My first memory of Mother was when she once said I could walk by myself to play with two older girls who lived a few houses down from our home on Norwood Avenue. The trust she placed in me made me feel independent and free to pursue friendships. That pivotal moment started me on a path of feeling confident and of having friends.
My beloved mother passed away Sunday after a year of struggling with health problems. A week earlier, she fell and broke her arm. The accident sent her into a health crisis. It also allowed her four daughters to spend the week caring for this fine lady.
Mother was born in Anniston in 1932, but hard times caused her family to move in with relatives who lived in the Lineville area. Throughout our childhood, Mother told us stories about the struggles of living in a rural area. The Great Depression meant no one in the area had much money, and her mother often bartered for flour, sugar, and salt with eggs that chickens laid. Mother and her younger sister once sneaked their baby brother onto a wagon that normally would have been drawn by a horse; but that particular time the girls decided to push it out of the barn and down a hill. The runaway wagon flipped and sent the kids flying through the air.
“We were so scared of what our mother would say when she saw the baby’s swollen lip,” Mother said.
Her family moved to Anniston when she was a pre-teen, and the family’s financial situation improved when her father worked for a pipe shop. However, her mother died just after the fourth child was born; and she and her sister had to grow up fast in order to help raise their two brothers.
My sisters and I had ever-changing perspectives about these hard luck stories, and now we marvel that Mother and her siblings survived.
Mother’s life was not much easier after she married and gave birth to five children. Her only son lived three days after birth. She was too sick to attend the burial. His death was one reason Mother was so protective of her next four children, all girls.
Mother raised us while working at Kitchin’s Department Store. The pay was scant, but she had access to good bargains on our clothing. As little girls, we ran up and down the stairs at the old Kitchin’s building, and we ate in the modern break room at the new building.
We had adventures of our own by the time we were older, and they almost always revolved around Mother. There was the red Valiant car that she drove chauffeuring us to school every day. One time, the old car’s horn got stuck and honked every time she turned left. In spite of working all day, Mother cooked us roast beef or fried chicken on Sundays; and she sacrificed almost every dime to make sure we had the best of everything that she and my father could afford.
Mother’s life was easier in its last season. She remarried after becoming widowed during the 1990s. She and her Bill traveled to Oregon to visit her sister. They did everything together, ate out whenever they chose, and played cards with friends. No matter what her circumstances were, easy or hard, Mother made her four girls a priority, and Bill did too. After his death in 2013, Mother turned to her friends for support and beamed whenever she talked about us. “Go with me to eat with my friends,” she would say. I often did.
My life circumstances gave me opportunities to spend time with Mother, and I savored our time together. I brought her ice cream after I had been out shopping. We ate out on Sundays after church. We laughed at our daily antics; and since Christmas this year, when I gave her a bird feeding station, we watched birds together from her window. In January, in spite of having a couple of bad falls, Mother went to a family reunion in Georgia. While there, she held a new great-great-grandchild, played group games, and brought home a bag of gifts from family members.
Mother died the way everyone wants to. Loving family members attended her every need. The day before, on Saturday, she rallied when more than 20 friends and family members visited her. She opened her eyes, talked, and laughed with them.
For a woman who made life better for all those she knew and loved, her death was an escape from suffering, a journey toward a heavenly reunion, and an example of showing four daughters how to live and love.
Email Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org.