandmother always put out such a nice display at Christmas.

Mama was still tiny, even after having me. And always beautiful, with her naturally curly hair that many ladies envied.

Loving Mother

For the better part of mama’s life, she lived by the Biblical standard of “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” and kept a spotlessly clean house. I remember people saying one could eat off of mom’s floors, and that certainly was true, especially when I was young.
 

 Anyone who visited us would quickly notice what an immaculate housekeeper mom was. Mom used to hard wax the wood and linoleum floors of the first house we lived in to the extent that, as a young girl, I could skate on them in my sock covered feet! Mom would warn me to be careful as I skated across the living and dining room floors!
I remember wanting to be old enough to help mom with the floor waxing, as somehow, she made it look so interesting! And as I grew older, mom did let me help her strip the old wax from the floor, and then she’d shoo me outside to play, while she applied the fresh coat of wax.
Everything mom did was meticulous. She would often tell me that if I wasn’t going to do something right, to step aside, and she’d do it. Though we had our share of mother and daughter disagreements, I knew in my heart and soul, that above all, my mother loved me.
Calling me her “miracle baby”, mom adored me. She didn’t give me everything I wanted, as some might have thought. No, my mother instilled a strong work ethic in me, that I’ve actually had to undo over the years because it made me hold others to the same high standard–and not everyone can live up, or work up, to those!
I distinctly recall being about six years old, and when I went to sleep one night, mom laid down with me in my bed. I think I had been upset about something. My grandfather died when I was six, so that might have been why I was upset, but I don’t recall. I do distinctly remember telling mama that I couldn’t breathe without her, and that she could never die. Of course, mom tried her best to console me, but I think I still cried myself to sleep.
 
 

Many babies

 
 
 I don’t have many pictures of mama when she was pregnant for the other babies.
One of the stories I heard many times over the years though, involved the baby girl mom had named, Christina.
Baby Christina was the full term infant that mom lost.
The most poignant part of the story was that Christina would be the only one of mom and dad’s lost babies to be buried. And as mom told it, her hospital window overlooked the street to the cemetery. So, mom could see the procession when the Hearst brought baby Christina to the cemetery, with my dad following behind in his car. Mom was in a double room in the hospital and the lady in the bed beside her, had her baby in their room. It had to be one of the most heart-breaking times of mama’s life. I cannot even imagine! Apparently, that hospital could have cared less about mom’s emotional state.
As I recall the stories from my mother, there were several pregnancies that did not reach full term.
One was the first baby, when mom believed they were “gassed” in their first apartment. Then I came out, full term, and fine. After that another baby, that I believe was my sister, Christina. Following were three more, the last of which, had to be taken, in order to spare my mother’s life. It was at the time when my father had to make the call–the doctor had said, “Sir, it’s either your wife, or your child.” And mom had been in the Catholic hospital and moved to the city hospital because the Catholic hospital would not allow the doctor to “take the baby”, though medically necessary.
To this day, I cannot imagine the gut-wrenching decision that was for my father. And on top of it, to transport my dying mother to another hospital in order to perform the procedure! It seems ludicrous to me now!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Early Career

 
 
I only have a couple of photos from mom’s early career days.
This photo was taken at Trader’s Federal Savings and Loan Association when mom worked for Miss Virginia Engle.
I wish I had a picture of mom when she worked for the Calvin Calendine Insurance Agency in Parkersburg, because once when I was fifteen years of age, a couple came him (perhaps it was the Calendine’s themselves) to a restaurant where I was working, and asked if I was Betty Ann’s daughter–as apparently I looked just like her when she had worked for them!
If mom wasn’t at work somewhere, or I wasn’t in school, I was with my mama. I love thinking about that!
 
 
I hated being an only child, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Nor would I have ever wished any of the hell that my mother experienced on her, for continuously trying to have another child.
Mom and dad wanted so much to give me a brother or a sister, but sadly, mom lost one baby after another–I was the only one of six pregnancies to be born onto the planet.
You can see in one of the photos how tired and drained mom looked–it was a picture of her that was taken in 1968 after losing one of the babies that damn near killed her. What I couldn’t have known was that my mom had been in congestive heart failure. Had the doctors not taken the baby, (as described previously) mom would have surely died.
Mama had many friends and no matter what hell they might be going through, my mom would talk with them, pray, and be there for them when often, no one else would.
As a child, I recall many times going along with mom to friends’ homes and falling asleep on a couch. I soaked in my mother’s compassion and capacity for “being there” when others needed an ear.  And mama always had me with her.
 
 There was a period of time when mom was into wigs. I don’t think this time lasted too long, but I remember it fairly well.
One Christmas in particular, mom was so thrilled to receive–what I think was–a fifty dollar bill from dad, along with her gifts. I love that you can see an old, but popular lamp behind mom, drapes that used to hang in the picture window, the first La-Z-Boy chair mom and dad had, and those hard wood floors in the background.
For years, mom wouldn’t let me put the icicles on the Christmas tree. When she finally let me, it was only after she taught me how to hang them properly, one at a time.
 

Family heritage

 
This was from a picture my cousins sent to me.
 
I love the way mom and dad looked here! I can almost remember going shopping with mom to buy the clothes we were going to wear on this rare vacation. aWEsOMe!
 We were visiting my dad’s oldest sister in the northeast. I recall going to Canada once at about this same time, though I cannot be sure it was on this trip. We took so few vacations over the course of my childhood, you’d think they would stand out more to me, but alas, I had been more focused on the bond I’d made with my cousin.
I think my mother and father only had one portrait taken in their whole married life. It was a black and white photo that my daughter has to this day in the original frame. I asked my artist husband, Richard, to Photoshop my dad out of the photo and colorize mom’s image, so we could use it for her memorial service.
Thanks go out to my uncle for facilitating that gathering in celebration of mom’s life.
I will place the photo here, but I do think the snapshot photos speak volumes about mom and dad’s life together. They were always busy working, and making a home for me, and of course continuing to try to have other children, which so sadly and unfortunately were not to be.
My regret for my mother was that she did not get the opportunity in person to see my daughter’s twins that have only very recently come into our family. It nearly feels like some cruel joke of the Universe. But, she did get to see their pictures and video (including their sister, our five year old granddaughter), when I last saw her, Easter 2017. I want to believe that she knew these were her great-grandchildren whom she described as doll babies, and beautiful, and so wonderful!
This picture was mom when she was 30 years of age. I can remember the blouse that mom had on under the black jumper, because she kept this outfit in her closet for many years. Again, pointing out mom’s frugal nature.
As well, my mother nearly always wore a cross around her neck. Dad has told me that even unto the last few weeks of mother’s life, she had a simple gold cross on a gold chain around her neck. It would be the only jewelry that she would wear, that she could tolerate wearing.
 When we went to West Virginia, arriving the day after mother’s passing, dad gave me the gold chain that he’d removed from mother’s body. I put it on. It still had some of mama’s hair wrapped around the clasp. That was probably the hardest part for me. Knowing that I had the tiniest part of my mother to carry on with me.
 
