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My husband, grandson, and I began a new adventure recently – selling our home and moving 600+ miles away to another state. The knowledge of the move was known for quite awhile but the logistics and details were filled with stressful moments. How long would our home need to be on the market before it sold? How much would it cost to make sure the home was ready to be sold (cosmetic and other repairs)? Would there be enough “profit” for us after the sale? Move ourselves? Hire a moving company? What to take? What to pitch? What to give away? When to start packing? Where to put the boxes that were packed? And for the love of everything – what is this going to cost? (If you have ever moved, you know what I’m saying!)

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U-Haul with some boxes in the over cab

Luckily for us, the selling of the house was almost the easiest part – we closed even before we had to move. Then it became a matter of how quickly can we get everything packed. Once we started packing boxes, it became pretty clear that there wasn’t any place to put them and be able to pack more! So we decided to rent a U-Haul truck in order to start getting things out of the house. 

 

My husband very meticulously figured out the best way to maximize the space inside the truck in order to pack everything in to it. There were some (in retrospect) funny moments such as when my husband and son-in-law was moving our reclining sofa and loveseat from the house into the truck. Our daughter mentioned that hers came apart to make it easier to move but since the company who delivered our furniture years ago brought each piece in as one piece and not apart, no one bothered to check. (It was only after they about killed themselves getting it out of our house, into the truck, off loaded from the truck at our new home and just before figuring out how to get it from an outbuilding on the property to the basement of the house, did my husband realize that yep – they did come apart!)

Time seemed to be our enemy on the day my husband had wanted to get on the road. Without any place to sit or sleep, we ended up staying in a local hotel overnight before braving the last bits of cramming more items into the truck or the vehicle I was going to be driving and being sure to leave enough room for our traveling items (luggage and a couple bags of “important paperwork”).

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Husband and I with our daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons

With good-byes, hugs, and tears shed, we finally hit the road and left our home north of Dallas in the afternoon of June 11th. We stopped for the night at a nice hotel in a small Oklahoma town and enjoyed a delicious meal at the diner next door. The next morning, we began the last leg of the journey to our new home.

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That picture and the one below is what it’s all about! Big sky, rows and rows of corn, soybeans, and wheat! Gravel roads and country lanes. Barns and tractors. People who wave as they drive by. Neighbors who bring corn, corn, and even more corn! Furry critters and feathered friends to watch and marvel over. Small towns and big hearts.

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Our life is a little more slower paced these days – at least until our grandsons starts high school soon. My deadlines are 7 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. (breakfast, lunch and dinner – oh wait, here it’s called breakfast, dinner and supper!). There’s always laundry to be done, weeds to be pulled, flowers to be watered, and new places to discover. It’s not quite retirement but it’s pretty dog gone close!

Stay tuned for more stories of our life in Missouri – and what this means for my genealogy research (hint: I’m really excited!!)!

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Mid-Hiatus

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I’m just “sort of” back right now. Isn’t that a beautiful sight? That’s our new view looking down the road.

We’ve moved. To Missouri. To a farm. Up-sized – not down-sized. This is land that has been in my husband’s family for 5 generations.

Many stories to tell. Stay tuned.

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Indefinite Hiatus

Due to a big change in my personal life (all good!), my posts haven’t been as frequent as I’d hoped they would be. It may be awhile before I can post again. Thanks for sticking around !

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Martha – Vesta – Mary – Wendy

For this week’s 52 Ancestors post, I decided to focus on the similarities between myself, my mom (Mary), my maternal grandmother (Vesta), and my great-grandmother (Martha).

Becoming a Mother: All of us were 20 years old or younger when we had our first child. Martha Jane Stern and Vesta Christena Wilt both gave birth to their first child – sons – when they were 19 1/2 years old. My mother was a little more than 18 when she had my brother. I had just turned 20 when I had my first child – a girl.

wilt1Martha and Joseph Wilt with sons Clarence, John and Jesse

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Vesta with son Glen Jr.

