Monday, January 14, 2013

TRIBUTE TO MY MOTHER: THE PURPLE IRIS

We lost my mom last week, January 8, 2013, after a long and debilitating illness.  I'd like to share the poem we included in her funeral program:

God's Garden
God looked around his garden
And found an empty place,
He then looked down upon the earth
And saw your tired face,
So He put His arms around you
And lifted you to rest.
God's garden must be beautiful,
For He always takes the best.
He knew that you were suffering
He knew you were in pain.
He knew that you would never
Get well on earth again.
He saw the road was getting rough
And the hills were hard to climb.
So He closed your weary eyelids
And whispered, "Peace will now
Be thine."  It broke our hearts to lose you,
But you didn't go alone,
For part of us went with you
The day God called you home.
And below is the Mother's Day tribute I wrote for her on Mother's Day, 2011:

"After Dad retired from the military and they settled in North Carolina, on visits home when we lived out of state and many hours away, (if during flower season), she so loved showing off her flowers and plants in the yard--they were like her friends, or at least family members :). Her favorite flower has always been the purple iris, and I will always think of her when I see irises."

My mom is 83 years old, and I am so thankful to still have her with us! Although her mind is clear, she has numerous health issues that affect her quality of life. Always a fighter in spite of those, she now spends much of her time reading inspirational fiction at her skilled nursing facility only a few miles from our home. She's always loved crossword puzzles, too.

With advanced COPD, diabetes, neuropathy, congestive heart failure (to name a few), she is not able to do much physically these days. In younger days and better health, she was always busy, and could work rings around me! She loved to garden, tend to her flowers, sew (she made most of my clothes as I was growing up), cook, and read. She often said that there were not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything she wanted to do, as her mental curiosity knew no bounds. There were boxes of recipe clippings attesting to the fact that she loved to try new recipes (and our family, the recipients of those efforts, always enjoyed that!).

As mentioned, she made most of my clothes, but she still sewed when our daughters were young, making them sundresses, rompers, Easter outfits--she even made our oldest daughter's piano recital dress, a floor-length yellow semi-formal gown, when Holly was ten or eleven. She had tackled making neckties for my late dad years ago, and he enjoyed wearing them. For those of you old enough to remember men's leisure suits, she made one for my brother as a young man, in blue to match his eyes. She also made my wedding dress in white velvet, trimmed in lace and chiffon. She made her own apparel for the wedding, too: a dress and matching coat, as well as the bridesmaids' white muffs and rose headpieces (it was a December wedding--their dresses were dark red velvet).


Wishing to branch out, she bought herself a surger (a sewing machine on steroids) one year, and proceeded to make sweatshirts, vests, and light jackets--she even made and sold uniform smocks, the kind often worn by health care personnel. Seeing a fleece blanket somewhere, she learned how to cut and knot the fringe around the edges, and later created many of those--she made several baby blankets for family members, and I was a fortunate recipient in the colors I wanted: burgundy and beige. We still enjoy using it.

Another pastime for her was knitting and crocheting (and what grandmother of her generation did not know how to do those?). She made afghans, baby blankets, and those cap/sweater/bootie sets so popular as gifts for baby showers. When I was a small child, I recall seeing her crocheting doilies that were used on coffee tables, end tables, and the like.

After Dad retired from the military and they settled in North Carolina, on visits home when we lived out of state and many hours away, (if during flower season), she so loved showing off her flowers and plants in the yard--they were like her friends, or at least family members :). Her favorite flower has always been the purple iris, and I will always think of her when I see irises.

She and Dad always had a huge garden, their pride and joy. They grew green beans, cabbage, okra, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, Irish and sweet potatoes, corn, pumpkins, watermelons, cantaloupes, hot peppers (Dad made a mean hot salsa), English peas, lima beans (called butter beans here in the South). They had pear and apple trees, a blackberry vine, and a grapevine. Somehow, they always managed to get maximum production from their fruits and vegetables! They canned and froze all these goodies, and we enjoyed their fruits and vegetables all year long, because when we came for a visit, they filled the trunk of our vehicle with canned goods or fresh items, according to the time of the year. Oh, how we miss that bounty!

Some of Mom's kitchen creations from the garden included: all kinds of pickles, relishes, squash casseroles, sweet potato casseroles and pies (you've never tasted sweet potato pie?), apple and blackberry cobblers, pear preserves (my dad's favorite), homemade apple butter--I could go on indefinitely, but you get the idea. Even in his seventies, Dad often took fresh tomatoes and squash to "the elderly"! One of my favorite meals at their house was fried okra, fresh tomatoes, corn on the cob, fresh green beans and potatoes, hot biscuits, and country steak and gravy, one of my dad's winners--definitely NOT a low carb meal, but delicious. Mom often baked us a fresh coconut cake with cream cheese frosting or a chocolate pecan pie. Her favorite was (and still is) lemon meringue pie, but since that wasn't chocolate, most of our family preferred other desserts!

She raised my brother and me with high expectations and values. She made sure we were in church, and by example, we knew how much our parents loved us. My joy of reading came at an early age when she used to read to us regularly. She celebrated our accomplishments, coming to see us in school plays, programs--even our childhood bowling tournaments where we even won a few trophies! She welcomed our friends to our home. She stood up for us if slighted. She corrected us when necessary.

All in all, even though my mom is now in frail health, we can still have fabulous conversations, often walking down memory lane together, talking about our experiences in military life, celebrating her grandchildren and great grandchildren, and her own childhood, a totally different world from life today. Her parents, Walter and Bertha Lambert, born in 1888 and 1890, had ten children. I learned only last year that my grandfather had been a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse as a young man. They lived on a farm, raising chickens, pigs, and cows, along with cotton and all kinds of fruits and vegetables. My mom and her youngest brother are now the only two still living.

Celebrate this Mother's Day. If you are fortunate to still have your mom, let her know how much she means to you. It doesn't matter if your relationship with her is not what you'd like--take the step toward healing it, because you will never regret doing so. But if your mom is no longer around, your family can reach out to a lonely widow you know and "make her day." There are so many of them whose families live far away, and it would be such a blessing to all of you--bring her a small gift, spend a little time with her, and simply let her know that someone cares.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you!

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