 
 Of course, I had not told him that I had saved a few strands of her hair from when I’d seen her at Easter. I had used my comb to arrange her hair. Nor did I mention the memories of all of the times mama would sit with me to comb the knots out of my naturally curly hair when I was young.
We both had such tender heads that combing our hair was something very difficult to do, preferring to brush it instead, for most of our lives. Only now, that my hair is beginning to thin, can I use a comb. And mother’s dark thick hair had turned to thin and gray, but still curly, even unto the last time I styled it for her.

Sharing of Recipes

My grandmother was a wonderful cook, and my mother and aunt learned so much from cooking and baking with her. I can still taste many of the delicious recipes that my grandmother made, especially her luscious banana cake with chocolate frosting. Mom would make this too, but somehow it was always just a bit different.

Mom also made a kicking fudge candy, that one of my cousins still makes to this day from her recipe. My mother also made a fantastic pot roast, that my aunt MaryAnn learned to make, and also continues to prepare for her family.

Growing up, mom always cooked green beans. I still have fond memories of helping mom and grandmother string beans fresh out of the garden.

The memories of particular recipes linger for each of us.

 This photo was of an older boat that papa had bought to restore and sell. I think it was about 1976. It seems like we always had a boat. We went to the river as much as we could on the weekends. It was really the only down time my parents had.
As I’ve said, we didn’t vacation every year like a lot of families. But my parents did believe in buying, restoring, or fixing just about anything, and then reselling it. So, while it seemed we had a lot of stuff, I never became too attached to anything. Just as soon as I’d fall in love with a car, it’d be gone! Mom had a hard time with that also.
We typically only traveled to see family. The only times we went somewhere that didn’t involve seeing family was when we went to Ocean City, Maryland or Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. And then there was the trip to St. Petersburg, Florida.
My first trip to Florida was for a somber occasion, as it was for one of my dad’s friends, the man who was with my dad the night he met mom.
On one of our trips to the beach, my grandmother went with us. I don’t recall much about the trip, other than I think I made a friend while playing in the sand. I was pretty good about making friends easily like that (I’m just not so sure why I didn’t make as many friends at school). Vacations were different times though. People seemed so much more relaxed.

My dad loved to fly. He bought a Cessna, much to the chagrin of my mother, and got his private pilot’s license. Mom is pictured standing next to the plane. I don’t recall her ever going flying with dad, but dad took my daughter up in the air once. He took me on one of those helicopter rides, with someone else flying and that was enough for me! I couldn’t wrap my mind around my dad flying, so I guess that’s why I never wanted to go. But, somehow, I let my daughter go–I wonder if she remembers that!

It’s kind of ironic that I would later work (and go to school) for the Harvard of the air, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and work at the Kennedy Space Center! How funny can life be?

Mom was always  proud of my accomplishments, but she had a difficult time with my going to college while working and raising Marie and Matt. She would often strongly suggest that I take a semester off, because in her words, “…your children won’t be around forever.” But, silly of me, when Marie and Matt had returned to live at home, after being out of the house for at least a few years, I poked fun at mom because both of my children had come home. Looking back now, I am getting paid back in spades! Karma. It is what it is.

This picture was taken at my dad’s family farm. I was seventeen, so mom and dad would have been 39. It’s hard to imagine it now, but I used to think 30, or 40, was “old.” Yet, look how young they looked! Wow!

On top of looking great, my mother was one of the strongest women I have ever known.

I cannot imagine the pain she survived. Even if you only consider one of the storie that I shared earlier, I don’t know the strength it took her to go on, but somehow she did.

My mother lost five babies in total (at different stages of development, with at least two of those because the hospital either didn’t type her blood at all, or when they did, they typed it wrong). But there were no lawsuits.

Mom went on to raise me, have a career, build a house with my dad (that one couple loved enough to steal–but that’s a whole other documented story that I could tell), and lived until she was almost 78 years old, nearly 58 years with the same man, my dad.

Throughout writing this eulogy, I attempted to keep my focus on mom. I realize that I’ve ranted a bit, and derailed, but it’s because my mama and I were pretty much tied at the hip, until I met my first husband. When I started dating, and going across the state line to Ohio, my personality began to change. I became independent and mom told me several times that I was drifting away from her.

We had been friends, as much as mother and daughter. I, always being my mother’s closest confidante. I wish I could say that I continued to confide in my mother after I began dating, but it was true what she had said, we had drifted. That is, I allowed myself to drift from her.

More and more we began to live separate lives.

I realize that’s the nature of things for a lot of people, and I am not the only one who has run off from the protection and solace of her mother’s arms while yet a teenager. While I have few regrets, leaving mom and dad to get married so young is one of them. I have made peace with that, due to having my own children and knowing they might have never been, had I not made the choices I made when I was seventeen.

When I hear the Stevie Nicks song, “Edge of Seventeen”, I remember those days with fondness and self-forgiveness. All is as it should be.
 Even though I was close with my first cousins, and one of my third cousins, I felt so alone during those days. Oh! To know then, what I know now!
 
 
Mama was close with her sister, Alberdia. And this photo, I think, was one Christmas at my aunt Alberdia’s home. Mom and my aunt had both sold Avon for many years, and they had much in common.
One time, many years later, my dad related a story to me about mom and her sister sitting up until the wee hours of the morning visiting. He said they giggled and laughed like little girls.
As it turned out, that night would be the last visit that they both shared together at my aunts home. I think of what they must have talked about, and how much life experience and wisdom they shared.
I am thankful for all of the Thanksgivings, and all of the Christmas holidays we spent at my aunts house, and I am ever so grateful to be in current contact with Alberdia’s children–my first cousins. Our family legacy continues.
 