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 Mary with first child, Jim

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 Wendy and daughter, Shannon

Number of Children: Martha had six children – four boys and two girls. She was also a stepmother to her second husband’s two children (who were also her niece and nephew). Vesta gave birth to four children – one son and three daughters. The youngest, my aunt Lois Evelyn, died at six weeks of age due to being born when my grandmother was only seven months along. My mother had one son and two daughters but she also miscarried a baby boy. I gave birth to three daughters and one son.

Marriage: Martha married for the first time at the age of 18 years and three months. My grandmother married my grandfather when she was 18 years and 7 months. My mom married her first husband at the age of 17 years and 7 months. I married for the first time at 18 years and 24 days. We were all very, very young!

Marriage Duration: Martha and my great-grandfather, Joseph N. Wilt, were married for about 18 years before he left and they were divorced. Her second marriage, to her sister’s widower (W.F. Clawson) lasted a little over 13 years before he died. My grandparents were married for 67 years with a very, very short term rocky part at one point when my grandmother chose to go stay with relatives for a number of months while deciding what to do about her marriage. My mother and her first husband were married a very short time before separating. They eventually divorced just before their two year anniversary. She and my dad were married almost a week shy of 30 years before they were divorced.  I was married seven years before separating and another 10 months before the divorce was final. I have now been married going on 27 years.

Interests: All of us have found hobbies that kept us interested – some of them out of necessity. Sewing, needlework, embroidery were done not only on an as needed basis but as a way to keep hands busy. My mother and I shared a love of theatre – it was only in my mom’s last few years that I learned that she performed in her school’s theatre production just as I had when I was in high school!

Names: As Mary and Martha were fairly common names, Vesta and Wendy weren’t as common. Within my family, there are about three of us with the name of Wendy. I am the oldest. The only other Vesta in my family is on my grandfather’s side – one of his cousins.

Ages at Death: Of course I can’t speak for myself (thank goodness!). Martha was 84 years and 4 months when she passed away from congestive heart failure, arteriosclerosis, and diabetes in 1956. My grandmother was 85 years and 8 months when she died in January 1984 due to heart failure. My mom died on May 1, 2009 of respiratory failure (lung cancer) at the age of 87 years and 7 months. They were all in their 80s when they died.

Residence: We all did not live most of our lives in the same place we were born. Martha was born in Hamilton county, Indiana but spent most of her life living in Leaburg, Oregon. My grandmother was also born in Hamilton county but considered her home the Fairborn and Dayton area of Ohio. My mother was born in Anderson, Indiana but spent most of her life in Greene county, Ohio. I was born in Greene county but have lived most of my life in the Dallas area.

Siblings: None of us were “only” children. We had siblings. Martha was one of eight. My grandmother was one of six. My mom had an older brother and sister – just like me.

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 Four of six siblings: Clifford, Vesta, Nellie and Clarence

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 Siblings: Genevieve, Glen Jr. and Mary

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 Me and my sister and brother

Becoming a Grandmother: Martha became a grandmother for the first time at the age of almost 46. She was the oldest of us. When my mom gave birth to my brother, my grandmother was almost 42 years old. When my nephew was born, my mom was almost 44 years old. When my first grandson was born, I was 39 years old.

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 Vesta and oldest grandson

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 Mary with her second grandchild

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 The day my first grandson was born

Although there are many ways in which we had very different lives, it means quite a bit to find the similarities.

Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small continues the challenge to the geneablogging world to write a blog post weekly on one ancestor. This could be a photo, a story, biography, or a post on the weekly theme. To read her challenge please go to Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. Feel free to join in at any time! The theme for this week is “Same” – same name, most like you, etc.

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Today, September 10, marks the 13th Anniversary since the last day the United States was “normal.” I am not really sure what I was doing on September 10, 2001 specifically. I dropped my son off at the high school – not sure if I took my daughter or if she caught a ride with her friends. I took my youngest to middle school. It was a Monday so I went to work at my church. And I was still fresh off my trip to my brother’s funeral in Alabama. There were still sad moments during the day. I worked my three hours and went home to grab lunch. More than likely, I turned the television on to watch the rest of the noon news before one of my daytime shows started. I’m sure I fixed dinner that evening after my husband and kids were home from work and school.

