Welcome back to SOLO AT SIXTY… a special post for a special lady.
Y’all know I retired this blog when I took on a new position in life, Grandma, or “Lala” (Southern Grandma name and also my first 2 initials!). But every now and then I plan to bring it out of retirement for special occasions, and this is one of those special times.
A phone call from my younger sister very early on Saturday morning, February 6th, changed my life. Our sweet momma had passed away. How could that be? I was supposed to go see her in just a few days. So many thoughts raced through my mind… was my sister sure? Mom was not sick and my sisters had just had a window visit with her and Mom had looked good and was laughing and happy. They showed her pictures of Chase (my grandson). Not sure if she put it all together considering she thought my kids were still in school, but she thought he was adorable (and he is!). So what happened? We just don’t know. But she died peacefully and we cannot ask for more than that. But still… it is so hard to accept that our sweet momma is no longer with us.
“Because the love of a mother starts before birth, her love will endure long after death.”
My sisters immediately went to be with mom and were allowed to stay with her until the funeral home arrived. They facetimed me so we were all “together” waiting, shedding tears, and sharing memories. While they were waiting, so many caretakers came by to share their sadness at losing “Miss Betty”. They said she was truly a shining star there. When the funeral home administrator arrived, we said goodbye to mom and each other, and I found myself at a loss. What to do? My sisters told me not to come to NC yet. I let my kids know their sweet grandma was no longer with us. My older daughter wanted me to come spend the night with her, and my Charlotte kids wanted to come up, but honestly, I just wanted to be alone with my memories. I know Mom now has all her faculties about her in heaven… she is healed and her memories are all there. Plus she is celebrating with her momma and her sister, who she adored. Probably filling my dad’s ear a bit as well!
I did spend Sunday in Richmond with my older daughter, son-in-law, and my sweet grandson… the circle of life. He was just a perfect angel and healed my heart in so many ways. Then Monday, I went to Charlotte to spend time with my younger daughter, son, and daughter-in-law. And Tuesday, I finally headed to Winston-Salem. Met a special friend for breakfast, and before meeting my sisters, I went out to visit my dad’s gravesite. I had not been there in a while and wanted to feel his presence. My parents had a deal that my dad would raise the boys and my mom would raise the girls. Hence, the reason I always refer to my mom as the one who raised us. Hard to believe it has been over 20 years since we lost our dad. And now, we have lost our sweet momma, which means we have no living parents. Such a feeling of loss…
“That feeling of “I want my Mom” has no age limit, no time limit, and no distance limit.”
My sisters and I, and of course my wonderful brother-in-law, cleaned out mom’s room. We each took some special things to remember mom by, and decided to donate her recliner and most of her clothes to the residents there. Of course I got her Christmas sweaters! Once we finished, my sisters and I went out to the barn where my younger sister boards her horses. Due to the pandemic, we had yet to meet Dixie, her newest horse. It was such a beautiful February day that Tuesday, sunny and upper 60’s, and the views from the barn were gorgeous, not to mention the horses. I felt pretty brave and fed the horses, letting them eat right off my hand. Admittedly, I panicked a couple of times and dropped the carrots! We also went out to see my older sister’s new art studio in Reynolda Village, but first, we needed lunch. Village Tavern, at Reynolda, was our first choice and we were able to eat outside before walking over to my sister’s art studio. It was so good being with my sisters. We made some decisions about mom’s final arrangements. Thankfully, my older sister had taken care of making most of the plans a year earlier. We decided we would bury mom’s ashes Mother’s Day weekend with just our family in our church graveyard. So it was time for me to head back to Charlottesville. On the way out of town, my nephew’s wife called and asked me to come by and see them. Of course I would go! Hung a right in Kernersville and headed to High Point. So happy to see their smiling faces and get hugs from Jack and Izzie. I had not seen them since way before Christmas. As I once again headed home, I realized that since Sunday, I had seen everyone in my family, all the people I love most in this world. My momma would have loved that. She was all about family. She loved her family fiercely and we loved her back.
“A Mother’s Prayer is that her children will love each other long after she is gone.” (This is my prayer too!)
Our mom also loved the beach – our family vacationed at the beach every summer. Many years at Surfside Beach. And when my kids were little, mom and I would often go to the beach mid week with the kids and the rest of the family would come down for the weekend. I treasure those times I had with mom. My kids love the beach as well. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. So it only makes sense that my sisters and I had the funeral home save out part of her ashes that we will spread at the beach Father’s Day weekend when we have our annual sisters’ weekend.
Mom also instilled a love of reading in her kids. She and my aunt would read book after book after book, especially on vacation at the beach. When all of my kids were with me at the beach last summer, I looked down our line of beach chairs and noticed everyone was reading. I was a proud and happy momma!
“Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother.”
