Eulogy for my loving mother, Betty Ann Williams

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 that just the 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. Betty Ann 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, Betty Ann 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 many 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. I think 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 daily for access to God and 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 speaks to us in myriad ways. I honestly believe that my mom would be the most proud of me, not because I raised two loving children, or had 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. So, again, I believe the Earth held great value for my mother. That God placed us all here to be good stewards of the Earth and all of the creatures God placed upon 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 in the military service.

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 case 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 need 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 man, before it even began.

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, singing in the choir or just as a member of the congregation, and learning about the many wonders of our faith. We had prayer meetings, testimony services, baptisms, and more. And ever 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.

Dad has recounted that even when he would buy a piece of heavy equipment that was yellow, mom wouldn’t like it parked anywhere she’d have to look at 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 card for each of the babies, as if we needed any more mouse 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 that 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 became as family, even until the last 10 or so, when dementia took it’s toll on her.

BettyAnn also held the priesthood members of the church in high esteem. In reading many of the passages she 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 into here, caused mom to quit attending church; even though she didn’t attend church however, my mother never disavowed her faith, and always prayed for her friends of her church, 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 matters.

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, that even after 40 or 50 years, are still in good enough condition to be put away for her great granddaughters to wear one day.

Many times mom did without many 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 strived always to respect anyone she came into contact with.

 

Love of driving

Betty Ann loved to drive! Mama often told me how excited she had been to be old enough to drive, to work and save her money to buy a car. She would volunteer to drive her church friends to church, 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 him small home town to meet his family, some one hundred miles from where my mother was raised, he has told me many times over the years that many of his family, friends, and neighbors had thought he was bringing a movie star home.

As beautiful though, 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. Granted, if someone–rare though it might be–would offend her deeply, she could turn away, but I can only count on one hand in my whole life, any such occurrences. Someone had to cut to the quick, and strike at mother’s abiding faith, before she would walk away from them. And since I believe that eulogies should always focus on the positive, that is what I will do from this point on.

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 about the churches, and other homes, he had built. Mom had the utmost respect and love for her father. Mama also loved her mother very much. In a way, you could say that my mother worshipped her parents–and their marriage set the baseline for the one she dreamed she would have.

When my dad met my mother, they were both out with friends. My mom had ordered a sandwich at the drive-in restaurant and my dad asked if he could have a bite of it. 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–or I suspect, to date her.

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, was history.

Both would recount the story later on about how dad asked how old my was and she replied, “Twenty.” Then, she’d asked how old dad was, and he said, “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 bit of time, and was a bit 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 keep pulling the belt in, one hole at a time day-by-day, until she had cinched her waist to the size she wanted it to be.

You can really tell how tiny mom was in these wedding photographs. When I came along, two years later, I remember always loving to visit my grandparents 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, 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.

Isn’t it amazing to think about how all of the times of effort and struggle that at the time, seemed so harsh–were the very hurdles that helped us master and achieve our desires?

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 the yin and yang, and to achieve balance, at least at times during their marriage, they needed till the rocky soil in order to come in to agreement.

 

 

 

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. But even in the worst of times, during a loss of 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 make it through. And honor their vows–until death do they part.

 

 

 

 

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 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 you 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 my mother and mom’s two siblings, because mom 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 that were going on 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 in her living room at Christmas.

Mama was still tiny after having me at this time. And always beautiful, with naturally curly hair which many ladies envied.