According to USA Today’s online article “The Day Before,” items that the American people were reading about or watching on the news concerned the trial of actor Robert Blake, suicide bombings in Istanbul, Michael Jackson’s first live concert in quite awhile at Madison Square Garden, and President Bush’s trip to Florida. It was by all accounts, a day just like thousands of days that had come before. But that would all soon change.

Just like those alive on December 7, 1941 or November 22, 1963, we all know where we were and what we were doing the morning of September 11. I’ve written before of my memories and thoughts. Before we realized it, whatever we considered “normal” was gone. For many days the airspace over my house – close to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport – was silent. Growing up near an air base in Ohio and living in my present home for so long, airplane noise had always been normal for me. The silence overhead was eerie. People walked around with a look on their face as if they didn’t know whether to be sad, confused, or angry. Everyone wanted to talk about it. Most of us were glued to our televisions as those horrific scenes were played over and over again and listened to the stories of those who had escaped from the towers, the Pentagon, or had heard their loved one’s last words via a cell phone high above a Pennsylvania field.

When the airlines began flying again, instead of the “normal” sounds above, I would look up and wonder if there would be another plane right on the heels of 9/11. What used to be normal for travelers had all changed. There was a list of banned items, new rules and restrictions in place for luggage, and no way to see your loved one’s off in the terminal just before boarding. When family would fly in to D/FW in order to catch another flight somewhere else, there wasn’t any way that I could go visit with them until they left; it just wasn’t allowed anymore.

Children grew frightened. The American people pulled together – at least for a short time – because it was OUR country that was attacked; OUR people were killed; OUR airlines were hijacked. Churches were packed with people looking for answers and praying for the nation.

And normal now? Homeland Security Agency – part of the government that didn’t exist 13 years ago today. Pat downs, luggage inspection, and getting body scans at airports. New vocabulary has entered our lexicon: Al-Queda, Taliban, “weapons of mass destruction,” ground zero (meaning where the twin towers once stood), and the war on terror. Children born after September 11, 2001 (and some that were young) will never know a world of “normal.”

This is a sad anniversary – the Last Day of Normal.

 

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Home

This is the only house I lived in until the spring before I turned sixteen. The picture above, taken in the winter time, shows how young the plants and trees are.

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As time went by, the landscape changed. A blue spruce and pine trees were planted in the front yard. The vast backyard changed to include plants, places for a child to play, and an in-ground swimming pool.

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Where there wasn’t really an entry way, my dad built in a barrier with a bookshelf and wrought iron railing and tiled the floor.

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After moving away in the spring of 1977 – to a town home across the highway, we’d have occasion to go down the street and see our old house. It really never changed. Then after I left Ohio and moved away, it seemed that when I did visit the area, the fir trees in the front yard had grown taller and taller.

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Until I moved to the house I’ve now lived in for over 26 years, the house above was what I always thought of when I thought of home.

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grief

Saying goodbye to a loved one is never easy and even harder when that person is the one who bore you and gave you life. I had known for awhile that my mother had cancer and not only that, she had heart problems and COPD. As an adolescent and even a young teen, I was well aware of my mother’s mortality. She would ask that if something happened to her, who would I want to live with. My first answer was my grandparents but she reminded me that they would probably be gone before she was, and even if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be in very good health to raise a young person. It seemed like every time my mom got hurt – whether it was spraining her ankle on a curb or falling down the concrete steps where she worked or even when it seemed she just didn’t feel good for one day longer than I thought was right – I felt a sense of panic. But time marched on, and Mom always bounced back from whatever it was that happened. I moved away and became independent, got married and had children, settled into a nice career, and even turned my life around after my divorce. Back home, Mom was settling into her own life – one without the strains of an angst ridden teenager living under her roof. She found new friends and went out on dates. She became even more active in her church and the many other organizations to which she belonged. Her life didn’t revolve around me anymore. I was happy for her. After my grandparents passed away, she had even more time to indulge in what she wanted to do. If she wanted to spend the day sewing, she did. If she wanted to watch the Master’s Golf Tournament from start to finish, she could. If she wanted to travel, she did. Somewhere along the line, I forgot that my mother was forty years older than me; forgot that she was getting older before I hit middle age; forgot that her mortality could knock on the door at any moment.