Loving grandmother

Oh, how happy mama was when her first grandchild was born! She was blessed to have my husband and myself living so close, so that she could see her beautiful granddaughter every day! I remember taking this picture when they came to visit us, only a day or two after my daughter and I had come home from the hospital. And my daughter, Sheila April-Marie (Marie), loved her mammaw and pappaw!

By the time I had my son, Allen Matthew (Matt), two years later, we’d moved about a half an hour away, and we still made time to visit. The bond and the love was so strong between my parents and my children. The visits continued often, even after we moved to Florida. I am so very glad we were close, and had so many visits, and shared so many wonderful times together.

Even though we didn’t live near each other in Florida, mom and dad would meet me half  way many weekends and take Marie and Matt to their home for visits several times per year.

Mom really loved her grandchildren! I’m sure in many ways she felt as though, by having them with her, it was like having a couple of her lost babies back.

Speaking of mom and dad’s unborn babies, mom and I talked about them often most of my life, until mom progressed in her illness, then she started to forget how many babies she had lost. That’s when I knew we were losing her.

In the beginning, it was just mom’s short term memory that started to go. Then she’d forget how the ball point pen worked. She quit typing me letters. Oh, I used to get the most beautiful long emails from my mom! I am certain many were lost as technology changed though, and I am so sad about that. Then mom failed at being able to use the phone. That probably worried me the most of anything. So, papa did his best to always keep her with him, as if she’d been home alone, she wouldn’t know how to call anyone for help.

 My children were oh, so blessed, to have my parents as grandparents! The love that mom and dad showed to my children were incredible!
 

Leaning on the Everlasting Arm

Many times over the years mom told me she felt trapped in her marriage, however during the last 7 years of her life she would tell me how grateful she was for my dad, “papa”, and that she didn’t know what she would do without him.
Mom had come to accept the course of her fate, and not only forgive, but embrace all of the aspects of my papa, whether she agreed or not, and allowed him to care for her, do everything for her, that in earlier years she wouldn’t have even dreamed.
 Mom and dad argued a lot over the years. And I saw my mother cry–a lot. I often felt bad for the struggle my mama endured. Sometimes, mom would tell me that she and my father would fight because they had so much passion for each other. It took me years to accept, understand, and allow the dysfunction of their relationship. In fact, I had to get married, move out, and have children, in order to experience anything near to the tumultuous relationship mom and dad had–before I really understood. Then, it took many years of prayer, meditation, and inner work (energy medicine) to come to the place of the allowing. Allowing those choices.
Mama would also tell me that while improving the property where they would build their dream home, every time she chopped a tree down, she would hear or feel the words, “Your work is all in vain.” Several years later, those words would return to her, as clear memories, when she and dad left West Virginia for Florida.
My mother and my father made their life what it was. What might seem simple to many, took me years to accept–that each of us live by the thoughts and choices we make. I can only hope my papa can find purpose and joy in the rest of his life, as I know he has many healthy and strong years ahead of him. I so want him to be happy! I know he misses mom so much; he longs for his wife and best friend!
The red knit sweater vest that mom is wearing in this photo was one of the garments that mom had kept and stored away at grandmother’s house in the cedar closet. I am now taking it to New Hampshire to give to my daughter. I know she will wear it with great love and admiration for her thrifty grandmother!
I have learned that all any of us can ever do is “Be Here Now” (as my friend Dr. Alison J. Kay told me), if we want to feel better and leave the pain of the past behind. And as I’ve been writing this eulogy that lesson has returned to me many times–even during my writing when a friend called to remind me!
After everything, all I can truly tell you is that all of the hard times, all of the prayers, all of the harsh words, all of the warmth, all of the moments, the days of our lives, what we perceive as the good, and the bad, after all of it–it all resolves to Gratitude. And Thank You, is the best prayer you can ever utter.
 
 
 
 
This was a classic photo of my mom and I, and Marie, while I was pregnant for my son, Matt. I remember that day so clearly, as if it were yesterday. How does that happen? How can one time stand out so complete in one’s mind that you can remember the feeling of the fabric of the shirt you were wearing, or the smell of food cooking?
You can see the double front doors behind us and the large picture window above the doors. There was a foyer there, with a wall that was built in such a way, that you could look down on whoever was coming in or going out of the house, but they wouldn’t necessarily see you. The living room and foyer were on different levels. I’ve never been in any other house like the one my mom and dad built–ever.
I remember sitting alongside mom and dad as they sketched out the blueprint for our home. They built it from every dream they’d ever had about a house. It had so many special things in it. And some things, just sort of happened. We call them design features nowadays. Little things like, “What are we going to put on top of this wall?” would come up in daily conversation. Eventually, the foyer wall got carpeting laid upon the top of it. And we used it as a sort of catch-all for books or magazines, mail, or such.
 
 
 
 

On the river

Oh wow! I would definitely be remiss if I didn’t talk about the river. Mom, dad, and I spent a lot of time out on the Ohio river. I have so many memories of being out on the river, with one of the boats we had, or with friends.
Mom and dad continued the habit of going out on the river, even after they had grandchildren too, which I know my kids loved, and so did I.
This is one of those times at the river! It was evidently during the annual regatta time, because of all the other boats in the water.
Mom had started smoking. It wasn’t like her at all, but it was indicative of the ridiculous stress she was under at that point.
I am glad that I could salvage this picture, because that’s my darling daughter, Marie, when she was about two years old. Mom and dad would take her out in the boat with them. And Marie had my sock monkey with her that day. Ha! The same sock monkey our friend, Linda Evans had made for me when I was born that I still have, which mom later found the hat for and gave to me. He has been with ever since and sits beside our bed.
While I can’t say that we always went to every regatta, the ones we did attend were a lot of fun! I have wanted to return for many years during regatta time, but haven’t been yet. Thankfully, our dear friend, Liz Tymchak, sends us lots of photos.
Marie and Matt always enjoyed their time with mom and dad, whether on the river in a boat, or just swimming in the pool. When you live in West Virginia, you have to get out as much in the summer as you can, because it doesn’t last long.
 
I love this photo of mom with her hair up. She always wore her long hair up when we went boating or swimming, and she was so pretty. It really showed off her high cheekbones and beautiful face.
 I wish something hadn’t been on fire in the background of this photo though, as it disrupts from the view of the old Williamstown bridge in the background, and of course, all of the boats.
My mother was statuesque and lovely. She was beautiful inside and out, as they say. When she walked into a room, people noticed. And she spoke softly, but carried a big stick, as they say. She could be quite firm in her statements, but they were always infused with care and compassion. My mother truly was an angel on earth, as my dad always said.
 
