I feel like I’ve lived a thousand years in the past week.

In the early hours of Wednesday, January 26th, my beautiful mother passed away, surrounded by family. We have spent the last several days crying, hugging, laughing and honoring the amazing woman she was.

Somehow in the midst of this, I wrote something for her, and on Saturday stood on wobbly knees to share it with a standing-room-only crowd at her childhood church in Quanah, Texas.

I’m sharing it with you here. But first, a few favorite photos of my Mom…


1950. Age 8, the same age as Doodlebug is now.
They have always looked so much alike.
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1966. Quintessential cake photo. I love that smile.
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My classy Mom was also very adventurous.
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Her favorite place on earth. (And my favorite photo of my parents.)
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1971. Apparently she was so happy to have a daughter that she wore
pantyhose and a dress home from the hospital.
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1973. I love this photo, even though I look like a professional wrestler.
Look what my poor Mom was dealing with…three kids in 3 1/2 years!
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1976. She was always the picture of calm, no matter the situation.
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1997. Three generations. What a beautiful day.
I was so happy to have them both there.
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Christmas 2002. Holding Doodlebug, her first grandchild.
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Thanksgiving 2003. Sharing a moment with my wonderful Dad.
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There are so many things you should know about my mother.

You should know that my mother drew her deepest strength and peace from her faith. From a very young age, she walked to First Christian Church by herself every Sunday. She and my Dad were married in the original church off Main Street. And when the new building was completed 35 years ago, she insisted on having an oak tree shipped in and planted out front.

You should know that my mother was generous with her heart. She shared a love with my Dad that is so rare I’m not sure there are words for it. He says he was able to care for her simply because she loved him so much. That love gave him the strength and devotion to honor their marriage vows every single day for 44 years.

You should know that my mother was a beautiful and loving mom. She read to us every night. She taught us to be open-minded. She encouraged us to be more than just siblings, but also friends. She wanted us to laugh and learn and find people we would love for our entire lives.

You should know that my mother welcomed people into her life. If you met her, you were a friend. And if you were a friend, you were a friend for life. One of her favorite times of year was when the flood of Christmas cards and photos arrived. She cherished the annual updates from so many of you.

You should know that my mother was kind and warm. She adopted every stray cat that came within 20 feet of our house. When she finally allowed dogs into the family, they seemed to arrive in pairs, until she eventually had more animals than kids.

You should know that my mother loved to learn. She loved books and language and history. She loved stories and she loved to see new things. Her beautiful eyes sparkled with a joy and curiosity that we now see every day in the eyes of her grandchildren.

You should know that my mother loved nature. She was happiest outside, in the sunshine, near a field of wildflowers or with her bare feet on a sandy beach. She had a keen eye for seashells. She loved everything about the ocean—the smell, the breeze, the warmth, the sand. All of it.

You should know that my mother was gracious. When she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 30 years ago, she took the news with a steady determination. Her family, her friends, her doctors, and her nurses will all tell you that she never once asked “Why me?” Instead of focusing on the things she couldn’t do, she celebrated the things she could do.

When she lost her vision, my mom started ordering books from the Talking Books Library in Austin, and from then on there was always a steady stream of recorded books arriving in our mailbox. I am not exaggerating when I say she listened to thousands and thousands of those books on tape.

When she became more and more debilitated, my mom lost many of the simple luxuries we all take for granted. But she met each and every loss by redefining the phrase “quality of life.” She found joy in the birds and windchimes outside her window, the conversations at her bedside, and the “I love you’s” from my Dad.

You should know that my mother brought out the best in us. She had to depend on so many people in her life, for so many basic things…yet everyone who knew her has always said that she gave them much more than they ever gave her.

You should know that my mother was well loved. That she will be missed. That she will never be forgotten. That she left a beautiful legacy of family and friends. That she will live forever in our hearts.

You should know that every time I see a field of Indian paintbrush or a gentle surf along the shore, I will turn my face toward the sun and feel her warmth and her love shining down on me.

Comments

  1. What a beautiful and loving tribute to your mom. Thank you for sharing it.

    And you look so much like her, especially your smile.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss. What you’ve written is beautiful. I started crying when I got to the picture of her in her dress and pantyhose because she had a daughter. That’s exactly how I feel about having a daughter. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  3. I am so very touched by what you wrote in your tribute to your Mom. She sounds like someone I would have loved to know. But I am glad that she imparted all these things to you – so those of us who know you now, know her a little too. Hugs to you and thoughts of peace are with you & your family.

  4. I am sure of the thousands of books your mom listened to, your words were here favorite. Thanks for sharing these with us.

  5. Elizabeth,
    Words can never express the sorrow that Tom and I feel for you and your family over the loss of your beloved Mom. We know from reading your tribute to her that she was a very special lady. She will be missed by all who knew and loved her. Please know that you and your family are in our prayers. We are so glad that Denna shared this beautiful tribute with us. Peace and Blessings to you and all your precious family.

