Mom passed away two days after St. Patrick’s Day in 2006, with her family by her side.
It’s hard to believe how quickly time has passed since then and even harder to write about Mom using the past tense – she was always so full of life and energy. She exuded an endless pursuit of learning and teaching throughout her 89 years. In fact, the month before she died, she was teaching cribbage to some local students. They joined her on Sunday afternoons at her senior living campus apartment, to learn a game she enjoyed playing over a lifetime and had taught to her grandchildren to help them improve math skills.
Of German and Irish descent, Mom was a daughter, a sister, a wife, widowed twice, a mother of four daughters, grandmother of twelve, great grandmother of 28, an aunt, an excellent cook, creative, skilled, resilient, ambitious, a good friend to many, a devout Lutheran and above all, she loved her family dearly.
On my desk is a photo of Mom holding an array of colorful flowers, each one given in honor of her 80th birthday at a surprise party hosted by her daughters. Each attendee was asked to bring one flower to the party. Nearly 100 family members and friends gathered. Being among so many who loved and honored her made for a magnificent celebration.
Mom loved life, loved baseball, loved dogs, read a lot, loved to garden and was an avid exerciser. She walked the Heartland trail a couple miles a day as long as she was able. In inclement weather, she picked up a friend and drove to the high school to walk the halls prior to the start of classes. Yoga later replaced walking and helped her remain limber as osteoporosis crept in.
One evening, about 3 weeks before St. Patrick’s Day, Mom fell in her apartment, broke her hip and ended up in surgery. Her recovery did not go well. She required oxygen related to a worsening lung condition and after several failed physical therapy sessions to help her walk, she asked to have all treatment and medications stopped. Mom told me and my sisters, I showed you girls how to live. Now, I will show you how to die.
Rather than move her to a care facility, we chose to move Mom to our home. With hospice support, along with my three sisters and our husbands, we provided her care.
Emotions of both joy and profound sadness filled our home during those last two weeks as she said her goodbyes to friends, family members and their dogs, who all came to visit. She said she had lived a good life and it was her time to die. Her strength helped us through those last days.
As a young girl, Mom’s red curly hair and freckles were an indication of her Irish ancestry. Her strong will, attention to cleanliness and order were expressions of her German heritage. But, her love of family was the truest expression of who she was. As her daughters, we were loved unconditionally, and enjoyed living in a well cared for home where we were treated to the some of the finest cooking ever, including many fabulous German meals. But, on St. Patrick’s Day, we celebrated our Irish heritage by wearing green and savored an annual meal of corned beef and cabbage, boiled potatoes and Irish Freckle Bread. She didn’t serve green beer but she did sip a beer with us now and then.
Mom was strong and loving to the end.
We miss our wonderful German-Irish Mom.