 
 I love this picture of Marie with mom and dad in her little life jacket. Yes, mom and dad were always careful while boating, especially when they had their grandchildren out with them.
Dad often said it made him a little nervous during regatta, because there were so many boats on the river at the same time, and many people were drinking beer and such. Though this photo only showed a portion of mom, I included it for dad and Marie.
I also love the water, and this one feature the river almost as prominently as it does my family.
Back in those days, the cameras we had were not always the greatest. We kept up with technology, having Polaroid cameras and Kodak, but I didn’t even know what a 35mm camera was, until I was in my teens.
So, if you have a photographer in your family, you’re blessed! Haha! Your family photos are probably a lot more centered and focused than ours.
 
 

On the farm

Notice that Marie was wearing the same tank top in this picture, when Matt was just a month or so old, as she was during the regatta photos. I am so glad that my grandfather (my dad’s father) was able to meet my children. This is such a great picture of mama holding Marie, and grandpa holding Matthew. This was taken while we were visiting my grandfather in Newville, WV.
I used to wonder how my grandfather could live on the farm without many of the staples of life that I’d become accustomed to having. But now, I believe my grandfather was richer than many of us. He had peace of mind, and love in his heart for all. He read daily, and walked the hillsides. He kept pictures of his family on the wall in the living room, and I believe he prayed for each of us–everyday.
My mama and grandpa would have long talks each time we visited. I wish I’d had a recorder! They could get to the real meat of life, and have deep discussions about God.
 

At home

My beautiful mother. Mom always loved tapestries and there was a large one hanging on the wall behind her. I’m not sure, but this may have been one that my uncle, my mother’s brother, Jim, gave her. I know he had brought her a tapestry back from Germany (when he’d been stationed there), and she cherished it. Later, I believe she bought one or two more. I know she had this one of the horses, and another of The Last Supper.
I suppose pictures are good for things like this. To be able to look back and remember special times. To look at things our family and friends gave us, and think fondly of the people who were so thoughtful to give us those gifts. Even the smallest of things.
 Mama always loved brick houses, my thought is that was probably due to her father building the house where she and her siblings grew up. Also, since my dad was a builder, mom understood the strength of brick. Even our first house in Boaz, where we lived since I was 3 years of age, was brick.
 
 
When mom and dad built their large new home on 6 acres, they got a great deal on a massive amount of bricks, and sought out professional brick layers to put up all of the walls.
You can see a lot of brick and stone in these pictures behind mom and dad. The walls of the main living and dining room part of the house were double brick walls! One wall for the outside and one for the inside, with concrete poured in between. That house is a fortress! It was so well built that I imagine it would take an earthquake to bring it down!
I wish the lighting was a little better on this picture, but I think you get the idea.
Mom and dad finished the house in 1978. I lived in the house for about a year, before I got married in Nov. 1979 (in the house–yes the living room was so huge, we had the wedding there!) and then, my husband and I moved back into the trailer in the front of the property that mom, dad, and I had lived in while building the house.
 
 
 This is a rare picture that I have of mom standing beside her Cadillac. She really enjoyed this car and it upset her very much to give it back to the bank too, when everything fell apart with  their business. Though friends had suggested mom and dad incorporate their business so they wouldn’t lose things if the business experienced a downturn, such as home and personal vehicles, they didn’t do that. If that is one lesson we all learned through that time, it was this: if you’re going to run your own business, incorporate.
Looking back now, I am so glad that mama was able to have some enjoyment in things like driving her Cadillac. She’d always worked so hard, fingers to the bone, that having something to show for it, and really enjoy it, was a small reward for her efforts.
Even when I was a small child, I knew about the love of material possessions. And a car was always a huge deal for many of us. I couldn’t wait to drive when I turned fifteen and work to pay for my own truck.
So, I can very well feel the feelings mom had for her car. I think she only had this one for a couple of years, but at least she had that. At least, that was something.
Of course, more than my mama loved cars, she outrageously loved her grandchildren!
 
 
 
My mother would take my kids every few weekends, or babysit whenever I needed! She couldn’t wait to have Marie and Matt over to the house! She’d take them to church on Sunday’s, play in the pool in the summer, or just let them run around and be kids on the property. Mom was always cooking, baking, and so on, so she fed her grand babies well!
Mama and Marie in the house in Boaz. My rocking chair is in the background that mom had kept from when I was a baby. Also, the dress mom was wearing in this picture was one of the dresses that she’d kept in the cedar closet for over 30 years that came back to me. Though it was much outdated and out of style, I gave it to a church, along with a few other things, in hopes that someone else would get some use of it.
I am so glad when I look back on all of the wonderful memories I have of our time in the house mom and dad built, especially the times they had my children there, and played in the living room, basement, and outside in and around the pool.
We had so many joyous family times. Naturally, there we just times we sat around and talked, or watched television together, but there were lots of exploring in the woods, cutting of firewood, cooking, dining, and such.
Lots of family and friends would visit and many times (during the summer) we’d all end up in the pool. Mom was usually the last person in the pool though, as there were so many other tasks to take care of first.
Mom was an aWEsOMe hostess to any guests who arrived. I remember the little things, like making sure everyone had a beach towel at the pool, and doing the laundry later, after everyone had gone.
 
 One of our long time friends, Liz, told me recently that she remembered helping to clean the pool too, when she would come to visit and stay for a swim.
That was mom’s generation though, always work before play, always helping a neighbor, friend, or family. Selfless action. Always giving, and rarely taking time to receive.
I’m noticing so many little things now, ways we used to think and live. And how differently I perceive life now. The years mom and dad got to enjoy their home were to be limited though. And that’s one story that can still burn a bit.
You see, after all of the hard work, and years of sacrifice, mom and dad would lose their business and home, even personal property like cars, during a short period of time when the business climate sank in the early 1980s.
 
