Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mother (1925-2003)

My mother passed away six years ago tomorrow (September 18, 2003). She was just a few days shy of turning 78 when she died. Normally a healthy woman whom I predicted would outlive me, she died of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. She was visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Tennessee when it happened. Needless to say, her death was completely unexpected. My brother and I had just been through the passing of our father, and now we had to hurriedly arrange for another funeral, clean out the family home in Union, South Carolina, sell the house, and adjust to life without parents.

Mother was born in Greenville, SC, and lived all her life in that state. She graduated from Greenville High School and Furman University (my college alma mater). She and my father were married for something like 52 years.

She had a tough childhood. Her father was an alcoholic who left his family when Mother was only four or five years old. My grandmother raised my mom and her brother pretty much by herself, during some hard years in our nation's history.

Several positive qualities stand out when I think of my mom's life and character. She had incredible drive. When she set about a task, such as cleaning the house or writing poetry or serving on the board of the town library, she went all out. She was organized to a fault. She categorized and recorded all sorts of things, from favorite recipes to newspaper articles about my brother and me to coupons to medical records. She devoted lots of time to causes, church activities, and supporting my dad's career (he owned and managed the hometown AM radio station). She loved serving. Her vocabulary was unbelievable. No one could beat her at Scrabble or crossword puzzles. She was a poet. She succeeded in getting a few of her poems published in South Carolina journals. My brother and I found tons of rough drafts and finished poems among her papers after she died, things she'd never shown us or shared with anyone during her lifetime.

There were things about Mother I didn't like at all. She was not a warm person, and she could be terribly manipulative and controlling. But considering the things she endured as a child and young adult, I'm not surprised. She was faithful to my dad, devoted to her kids, and a model in many areas of her life. After Dad passed away in 2000, she grew both lonelier yet more mellow and fun to be around. My favorite memory is the time in 2001 my wife and I took Mother to Orlando's SAK Comedy Lab. She laughed her head off, like I'd never heard her laugh before. It was a healing, delightful night.

Thanks, God, for memories of a loving mother.

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