I noticed you put “Dust in the Wind” in last week’s rabbit hole. That song has been in my head since Tuesday evening when my youngest brother called to tell me that our Mom had died.
Mom got her first pair of shoes from the welfare lady when she was seven years old. She said they were ugly but they kept her feet warm. Mom grew up without running water or electricity in rural Northern Michigan. When her mother was sent to the sanitarium, her brothers were sent to foster homes and she went to live with her grandparents who owned a bakery. They taught her to bake, cook and clean.
About the time she graduated from high school, she met Jesus and went off to North Central Bible College because she wanted to learn all she could about Him and the Bible. She had a twelve-hour carpool first date with my Dad, trying to get home for Christmas break in 1964. Three weeks later they were married.
She was a housewife, mother, entrepreneur. Then in 1987, she started nursing school when she was 45 and recently divorced. We four boys helped tutor her while she worked three jobs and studied. We knew she could do it, but I’m not sure she knew she could. When she graduated and passed her Arizona RN exam… I don’t think I can explain the smile on her face.
She devoted the next 25 years of her life to caring for burn patients and ICU patients in hospitals around the country as a traveling nurse. She defeated ageism, sexism, and every other foe with an attitude of humility, service and lovingkindness.
She retired ten years ago so she would have time to do what she really wanted and started working as a volunteer nurse at the prison and later as a victim’s advocate in cases of domestic abuse.
We have been working on her house since Wednesday morning. She had accumulated a LOT of stuff, but she wasn’t a hoarder in the classic sense. Everything in her home was for her “projects.” When she was out and about, she would see something that would add to one of them, and she’d pick it up. OR she’d see a new potential project and pick it up.
Some were for grandkids, nieces, family, but not one of her projects was for her.
On her ironing board, we found her last project: a set of masks she was sewing for nurses who are directly in the line of fire for covid-19.
Over the past week, friends and neighbors have called or stopped by to offer condolences. All of their stories are the same. They tell of a compassionate woman who helped them get out of the tub, who baked their daughter cookies when the daughter was in the hospital, who visited their mother in the rest home, who did something as simple as picking up a gallon of milk.
People walking their dogs stop and say “I didn’t really know your Mom, but she donated a lot of food for our fundraiser. She was such a blessing.” If she had something someone needed, she gave it. If she could do something someone needed, she did it.
She wasn’t materially rich. She wasn’t perfect. She was a real person, with real problems, mistakes and shortcomings. But I am having trouble remembering any of those right now.
I don’t know if her nature was refined in a painful childhood or if it was the love of Christ that constrained her. What I do know is that our world has lost one of the finest examples of a person who helped “the least of these.”
In the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Clarence the angel says to George, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
That’s the kind of hole my Mom is leaving.
We’re giving most of her things away to Sunshine Acres, a Christian home for disadvantaged children. We think it’s congruent with how she lived.
I don’t really know what else to say or even why I wrote this to a stranger in Texas. Maybe I just wanted someone else to see that sometimes the dust in the wind will carve an amazing masterpiece.