 
For my mother, more than losing the property and home she loved, what really hurt, was the smear campaign and tarnish on her reputation that occurred when she and my dad had to file bankruptcy and turn their properties over to the banks.
I find it hard to think that due to a poor business climate, coupled with the fact that someone who, once they saw the house under the guise of buying it, could become so envious and devious, that they would do anything to possess it! Quite frankly, it still blows my mind when I think about how some bastard was able to connive and manipulate his bank into getting mom and dad’s house. It’s a huge reason I made up my mind years ago that I would never work for a bank. But, that’s all I’m going to say about that right now.
My mother kept intricately detailed records. She’d been a bookkeeper for years, trained by one of the best in the business, so I have all of the documentation. Yes, all of it. The ledgers, the statements, the hand-written letters of what happened. And all of the names involved. It was scandalous.
 
 
 
 Lucky for some, I focus my energies on love and healing. Ah, that feels better. Plus, I note that karma has already come back around on that thief. As I’ve heard rumors that the couple who incredulously took mom and dad’s house, didn’t live there but about a year before passing away. Don’t worry, I can’t dwell on the debacle for long, it twists me to the point of nausea.
When I see this photo, it reminds me of all of the times mom cooked and baked for us in her beautiful kitchen.
At this time, mom was working at Big Bear in Marietta, and I can still taste the London Broil she used to make on the Jenn-Aire range! We all ate well when we visited mom and dad, because mom knew the best cuts of meat to bring home after her shift. She never complained about cooking either–as it must have been her first love!
Shortly after this photo was taken, we moved to Florida.
 
 
 

Florida living

After only living in Florida for a couple of years, I was divorced and living in a duplex with my children.
Mom and dad visited often, even living with us for several months to help me get back on my feet, so to speak. These photos, of mom and Marie, were during such a happy Christmas–and includes one of the best pictures I have of mom, when she was shocked at opening of one of her gifts. I love it. It’s a favorite!
This is what gift giving is about as far as I’m concerned. Surprise, and exquisite joy! I know it’s fleeting, but it’s so ultimately precious.
I can recall this particular time, as if it were only yesterday. Pictures do that, don’t they? They freeze a slice of time. Ahh!
 
 
 
 Notice how the best pictures, and the most fun and joy shown in these photos, are of when we are together with our loved ones. It’s not about the homes, cars, or other possessions, though they are nice, they are temporary. Though they can remind of us of our loved ones who helped us, or gifted us with these things, they are just things. And people are what’s most important–cherish the people in your life, now.
 I love how close we were then. Mom would go to Treasure Island during the day to clean hotel rooms or condos, and I was working at Embry-Riddle. Dad would cook breakfast and get Marie and Matt off to school. Some days, if we’d overslept, I would take the kids to school on my way to work. One time in particular, I remember getting pulled over a block from the school for speeding. But my hair was wet and my short was skirt, so no ticket for me! Haha!
Mom and dad really helped me a lot that summer. And I could have been more grateful. We had barely lived in the duplex for one year when I met the man who would become my second husband. Mom approved. But he tricked us all.
 
 

1990s

Here was mom and dad and I at my second wedding in the early 90s in Daytona Beach. I think mom was happy that this time, I was to be married in a church. Even though she, nor I really, knew my second husband that well, she and dad were there by my side. And they always enjoyed having my children with them on weekends.
If for no other reason, and yes, I realize all of learned many lessons through those times, I was glad that we had the wedding to have these photos taken. They were the last professional pictures I would have with both of my parents.
 
 
 On at least one occasion, mom came to stay with us for a few days as I know she was there when Marie had an issue at the church school. And I’d only had my kids in the church school during part of one school year, the same year we attended that particular church.
Mom’s hair was very long at this time. It’s difficult to see, but in the photo with her back turned, where she was talking with my uncle Jim (mom’s brother), and my aunt Janice, you can see that mom’s hair was half way down her back! I’d forgotten that she’d worn it very long like that for many years–as you could see from her much younger days when she’d worn it very short.
I was also very happy that my uncle and aunt could attend my second wedding. I know that added much to the happiness mom experience during that event.
I remember my daughter always being skeptical of her new step-father, and with good reason. Yet, I wouldn’t learn my lesson about him for several years.
My mom and dad accepted the husband, but you’ll note I am not including any photos of him. This is after all, a eulogy about my mother, and it’s already had too much about me in it.
My uncle and aunt had come to the wedding and for a visit and that, as well as, how the wedding would be handled, had been my center of focus.
 
 
 I could be mistaken, but I think this was the only time my mother’s brother and wife visited us in Florida. I know it’s difficult to arrange times to visit family when one is on vacation, but I can tell you from experience, if you can do it, then make every effort to visit your family. It’s time like these that people will remember, and put in a eulogy later on. It meant the world to have them visit.
 We had lived so far apart for so long, that seeing family in our new home state, was priceless.
 Many times in life we question our priorities, which event to attend, or whom to spend time with. Consider the family and friends who will be there for you when making such choices.
As for conversation, anyone who knew my mother could tell you that she could talk, and talk, and talk–with anyone! Mom never met a stranger. And she was an excellent listener. But yes, many of our old friends have told me during these last weeks, that one of the things they remembered the most about mom was that she could spend hours in conversation with them.
One of mom’s friends, Linda, told me they used to stay up all night talking about God, church, and the Bible, until Linda’s husband, Jerry, would come in at 7am in the morning from working nights. Of course, I was there too! And would have fallen asleep at some point, while playing games and such with Ginny and Debbie, Linda and Jerry’s girls.
 
 
One of the best things about my second marriage, were the times mom and dad came to visit us–especially at Christmas.
I found a couple of pictures of mom and dad opening their gift when they visited us. I love their smiles!
Mom and dad stayed over only a few times, but I was always thrilled to have them, even if my then husband disagreed. My mother was never the in your business “mother in law” type.
She actually could have been nosier or more “in our business” and I’d have probably left him even sooner!
 
 
 I love mama’s smile here. As well as dad’s smile. They were both really happy for me and my children to be in a home at that point. I actually think they had a few months where they didn’t worry about us during that time. But that was to be short lived.
Not that anyone got into trouble, but my marriage was quite rocky, and I didn’t hold that back from them. Once I confessed to them that I had learned my second husband was an addict, they prayed for us night and day, and eventually, the Universe provided a way for me to exit the marriage. Though four years later we reunited, that was only to prove to me that I had done the right thing by leaving previously. And my children and I were on our way to a better life.
 
Speaking of praying, one of the things mom loved to do was to watch Christian ministry television shows. And she contributed too! I’ve found records in her ledger books and receipts where she gave thousands of dollars to PTL, Benny Hinn, and The 700 Club. We would watch together sometimes too. 
 