Then in 1998, Mom had surgery to repair leaky heart valves brought on from a bout of childhood rheumatic fever. My family had already planned to be at my in-law’s 50th anniversary celebration so we traveled all night to get to Missouri, but I was not going to sleep until I knew the outcome of the surgery. All day I waited for my brother to contact me but still no word by early evening. Nerves on edge, I played phone tag with him but managed to talk with Mom’s doctor who let me know that she had come through the surgery okay. What a relief – then I slept. It took her time to heal, but she did. She continued to work full time even as she was approaching 80 years old. It was about then that I realized Mom might not have a lot of time left on this earth. We tried to visit more often.

In June 2001, her brother passed away and in August 2001, my brother passed away, and my mother was inconsolable. She kept saying that she wouldn’t be far behind. I was afraid that my brother’s death would cause her mental and physical health to decline rapidly but she was stronger than I thought. Mom pressed on knowing that life does not stop. Due to unfortunate circumstances, she was let go from her job. I always thought that if she didn’t have a reason to get up in the morning, that she would probably call it quits. But she made due with the hand that had been dealt.

Several years later, she had to have another surgery but due to the blood thinner she had to take and lack of attention by medical personnel, she began bleeding internally. It was then that I realized that she wouldn’t be able to handle any type of surgery – major or minor. Her blood pressure was getting lower. Her heart valves were starting to leak again. She started having breathing issues and congestive heart failure due to fluid around her heart. After testing some of the fluid from her lungs, they discovered that she had lung cancer. Surgery wasn’t an option for her so they gave her the chemo pill. She had good days and bad days but she always did her best to go to church each Sunday and drive to doctor appointments or to her friend’s home. It was such a blessing that my cousins were close by and if need be, one of them always helped her out. Being 900 miles away that knowledge helped ease my anxiety about her situation. She had a couple of TMI’s (also called “mini-strokes”) but she’d be okay after a couple of days. Her oncologist had put her in touch with hospice because there are several things that organization can help with even if it’s not at the end of life. Mom got a lifeline in her home so if she needed it, help was just a “holler” away. She was on oxygen all the time.  Even though she could and still did cook for herself, Meals on Wheels delivered meals to her a few times a week. That would help on those days when she really didn’t feel like preparing food just for herself. Each time she had a spell that sent her to the hospital, she would have to go to a rehab for a couple weeks afterward so they could make sure she was able to take care of herself. She’d get so frustrated.

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Summer 2008 – Mom and I just before we left

When my family visited in June of 2008, I kept watching her to see if I could tell how she was doing. It was probably to ease my mind. I went to the doctor with her. Not at any time did they ever give her a time limit. There was no one year or six months or anything. She kept taking the medicine she needed – especially her blood thinner and her cancer pill. She knew what she could and what she couldn’t eat. She knew if her oxygen was turned too low or too high. Walking out of that house to return to Texas after our vacation, I hugged her with the thought in the back of my mind that it might be the last time.

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November 2008 – Mom looking at an old photo album

That November, my sister and I made a special trip to visit her. It was the first time in many, many years that Mom, my sister, and I were under the same roof for several days. We had a lot of laughs and made some good memories. I dug out really old photo books that Mom hadn’t seen in eons. As my sister and I looked at all the stuff in the house, we knew what a task we would have one day. Mom would get too anxious about throwing stuff away so we didn’t. By that fall, she had lost a lot of weight and was looking frail. She got cold easily so she always had a blanket around her and several tissues ready to catch the drip of her nose due to the oxygen. I can still here her cursing her nose! She’d cough and couldn’t quite get it all up and out.