Loving Mother

For the better part of my mother’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 my 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 floor!
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 new 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 herself. But though we would have 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”, my 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 do some work on undoing 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 consoled me and eventually I cried myself to sleep.
 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 named, Christina. Baby Christina was the infant that most nearly made it, but that was lost at or nearly at full term.
The most poignant part of the story was that Christina would be 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. She was in a double room in the hospital and the lady beside her had her baby in the room. It had to be one of the most heart-breaking times of mama’s life. I cannot even imagine!
As I recall the stories from my mother, there were several pregnancies that did not go full term. One was the first baby, when mother 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 doctors 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 “take the baby.” To this day, I cannot imagine the gut-wrenching decision that had to have been 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!
 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 she had when she 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. In fact, my dad had to make the unthinkable choice–to allow the doctors to save mama or the baby! What I couldn’t have known was that my mom had been in congestive heart failure. Had the doctors not taken the baby, mom would have surely died.
Mother 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 Lazy 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 by one at a time.
Family heritage
This was from a picture my cousins sent to me. I loved 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 seemed focused on the bond I had 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 mom out of the photo and colorize it for the memorial service that my uncle is going to hold in her memory.
I will place the photo here, but I do think the snapshot photos do speak volumes about my mom and dad’s life together. They were always busy working, and making a home for me, and of course continuing 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 to get 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 of our five year old granddaughter, when I last saw her Easter 2017. I want to believe that she knew these were her great-grandchildren as she described as doll babies, and beautiful, and so wonderful!
This picture was mother 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, the frugal nature of my mother was outstanding.
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 the 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 and I had used my comb to comb through her hair. Nor did I mention the memories of all of the times my mother 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 it 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. And then there was the trip to St. Petersburg, Florida. My first trip to Florida, but it 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. H 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 with me, after being out of the house for at least a few years, I poked fun at mom because they both of my children had come home. But, looking back now, oh, 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.” But look how young they looked here! 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 stories–the one about mom laying in her hospital bed (a 2 bed maternity room in those days) and the lady next to her having her newborn in for feedings, etc. While that seems almost unthinkable, my mother mourned her loss, as she looked out her hospital window and watched the hearst going by (carrying her unborn infant), with my dad’s car following, directly to the cemetery. I don’t know the strength it takes 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 have strived 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, though 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 at 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. 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 times 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.

A 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 days after coming 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 even after we’d 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 weekends or more 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 and 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, “This 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 frivolous or simple to many now, 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, 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, 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, it just got carpeting laid upon it. And we used it as a sort of catch-all for books or magazines, mail, or such.
 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 that I still have, which mom later found the hat for it 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, 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.
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 of God.
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.
So, 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, such as their 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 as a small child I knew well 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 did that. At least, that was something.
Of course, my 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 at their 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 that used to think and live. And how differently I perceive life now. The years mom and dad got to live in and enjoy their home were to be limited though. And that’s one story that can still burn me 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. I have it all. 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 take 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, 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 a such a happy Christmas–and includes on of the best 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? The 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, was 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.
 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.
Some of our last times 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 in her hand 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.
 This is mama and papa with my 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.

Again, you see mama and papa holding hands. They often did this. And it always warmed my heart to see it.

 

 

 

In this photo, you can see that mom is wearing one of two blouses she had that she enjoyed 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 somehow 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.

 

 

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

Please do keep in touch, and 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

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Why all the different religions?