My son found this PTL membership card of mom’s from 1990. If I ever questioned her giving money to these places, I won’t anymore, because the JOY I see in her smile here, reflects so much love! It may have been a scam or a business failure on the part of the Bakkers, but for this one precious moment, my mother was in BLISS! She had visited the PTL resort and her sister, my aunt Alberdia had also bought a membership (though I don’t recall if they visited at the same time), but mom was just amazed at how beautiful it all was, and how splendid. She thought that a resort where Christians could meet and fellowship, worship, and take their families for fun was the ultimate vacation!
 
 This is one of the rare photos I have of mom, just after she woke up one morning, while she enjoyed a cup of coffee. Mom always loved her coffee! Over the years she went from drinking about a pot of coffee a day, to just a few cups, but always, there was coffee. It makes me smile to smell a cup of coffee and even if ever so briefly I think of mom.
 I remember telling mama that I loved the smell of coffee but not the taste, even when I first began working in a restaurant at age fifteen. Mom would encourage me to try it, citing that it would help wake me up in the morning and aid one in their digestion (to put it nicely).
Yet, even though I tried it, I just never accepted the taste of coffee. Though my husband now would tell you that I bogart his White Russian cocktail on occasion for a sip, because of the coffee flavor! Haha!
Sometimes a long day requires coffee.
 
 
 Though my second marriage lasted only a few years, this was yet another Christmas where we could find time to enjoy being together as a family.
Dad had began growing a beard and letting his hair grow, and mama loved that! Oh, sometimes she’d tease him about getting hair cut, but eventually she grew to love his beard and hair and come to acceptance about it. I learned a great deal from my mom about acceptance of things I could not change.
I only bring up some statements about my life, to help to put certain things in perspective, and why the background of many of the photos are different.
My daughter has counted it up and that in her life, she’s lived in over 27 different places. Of course, she’s lived in more places than I, but I tell you this to give you some perspective.
 
 
 I always loved having mom and dad visit us, even if I didn’t always show it. I mean, I think I showed it, but sometimes, I had to think about the man I lived with. Sometimes, there were things happening that were out of my control. At least that is how I saw it back then.
I am glad I continued to change and grow, always seeking more. And always teaching my children that they never needed to stay “stuck” as mom had often referred to her own life.
You’ll note that in nearly every picture of mom and dad together, they were always touching each other, arms around each other, holding hands, hugging, or such. And that has always been, no matter the quarrel or argument. There was always peace, somehow, some way.
 
 
 Eventually, after my second marriage ended and I’d spent about three years alone, I took a consulting job that moved us back north. Mom and dad came to see us off, and these were a couple of pictures I found of us together to commemerate that time.
We had met at the flea market in Daytona Beach for some shopping and to have hugs goodbye.
I had bought a Jeep and my son would have been 16. Once again, my mother had to say goodbye to my children, and once again, I later would come to know how much this hurt her. I knew we’d be back to visit, but I was off to pursue a big leap in my career. It was my opportunity to shine. And mama was happy for me, but so sad to see us go.
This is dad, mom, and Matt. We just took this pictures kind of quick, so I don’t know where Marie was, or if I just missed a picture where she was included.
 
 
 You can probably tell that once again, we had met at the flea market.
Florida is full of flea markets. Perhaps that’s another reason I love Florida. A synchronicity would be that when dad sold CB radios, he would take mom and I to weekend jamboree’s. Those were always such fun times. And something about a CB radio jamboree reminds me of a flea market. I guess it’s the atmosphere.
 At this point, mama was still getting around very well, and she was enjoying retirement. She and dad were able to get out and about often and such. They would go to yard sales and flea markets, and even to the beach!
 
 
 These couple of photos were taken at my first cousin Lori’s wedding. My hair continued getting more blonde, and mom was showing a little more age. In particular, one of my cousin’s, Carol Sue, had cancer, and it would be one of the last times I would see her.
Obviously the picture of mama and Carol Sue, means a lot to me. Both of our dear angels in Heaven.
 I had been traveling at this point, doing IT consulting work, so I only got to see mama a few times a year. So, seeing her at Lorie’s wedding was also a treat for me!
It’s funny too, that I used to know each article of clothing mom had. I can honestly not recall her having this cactus top before! But, she always loved wearing her hair scrunchies that a friend of mine had made.
 
 
Here’s mom and our cousin, Carol Sue.
Carol Sue, a wife, mother, and nurse with a heart of gold, was my dad’s oldest brothers’ youngest daughter. She is survived by her son and husband.
Mom and dad attended Carol Sue’s funeral and said it was one of the hardest things they ever had to do. I didn’t attend Carol Sue’s funeral, but mom and dad relayed how beautiful of a service it was. I only recall how supremely sad they were to see her in a casket. Mom said they could never take it if something happened to me, before them.
Though you can see how different Carol Sue and I looked in these pictures, earlier on we had looked more similar–except for Carol Sue’s dimples. She had the best dimples! I wish we could have been closer.
 
 
 
 
This was mama at home in about 1997 or so. She was reading the paper, sitting underneath an artwork I had created for mom and dad and given them a year or so two prior.
I didn’t claim to be an artist then, nor do I now, but I was led to create something with a big sky and sea, and then glue shells onto it. I’ve seen some such creations since, but never quite like the ones I’d painted in acrylics. I gave several away at Christmas, but I kept the one I liked best for mom. She loved it.
She took off her glasses for this photo.
 
 
 My mother loved her grandson so much!
She was especially thankful whenever he would visit them in later years, and mow their yard, or help them around the property. She knew dad couldn’t do it all alone, though he certainly gave it his best.
Anytime Matthew would come to visit, mom was always so very thankful.
I like to think that my daughter, son, and myself inherited my mom’s soft and huge heart! Her empathy, compassion, and loyalty to people were some of her most beloved qualities.
I know people say one must be careful of who they trust, and I can see where that’s true in some situations, but my mother was more trusting than fearful, and for that I am eternally grateful.
 
 

This was another Christmas when we were celebrating together in 2000 or 2001 when I had moved back to Altamonte Springs. Mom and dad had come over to visit and we all enjoyed a great time.

This is Matt, mom and dad, sitting on a couch Matt had found for our apartment.
 