By March 2009, Mom would tell me at least a couple times a week during our daily phone calls, that she wondered if it was all worth it. I think she was getting tired. All I did was pray harder. Her back would hurt where the tumor was. It was hard for her to get comfortable. She was continuously losing weight. But she was still driving where she needed to go. She had gone to the hair dresser and when she got home, two nurses came to visit. They asked her if the doctor had told her how much time she probably had left. Mom said no so they told her that they didn’t think she had longer than six months. Well, that threw her into a tailspin. They kept pressing her as to where she would want to go – what nursing center. Mom adamantly wanted to stay in her home of over 30 years.

My sister and I discussed it, and one idea was for my mom to go ahead and move to Texas and live with my sister. Both she and I started researching places where my mom could be treated on her Tricare (military dependent) insurance, oxygen companies, hospice agencies, etc. We both knew that even though Mom agreed to that, she really didn’t want to leave her home or her companion or her friends and the family that was in Ohio. My sister made other arrangements to move up to Ohio on May 2nd and stay with her as her caregiver until the end. I think I could hear Mom’s sigh of relief that she wouldn’t have to move. Not long after, she had another bad episode of internal bleeding, and my cousin got her to the hospice hospital in Dayton. Not knowing what was going on or if the end was near, my sister and I loaded up and took off for Ohio. Luckily, my husband was supportive and did everything he could at home to help with our grandson and his getting to and from school and other tasks that needed to be done. My other children also pitched in to help – whether it was picking my grandson up from school to making sure his homework was done to giving the house a thorough cleaning to cooking the Easter dinner because I was gone – it all helped so I could focus on my mom. When we left, we didn’t have a time table on when we’d be back. We were there over Easter 2009. Mom was even more frail than when we had seen her in November. She was down below 100 lbs and had aged about 10 years or more. Sometimes she said something that didn’t make a whole lot of sense – things that were relevant 20 or 30 years before. She told us that she didn’t want to linger in a comatose state like some of the other patients there. She was so worried about that. She wanted to be at home. She wanted to die at home. We were told that she would be released very soon but she would need a place to go and someone to be there. Before we left the hospital that last day, I hugged Mom as tightly as I dared and spoke only to her. I thanked her for being the best mom I could ever hope to have and for doing everything she had done for me.  Then I told her that I loved her so very much. It was the last time she reached out to hug me back and give me a kiss goodbye.  My sister drove me back to Texas, and then she loaded up her dogs and clothes and went back to take care of our mom. She arranged for a hospital bed to be waiting on mom when she was released. They had told us that they didn’t think she would be with us in three months.

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April 2009 – Mom with my sister and me
(the last photo of us all together)

Mom went downhill very quickly after she got home. Each day when I called, my sister would give me the update, and then I’d talk to mom. On April 28th, my sister told me that the hospice nurse didn’t see that Mom would make it past the weekend. What was my plan? I decided to fly out on April 30th for Ohio. That happened to be my grandson’s birthday so the day before we had a mini-birthday for him and then very early the next morning, I caught a flight out. I heard her voice for the last time that evening. I told her I was coming. She kept calling me by my sister’s name (well, she’d done that my entire life!) but my sister got her to say my name and told me that she wanted me to hear Mom say my name. Mom had been calling my sister by her sister’s name and talking as if she was back in the 1940s or 50s. My sister had hardly slept as Mom had been trying to get up in the middle of the night, and it was all my sister could do – even at my mom’s 97 lb weight – to hold on to her so she wouldn’t fall down and get her back to bed.

I didn’t know what I would find when I arrived. Would she still be alive? She was. Would she still be alert? Not really. How much time would there be left? Not much. All afternoon and evening after I arrived, friends, relatives and the minister came by. Hospice nurses switched shifts. My sister and I talked to Mom. She began to really “go away” that evening. We talked of how she didn’t want to linger. We had to let her go. I didn’t sleep that night but my sister said she got a good night’s sleep. I sat next to Mom’s bed, holding her hand, listening to her breathing, and just making sure I could remember how her hands felt – soft – and that she was near. The next day dawned, and she was still with us. More relatives came by. People called on the phone. We all told her that it was okay for her to move on, to go to our grandparents, her sister and brother, and our brother. My nephew drove in from Texas. I called family members and Mom’s special gentleman friend and told them they had to tell her that it was okay to let go – that it wasn’t fair to her for them to hang on to her. I’d put the phone by her ear and pray that she heard their words. That evening, I told my sister I was going to try to nap for a bit but to wake me just in case her breathing changed. It wasn’t long before she roused me. She, my nephew and I sat with her and told her goodbye. My sister told her that it was okay to fly away like a butterfly, and then she took her last breath. Amidst the tears, sorrow, and grief, we helped bathe her, brush her hair, put lotion on her, and then called the relatives who wanted to see her one last time before the funeral home came for her.