Because people cannot agree. And because once a mind believes something, it’s difficult to change it. This is why it is easier to train a child than help a broken adult.
What I believe…
I believe in Jesus, and the Christ consciousness that is crying out from within each of us to be Connected with God, however I no longer identify with the Christian label because it seems to align with a belief that Jesus is the ONLY son of God. Yes, I have an issue with the word “only.” I see that as an error in translation. 
I follow Jesus’ teachings of:
  • Not judging. He who is without sin, cast the first stone. This also pairs nicely with my knowing that “everything has value.”
  • Forgiving. Father, forgive them. They know not what they do. We can learn just as much from those who hurt us, as we can from those who treat us well, though obviously, we all want to be treated kindly, be accepted, be loved.
  • Loving. Love thy neighbor as thyself. And… love thy enemies, which includes loving all mankind. And if you have an issue with this, read again the parable about the Good Samaritan which makes it clear that “love your neighbor” means to love all persons, everywhere – not just our friends, allies, people of our country or ancestry, etc.
  • We are to live life and have it more abundantly. This is not talking about greed, this is talking about being able to enjoy all of Earth’s abundance. We do not rob, we do not destroy so that the Earth does not provide to the next generations. We seed. We plow. We reap what we sow. We enjoy. We do not need to deprive ourselves. We should learn about other cultures and enjoy the art, music, culture, and all they have to share with us. There is nothing to fear.
  • Before Jesus ascended to glory, He said we would go on to do even greater miracles than He performed. We need to understand and use the POWER we’ve been given. We need to learn who we are and use our power for good.
Above all, I believe in the Omniscience, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent God. The Eternal Presence, Source, Ever-Living, Filling-All-Space, Creator of the Universe.
There exists an Eternal Presence that pulses and resonates through all. And it is Energy. Limitless, Ever-Living, and Filling-All-Space (which is really explains how God IS truly Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent). The Presence also works for me as a name.
God lives in each of us already, most just deny it. 
Jesus was a representation of God living in us or He was expressing God fully. Expressing the truth of God in us!
God can shape-shift, choosing to be Jesus, any avatar, or merely a point of light!
I do not associate or align with LABELS of any kind, including but not limited to:
  • Christian. For the aforementioned reasons.
  • Paganism. I do not associate with symbols.
  • Mormon. Because the original Latter Day Saints church never called themselves that, only the Salt Lake City LDS members were known as Mormons. I have read the Book of Mormon cover to cover and believe it to be the Holy scripture of Jesus Christ’s visit to America. Some call it the Native American Bible.
  • Vegan. Because I consume honey, some dairy, and fish (to align more with my native American ancestors and my blood type).
I have read other Christian materials like the Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hamadi, and the Urantia book, so who was ever to say one book was divinely inspired while another not??? What egos!!
I’ve heard that modern society has lost touch with rituals, however, perhaps this is because the word “ritual” is built into “spiritual” and just by way of Be-ing, that is all the ritual we need? When a person is spiritual, they know spirit is always with them, in fact, that spirit is IN them! There is no need to DO anything in order to know spirit is IN you. So, we’ve let go of religious rituals because we don’t need them. Isn’t that a freeing thought?!?
I do study. As I have a thirst for knowledge. And as the Bible declares, we are to study to show thyself approved. I believe we are here to learn and accumulate knowledge and experience. As we transition, our soul takes this knowledge forward in some way.
I do appreciate and enjoy what each of the various religions have taught me over the years:
The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now the Community of Christ (Mormon) church taught me:
  • God is living and ever present
  • Present day revelation
  • Healing via Laying on of hands
The Methodist church that my paternal grandfather and grandmother were members of, showed wonderful acceptance and honor of others beliefs. In particular, my grandfather read my mom’s Book of Mormon and had many deep discussions with her about it! He was very interested in it, saying it offered great wisdom and comfort! He never understood why others would put mom down for believing in it, much less persecute her for it! My aunt Gela also had conversations with my mom about it over the years and my aunt was a devout practicing Methodist!
So, I was taught tolerance of other religions from an early age, even though my church taught that it was “the one true church” and I found out by attending others that each thought they were the only true church.
Baptist churches taught me boldness and encouraged me to study my Bible to “show thyself approved.” They also taught me humility–by going to the alter on more than one occasion! As well, they caused me to question my faith because they said the Mormon faith followed a different Jesus! I remember how confusing that was as everything I had learned about Jesus in my church was the same as they were preaching!!
Pentacostal churches taught me music in church can be fun and fantastic and that dancing for the Lord is glorious and healthful! My daughter and I were even “praise dancers” for a year while attending one of these churches years ago. My second husband and I were baptized in the ocean by a Bible believing non-denominational pastor whom also counseled us before marrying us. Though our marriage ended I learned so many things from it that I cannot think of it as a complete failure.
Also, that specific pastor taught me:
1) he asked the congregation to raise their hands if we thought he should drive a Lexus
2) they put multiple christmas trees on the stage
3) he said if we truly “got” what he was preaching we wouldn’t need him anymore, because God could speak to us and we could choose to listen and follow God on our own!
As soon as I understood what that pastor was saying, I left the church! (My ex-husband quit after the Lexus question.)
One of my co-dancers told me to look at algebra like a puzzle (because I had asked for guidance about math classes in college that I was struggling with). This later all became very important to my career!
Jehovah’s Witnesses taught me how they control people (a friend of mine relayed his very personal story to me years ago) and how they taught that Christmas is a pagan holiday.
The Church of Christ says the Mormon church is a fraud, yet another friend I met years later (who was Church of Christ) said her particular church didn’t teach that. She invited me to attend her church–I always felt she had a hidden agenda to convert me!
So, no, I do not believe in ONE church, one religion, or one way. To me, those very beliefs are at the root of many of today’s societal problems. 
I’ll take the “live and let live” approach over all of that divisiveness.
Remember who the father of confusion is. A house divided against itself cannot stand. 
If I go to any place of worship, it will be where our Creator is celebrated as being ALIVE, and speaking TODAY, and where UNITY is being observed. But, I will not succumb to any one MAN’s teaching, as my ultimate teacher is our Limitless Creator Source God Divine Infinite Intelligence.
Any religion that uses the active vibration of human beings and teaches a practice of movement (dance, waving of the arms, etc.), and breath (such as the yoga breathing called Pranayama, or chanting and singing to open and move breath through the body) are wonderful ways to heal yourself and reach towards the Divine. 
Blessings to you in ALL ways.
Amen. Namaste. OM