 
 Later on, Matt rented his first house in Deltona and mom and dad had come over to visit him. They loved relaxing on this chaise lounge type of chair that Matt had. You can see how comfortable they were. As I recall, we’d all enjoyed a wonderful visit together.
 I’m sure we had some wine and chocolate covered cherries, one of our annual traditions.
 I remember how proud mom was of Matt, for working and being able to have a home of his own. She always valued a dollar, and of course, hard work. She would often tell us to save our money. Over the years, mom just couldn’t believe how much homes cost, and how much rent we paid for housing. She always dreamed of having a place where we could all live near each other.
 
 

Final years together

This was mom and my daughter, Marie in 2007 at our last house for Thanksgiving. I also believe this was the last year that mom wore makeup.
This was one of my favorite pictures of mom and Marie together in the last ten years. When mama would put her hand on my face, similar to how she’s cradling Marie’s face here, that was one of the things that made me feel most special. I will never forget her doing that to me, the next to the last time I visited mom and dad at their home in Florida.
 
 
Mom Marie Beau LouLou Christmas 2008.jpg
Marie found another picture of mom that she loves. This was a few days before Christmas in 2008 when Marie and I went to visit mom and dad (and I had taken Beau and Lou-Lou with us).
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here, you see mama and papa holding hands. They often did this. And it always warmed my heart to see it.
Mama is holding our beloved Beau (Shih-Tzu doggie) in 2008 at their home. I used to visit and take both of my fur kids with me over the years, and eventually, it just became Beau. Mama loved Beau so much, that I have a feeling that is why she was so accepting of their fur baby doggy, Sundae, when she came to live with them.
 
Mammaw and Beau Nov 08.jpg
I think this is one of my favorite photos of mama holding both, Lou-Lou (black and white) and Beau (white brindle).
Here, mama is wearing a plaid blouse. My mom loved plaid! She wore plaid often throughout her life. So, when I see others wearing plaid, it also reminds me of mama and speaks to my heart. Love!
 
 
 

In this photo, you can see that mom is wearing one of two blouses she had, which she enjoyed wearing the last few years of her life. The picture of mom and I was in 2009 at our last house. The one that follows, was of Matt and mom in 2012. Just once again displaying how frugal mom and dad have been.

My dad and I have talked in the last couple of years about life. What’s life about? Why are we here? What comes after? There are so many ideologies. Different faiths. Myriad of opinions. But no one has died and come back. Oh, yes, I know some who have gone and returned after a short time of being pronounced dead, but even they have only but glimpsed the beyond–and their fascinating and intriguing stories differ.

In the end, it seems none of us will know for certain what lies beyond–until it’s our turn.

During the last few years of mom’s life, my son, Matt, was constantly checking in with mom and dad. He only lived about thirty minutes from them, and he and his wife, Jenn, would go to visit them.

Matt would mow the yard, and they would take food in, and Jenn (thank you dear heart) would bathe mom. As well, dad would take mom and go to Matt and Jenn’s house, and though Matt and Jenn were both holding down full-time jobs, they always made time for my parents. Matthew loved his grandparents as much or more perhaps, than his love for me. And for that, I am also eternally grateful.

This group photo of mom and dad, myself and my husband, and Matt was taken in November 2012 at Matt’s house. We’d all met there for a visit and celebrated Thanksgiving about a week early.

Mom was having a hard time getting around, and using a cane, but she was still happy and getting out with dad quite often.

Matt and his wife (at the time), Jenn, took such wonderful care of my mom over the course of the last three or four years. I cannot thank them enough for their compassion and love.

I believe the last time mom and dad visited Matt and Jenn at their house, Jenn helped mama take a shower. I will be forever grateful to her for that. Mom had always been very modest, and had never asked anyone to help her. So, I knew it was a combination of mama needing the help, and also of Jenn’s ability and capacity of being able to talk with mama in such a way as to help her with such a task.

In the twilight years of mama and papa’s marriage, my mother would tell me over and over, “I don’t know what I would do without papa”, and how much she still loved my dad. And my dad continued to love my mom. Unless you witnessed the two of these amazing people together, you just couldn’t understand their love.

I will remain eternally grateful to my papa for the care he took of mom during the last few years of her life, when she couldn’t do the simplest tasks for herself. I may never understand their profound connection and love, but I am so in awe of it. I cannot begin to imagine the loss my papa feels now, and how he misses his wife, my mother. The very best friend either of us could ever have.

I know there are times in every marriage when people feel like they can’t continue on with each other, for a variety of reasons, some small, some extreme. And some of those reasons can be brutally painful. Yet, even in the worst of times, during a loss of a baby, infidelity, fights, death of a parent or sibling, bankruptcy, or harsh arguments, only a rare few marriages can sustain.

Personally, I don’t know how people survive or even thrive in the midst of such turmoil, but I’ve witnessed it. I’ve witnessed two people pull together, even when I thought they would tear each other apart, and yet, make it through. And honor their vows–until death they did part.

This was the last picture I have of Marie and Jennifer with mom and dad, and it was taken in April of 2013 in Daytona Beach.

This was also about the time that dad had begun dressing mom daily, and I knew the top she was wearing had a little more to it, turns out she had the skirt on too, but it was just bunched up. As mom lost more weight, dad had been searching through her closet and found this. It was the same outfit, top and skirt that mom had worn to my second wedding! I didn’t realize it at the time, I only knew it looked familiar. Looking back through old photographs, I now know why I’d known it was familiar but wow! Awe!

I’m also so glad that we had more than a few minutes to share together that day. I believe mom did know Marie and that Jennifer was her great-granddaughter. In this next picture, mom seemed to be reaching out for Jennifer, perhaps even to give her a blessing. I will never know for sure, but certainly there was great love there. And in the end, that is all that matters.

Mom had not cut her hair, but it had been breaking off. I know one of her wishes was to have died with long flowing hair, and that makes me sad when I think that she didn’t. However, I know that was something out of her control, and perhaps not even something she gave any thought to in her final years, so I know it’s only my thoughts about it, that make me sad.

I am so very thankful, and my heart is so full of love when I think about how my mother had this special time with her great-granddaughter, Jennifer. I believe mama knew Jennifer was her great-grandchild, or at least her grandchild, during this visit, since this was four years before her passing.

I know people say that when you have dementia you are attracted to babies and young children whether or not they know they are a relation. But mama was still wearing her wedding  band in this photo, on her little finger, and I feel that since she still had the mind to wear that ring, then she knew who Jennifer was.