In the days that followed, my sister’s husband and my husband and family arrived, final preparations were completed, a memorial service was held, and then our husbands and families left. We still had the interment to follow a week after the memorial service. We still had a house that needed to be cleared out and readied for sale. We had an attorney to find in order to start probate – and without a legal will – that was absolutely the worst thing to endure while going through the grieving process. There were times I just wanted to go off on whoever was giving me an attitude – in fact, I did at a clerk in the probate office who kept pointing to forms when I asked her what I needed to do. There were times that I didn’t want to have to pack the car just one more time for one more trip to Goodwill. There were moments I wondered why we had never made sure she had a legal will.

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May 6, 2009 – Memorial at the Celebration of Life service for Mom

After cleaning out the house – which made it practically impossible to give in to grief – and having our cousins around trying to provide some sort of support for us, my sister went back to Texas after Memorial day – after we had ordered Mom’s gravestone. I had to wait a couple more weeks until my grandson was out of school so that my husband could drive to Ohio to pick me up – along with renting a U-Haul truck and being loaded down in my van with stuff to bring back to Texas for my sister, niece, nephew, and my own kids. It still took almost two years for Mom’s estate to be probated and her home to be sold. Until then, it seemed as if every communication from the estate administrator or the attorney was like ripping a bandage away from a wound. The sorrow and grief were always there – not to mention a bit of anger that Mom’s wishes were not being carried out the way she had meant.

On what would have been her birthday the fall after she passed away, I was busy waiting on my grandson to be born. For my sister, it was a very difficult day. Mom never knew that she would have a new great-grandson, but I knew that she was probably arranging his birthday to be the same as hers after she was gone. During one moment when I had sat with her alone, I had asked her to indicate her presence to me with a penny. When we were cleaning out her home, I would find pennies in the most unusual spots. In an old change purse, I found a penny dated the same year I was born. That was good enough for me. Although, in the jar marked “pennies” there were none to be found – only nickels, dimes, quarters and silver dollars! To this day, my children and grandchildren have had butterflies glide along beside them as they play or light on their hands and arms – just sitting for a few moments. We always say that Grammy (what mom was known as to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren) is nearby.

And now, five years has gone by since she’s been gone. I dreamed about her several months ago – a dream that wasn’t a memory of something that had happened earlier in my life. It was a dream that she was real and was standing in front of me. I was able to hug her and feel her. It was comforting to know that my mother’s arms are still around me even if she’s not physically with me anymore. The dishes that once belonged to her, I still use – but only for the same thing she used them for. One bowl is only for mashed potatoes. The top part of the large double boiler was only used to heat up soup. I am so lucky to have digital recordings of her voice so I can still hear her. I have some old videos so I can still see her in motion. I have letters that she sent to my grandparents in the 1950s when she lived in Japan so I can read her words and know her thoughts. And I have photos – tons of photos.

Each year my sister and I buy a silk flower arrangement for the vase on her gravestone. The cemetery leaves it there from spring until fall. And we will continue to do so until neither one of us can do that anymore. I miss our daily phone conversations even though there were times neither one of us had any real news of the day to share. Occasionally, I have to keep myself in check because I haven’t picked up the phone to call her before realizing there’s no one to call anymore. When I hear hateful words between family members, I’ve had to say that I wish I could argue with my mom but I can’t because she’s not there hoping to make someone realize that life could change in an instant.

This is just a small part of my mom’s story. But it’s her final story. And whether it’s five years or fifty years, I’ll miss her everyday.

Mary Helen (Johnson) Amore
September 21, 1921 – May 1, 2009

mom's grave with flowers 2013

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