  6. Oh, no. I am so sorry.

    I wish I could call you to tell you more personally how sorry I am that your mother has passed.

    I’ve been following your journey with your posts, I knew she was failing, but it still is such a shock to read your words today.

    I am so sorry.

    You are blessed to have such memories, and to have been able to give back so much to her.

    I know that with great love, comes great grief.

    I have felt the same ever since my beautiful grandmother passed away over 20 years ago. I can’t think of her without getting a lump in my throat, yet, I know how blessed I was to have been loved by her.

    I am so very sorry.

    I hope you find some comfort writing to us about her here, I’d love to read about her. I never had a mother like that. But I did have a grandmother like that.

    I’m so sorry.

  7. We kept you and your brothers on a leash when you were growing up in order to pull you back a little if need be. Your Mom also had a long pole to nudge you forward if need be. When you were about 12 you had to suddenly sub for another youth group member and address the church board with about two hours notice. Her answer to your pleadings was, “Elizabeth, Sometimes you don’t have enough time to prepare….you will always have enough time to get nervous.”

    Toward the end Mom’s illness had taken everything away from her except her smile and her spirit…..a trait that was passed on for all to see Saturday.

    You are special and your brother’s and I are grateful that you did what we couldn’t on Saturday.

    I love you.

  8. I am in tears. Which is so selfish of me to even say because this is about you. I am thinking of you and praying for you and sending you every ounce of happy and peace and love that there is. So beautiful. And what an amazing lady.

  9. Elizabeth, I’ve been wondering how you’ve been feeling and this says it all. Garland was indeed a remarkable and strong woman and we’re all so lucky how she touched our lives. My deepest condolences, Martha

  10. Hugs to you and your brothers. That picture on the boat? You look exactly like your mom. Both beautiful. I’m sorry you have to experience the loss of her and so happy you experienced such a loving relationship with her. Such a gift!!!

  11. Our hearts go out to you in your time of sorrow. Think of your mother as the most beautiful flower – the flower withers, but the seeds remain. Now, for her, you all must bloom and grow.

  12. Your dad e-mailed me your blog. What a treasure you are. The thoughts
    of your mother brought back so many other wonderful memories of her.
    I know she must have been so proud of you and the boys. Thanks so
    much for sharing her with us.

  13. Elizabeth,
    What beautiful words for a beautiful woman! We are not sure how you made it through the service reciting these lovely words but we were all touched. Your mother’s attitude and joy for life impacted our lives in a positive way. We are thankful for the friendship we have shared with your family. You and your family will continue in our prayers.

  14. Garland and I were friends in school and also neighbors from about fifth grade. We had more fun and both were dare devils. She was never afraid to try anything. We were the bravest at the Lions Club carnival rides, we loved to torment the boy next door and even once had a trial for her cat Spooky because we found a dead bird and poor Spooky was the only suspect and of course found guilty. We had more fun, we were both only children. Your grandmother Allen was a real trip. We lived in their rental house and once Garland and I got in a fight over whose yard ours was. She said it was hers and I said no we pay for it. How silly. I regret not keeping in touch with her so much. I just wanted to let you know I have never forgotten the fun we had and I am thinking of you all.

  15. We regret the passing of your beloved mother, Garland. Reading the eulogy reminded us of the traits we remember in Garland. She was certainly a gracious lady as our classmate. We are better people because she walked the path of life for a space with us. May your memories comfort you. Your family is in our prayers.

    Blessings,

    Jimmie and Cecil Smith

  16. I’m so sorry for the loss of your mom. No matter how we expect it that moment when life takes its last breath is always so hard. My love and thoughts are totally with you. And now you will share in all the stories of all the others who have lost their mothers. It’s a club of comfort and understanding. My love to you. And gratitude for sharing your beautiful tribute here.

  17. Your tribute to your mother is heartfelt and moving, and you delivered it with eloquence and grace at her service. Mydeepest condolences to you and your family.

  18. I’m reading this post for the third time. This time I read the comments as well, every one of them so bursting with love for you. It is so clear that your mom’s love is already shining down on you in every moment. And that comment from your pop–what a gift.
    So many hugs to you, Liz.

  19. Wendi told me to come over and visit you and I’m so glad I did. First of all, I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but you will be in my prayers. I love the picture you painted of your mom here. It seems that she is the embodiment of not letting the disease rule your life; of taking what you have been given as a gift and living life to the fullest despite the circumstances. People like that are beautiful, and your mom certainly was beautiful in every way.

    My mom was diagnosed with MS in 1997, and we are so thankful that it has not progressed very much for her. We all ride BikeMS every year, and I will think of your mom every single mile every year from now on.

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