You see, I had had mama’s wedding band for sake keeping for several years. However, when we bought our RV mom and dad had come for a visit, and that was in 2010. At that time, I had given mom’s wedding ring back to her during our visit.

When I saw this picture, and saw mama wearing her ring, I knew there was still a bit of “mom” in mom.

This was mom and dad at Matt’s house for Christmas 2015. Mama had been losing weight the last few years and I was glad to see her wearing a pretty pink top. She’d been wearing hats a lot also.

Thank you for reading this and for any comments or corrections you would like to add. I’ve spent about three weeks going through the photos I’d scanned and saved, and presented the best ones of mom in this post. But I would love to see more. If you have any to share, please email them to me at:

sheila(dot)murrey(at)gmail.com

My wonderful husband also helped me to produce a loving video slideshow with the photos here and many more, along with two of his original songs that I believe my mother would have loved. I am including the link for you next: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6H6zdoVTa8

Update – Nov. 2018: While helping dad and my son pack up things I found an unsigned letter to mom that made me come to the following realization:

Family reflect who we were. Friends reflect who we are.

Family reflect who we once were, or who we were in the past. But, our friends reflect who we are now, who we’ve become, and how much we’ve grown (or not). That’s why we sometimes tend to love our friends more than our family. Yet, some of us (like me), who are very blessed, have family we are also friends with and who we want to spend eternity with. Time limits us, but thankfully (Thank you, God), that eternity is not limited.

I miss you mama. Thank you. Thank you for teaching me everything I needed to know (when you could barely talk anymore), by looking in your eyes and placing your hand on the side of my face. And for always living in utter GRATITUDE the last years of your life (though your surroundings were not as you once would have wanted). You came to a place of not knowing or of acceptance, it doesn’t matter which, because you were grateful. You became Grace.

I only cry because I never got to tell you how much I got that lesson, how deeply I learned that last lesson from you. I continue forward, with understanding.

Family, please keep in touch. Let me know things you remember about my mother. And if you’d like to connect on Facebook, also email me about that (as I know some have had trouble finding me on there).

Much love and many blessings to you in ALL ways,

sheila

Check out this original song, Feel Like a Lady. It’s one of many that remind me of my mother when I hear it. It was lovingly written by my husband and performed and recorded in a Nashville, TN studio. You can download it (it’s Track 2) from this link: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/chevyfordb15

A bit about me:

An Amazon bestselling author of two co-authored books: “Transform Your Life Book 2 Inspirational Stories and Expert Advice” and “Energy of Receiving”, available on Amazon.

Plus, (included here because one of the things my mother had desired to do, was to write a book), my new book, Take It Upon Yourself to Live a Wholly Vibrant Life, is now available for online sale and distribution (PDF format).

Buy it here.

Be the best version of who you want to be.

Information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or prescribe.

Follow me on Twitter at: TakeOnYourself

Be as the blade of grass, grow through the dirt.

I’ve heard it said, “you’re either growing or dying” and that, “the universe is either expanding or shrinking.” If that is true, then it seems to acknowledge that everything in life, all there is around us, is dynamic – nothing is static.

In a previous post, I wrote that, “We grow as blades of grass, up through the earth.” And that “dirt, or earth, is analogous to all of the resistance we encounter.” These thoughts were instigated years ago, when a coworker encouraged me with the phrase, “Bloom where you are planted.” Oh how right she was!

At that time, I felt constant irritation from a superior when he would casually walk by my desk and tell me to smile – while I was working! Being the studious and serious type, smiling while concentrating on work tasks was something I just didn’t do. The more he admonished me to smile, the more aggravated I became. In passing, I must have mentioned my exasperation one day to my friend, when she lavished me with that golden nugget of truth – about the blooming. I even remember thinking of a response to her – likened to – “yes, no matter how much fertilizer is put upon you!” (but I didn’t tell her).

Day in and day out, I would notice people around me laughing, chatting, and cutting up during the day, but I wasn’t.

I am an empath. I am a highly sensitive person (HSP). I feel lots of things very strongly.

I have discovered that I become resentful when things aren’t fair or balanced.

While working in an office, I recall thinking, “we’re here to work” and “we’re here to earn our pay.” Why was I always the one to feel so determined! I was always applying effort. The pitfalls of continually wanting to do my best, try hard, people-please, and succeed, yada, yada. But at what cost to my Self?

Realizing I was wallowing in resistance, I knew I had to climb out of it, or it would bury me. A seed pushes against dirt in order to grow, but I felt as though I was pushing against me, not growing, but receding! Plants, indeed everything in the living kingdom need the resistance in order to grow, and grow strong.

One day I learned what hell meant. Out in the garden we can hell for potatoes, as in “we’re sweating out here helling for potatoes.” Hell is just “the ground”, or “the dirt.” It never was meant to be some fearful place of oppression or torment. So, my thoughts of “this is hell” was the only thing that kept me disturbed. And I lacked the knowledge, at the time, of how to climb up out of the grave (of the frustrating job) up the slippery walls of resistance and into freedom.

Eventually, as other factors contributed, I left the job.

Years later, during a time of fasting, those years of struggle came to mind, but with softness and thanksgiving, the resentment fading. Not only had I learned more about myself, but as a body builder strengthens muscles from lifting weights, I had grown emotional muscles, in fact “blooming“, from what I had perceived as resistance!

I distinctly remembered the day I had begun saying to myself (about my boss), “Thank you for helping me to make a better decision” – whenever I’d felt picked on or taken advantage of (to do more work). I couldn’t change whether or not I was picked on, but I could have changed my reaction to it! And it had always been my choice – whether I was willing or able to know it then or not – as to how much work I was willing to take on.

All the feelings I’d felt were solely based on my perception and may not have been entirely accurate, as one can never really see things from all sides anyway.

Looking back, I saw where I had resisted quite a few things during that time, which is probably why I felt harried and stressed. Oh, had I just learned to “go with the flow” sooner, I could have smiled and experienced joy.

I’ve learned, we didn’t come into this life for the struggle. Life will go on without us after we’re gone. Whether we leave a company, end a marriage, or die. Nothing’s static, everything changes.

Now? I’m learning to let go and breathe. Get more play into each day. My former superior might be happy to know that once in awhile, even if I’m troubleshooting something, I smile and “in – joy” doing whatever it is I’m attempting to do. I wish for you the same.

See ya on the flip-side dynamic good buddy.

Life’s a thrill, hang on and enjoy the ride!