Our mom was a woman of many talents and a very hard worker. She always worked several jobs. She transcribed and typed (yes on a manual typewriter!) medical reports for doctors (at home) when we were little, was a successful realtor, and was a personal secretary to a lady of society. She had great administrative, organizational, and creative skills
And she was not only a great cook but a very skilled baker. I didn’t actually get that skill to the degree mom had. I remember one time I had baked a cake for our cousin who lost her dad. Mom stopped by my house, took a look at my cake, and asked if I had made a chocolate cake. Uh no, it was a lemon pound cake (perhaps a bit overbaked?). She went home and made another one for me to take. Bless her. And as a seamstress? Mom was just the best! We always had a new outfit (made by mom) for Easter, Christmas, our birthday, and always before we went on vacation. And our Easter and Christmas outfits included new patent leather shoes (always black because you can not wear white before Memorial Day!) and a pocketbook. Not a purse, a pocketbook. I remember one year Mom painted little wooden pocketbooks for us.
“Behind all your stories is your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.” Mitch Albom
Mom loved our church, New Philadelphia Moravian, and her church family. She loved her Sunday School class and her Circle. She was a diener (served at Moravian Lovefeasts) and served on the boards of the church. She sat on “our pew” every Sunday until her health would no longer permit it. Mom had many church friends, work friends, and neighbor friends. She was kind and gracious and fun.
“A mother is someone who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.”
We celebrated Mom’s life last weekend, as we had decided on Mother’s Day weekend, hoping that we would all be vaccinated by then (we were) and the weather would be nice (it was). My sisters and I placed mom’s ashes (half of them) in her gravesite Friday morning with some white roses. Her beautiful headstone had already been placed at the head of her site. And Saturday, all the people mom loved the most (still living), her daughters, son-in-law, grandchildren and their spouses, her great grandchildren, and her sister’s children met at God’s Acre at New Philadelphia Moravian for her graveside service. It was beautiful. The Moravian band played, our minister spoke encouraging words to us, and our church’s special flutist played “How Great Thou Art,” “Amazing Grace,” and “In the Garden.” We found an old church offertory envelope in Mom’s lockbox with the songs and “flute” written on the back. Mom’s wishes were carried out. My sisters and I, and all of Mom’s grandchildren spoke about how classy, loving, strong, and caring Mom was. And funny, even if she didn’t realize it. Lots of tears and laughter. When my son graduated from college and we had finished lunch at Top of the Hill, Mom asked our server for a roll. What? Yep… so as my older daughter said, life is too short, so have that roll after dinner.
Mom would have loved the service and our wonderful lunch afterwards at my older sister’s house. We all knew that Mom, my Aunt Jewelle, and my Grandmother were smiling down at “their people.” We were all together having Mom’s favorite foods. And my older sister even made mom’s lemon pound cake, perfectly I might add. She got mom’s cooking, baking, decorating, and entertaining skills. I got mom’s mothering skills. My younger sister got mom’s hard work ethic – she has always been such a hard worker and loves to work in the yard, like mom.
“A mom is your first friend, your best friend, your forever friend.”
I left my sister’s house with my Charlotte kids to spend the rest of the weekend with them. Got to meet the newest member of our family, Cooper, a black lab puppy. Also spent time with sweet Ruby, my younger daughter’s rescue. Oh and of course my kids. It was a wonderful, yet bittersweet Mother’s Day for me. Best part was spending time with all of my kids, my grandson, and the rest of my family. That and the letters from each of my kids that they handwrite to me for Mother’s Day each year. I cherish and save these. Added 3 more to the collection. My favorite gifts.
So what’s next? On our sister’s weekend in June, we will say our final farewell to mom as we spread the remainder of her ashes at the beach. She loved the beach as much as we do. I am so thankful for my sisters and brother-in-law and the relationships we share. I am also blessed to have the greatest kids in the world. And their friends… my son’s “2013 Carolina Crew” friends blessed me with beautiful flowers. What thoughtful kids!
This past year, COVID robbed us of precious in-person time with mom. Over the years, my sisters and I celebrated Mom’s birthday in many ways … in Chapel Hill the year my older daughter was a freshman. A trip to NYC one year. A cruise another year. Many at the beach. For her 80th we had an open house at our church, and for her 90th we had all of our family plus my cousins at her assisted living. And of course for her 91st, thanks to the pandemic, my sisters and I stood out in the rain, singing Happy Birthday while watching her through a window blow out the candles on her cake. That was the last birthday we will celebrate with our sweet momma. It was a year since I was able to hug my mom. That’s a long time. No matter our age, we all need and want our mothers. They gave birth to us, raised us, supported us, loved us unconditionally. And they will always be with us, in our memories, in our hearts, and when we look at our children and grandchildren. So here’s to you mom, you were the BEST!
“A mom’s hug lasts long after she lets go.”
If you are lucky enough to still have your parents, spend as much time, in any form or fashion, as you can with them. Call them and listen to them. Because that day will come when you have to say goodbye forever, and as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.
“And in my life, I’ve always loved her… And in my life, I’ve always cared… And in my life, I’ll always need her… The mom I know, I love so well…” – Earth, Wind & Fire 1972
Take care y’all,
PS – My older sister read this poem at the end of Mom’s service: