My Mother was born April 13th, 1920, and died July 26th, 2020 at 100 years, 3 months, and 13 days. She died full of love and gratitude for her life, surrounded by her immediate family and with nothing left unsaid. One thing that my entire family – siblings; cousins; first cousins once removed; aunts, nieces, nephews, in-laws, and outlaws – would agree on, is how fortunate we were to have been part of her kind, loving, inclusive, and wholehearted approach to everyday living.
Three Years ago when Mom was 98, she did her 2nd annual Marathon walk ( 5 K) with 35 of her family from all over the continent. This was in the month of May in Ottawa . The 1st annual was held in Nova Scotia, the year before, where we did the 10K walk together. Always followed by an after-party with medals, laughter, and lots of celebratory toasts, this was not a race for us. This was walking to the pace of the slowest walker and having a chance to be together and visit while being active. Several of us would go on to walk and run the 1/2 and the full Marathons the next day. So much fun.
And the point here is, if it were not for Mom, this wouldn’t have happened. There was little interest in doing this crazy thing when we first suggested it. However, once everyone heard that Mom was coming and she would walk, well, everyone who was available said YES. And it began like that.
29798 was Mom’s bib number and we loved it because it was her 2nd marathon and 97 and 98 were her ages the years she participated.
The after-party included family from New York City; Virginia; Maine; across Canada from Vancouver Island to Nova Scotia.
The Gift of Years
Mom lived 100 years and you can detect her good spirit, love, and joie de vivre shining through. When I once asked what she thought about her life, she said, “It was so much better than I had expected.” Anytime I tried to pin her down to her best year, she would always say, “this one.”
“I go to bed happy and I get up happy, ” was her common refrain.
So what is it about my Mother that we all adored? There are many things but I think it comes down to these:
“She had the gratitude thing going,”
As my friend, Meredith pointed out. “Life doesn’t have to be easy in order for your Mother to be grateful.”
In fact, my Mother believed that things would get better around the corner and she went looking for exactly that. And guess what? She found it. Mom continually shone the spotlight of her attention on what was going right and what was “good enough” about all the people in her life and turned a blind eye to our flaws. Thank goodness.
One of my acquaintances who barely knew my Mother said this. “When I am with your Mother I feel completely accepted. I’ve never had that experience before and it is the greatest gift.”
Yet, she wasn’t a pushover.
She stood up for what was right. When she was 95, a new company bought the seniors building where she lived and she didn’t like the way they treated management. She wrote polite and strong letters; she spoke up at town hall meetings, but nothing changed. So she went looking, for a new place to live, and moved. She wanted to live where all people were treated with respect.
Her age never entered the equation, only what was controllable and what was not. The bottom line, if she couldn’t do anything about it she accepted it, without complaint. If there was something she could do or influence she did it, without drama or righteousness. She simply took appropriate action and moved on.
Like an unwanted guest, Covid 19, interrupted her big celebration at 100. Yet, her comment when we realized there would be no party: “imagine a guest like that crashing our big party. But my Birthday will still happen; I will still turn 100. And now we get to have a different, once-in-a-lifetime party.”
And this very willing and curious woman, was alone in her apartment, instead of with 75 of her favourite people at the Union Club in Victoria;and she did turn 100. Disappointed, yes, but no complaints; rather, she invested time and effort into learning and practicing video conferencing and video chat tools so she could be with her family online, in a zoom room. None of us have ever once heard our Mother say, “I’m too old for that.” She did every single thing she could do, with grace and appreciation. And with the finesse to accept a hand if she needed it.
Her lifelong learning included learning to weave at 65; swim at 75; watercolour at 80; use an I-pad at 90 as just four examples. and she went up in a hot air balloon with me and my two adult kids for my 65th birthday. She was 91. You get the picture. Don’t ever believe that possibilities are scarce as we get older.
Love of Family
Her love of family was without measure. It was the number one most important thing in her life. She beamed out love like the brightest star and it came with no strings attached. No guilt trips; no complaints; just so happy to be with her family and we all counted. The 52nd cousin once removed was always important. Well, that is a slight, but only a slight exaggeration. And you didn’t have to be related by blood. You could be related by heart. The golden thread that runs through all of our lives is not reserved for blood relatives. The connections in our family life run deep and wide. The word family has a broad definition.
To have a Mother like ours who was filled with love, generosity, gratitude, curiosity, initiative, creativity, resourcefulness and the wisdom gleaned from her long life, was to be inordinately blessed. How to thank her for being there forever? There are not enough words! My goal is to be more like my Mother as I live longer. Her adopted children- Sheila and Jim, from England have declared her a National Treasure, and my sister Gabriole and I are delighted to share her with all of our friends. Mother had enough love to go around. May we continue her legacy.
Remembering you on your birthday sweet Mother. Your 100 year legacy was a gift to us all and you inspire us still. You continue to make the world a better place.
Mom’s Pearls of Wisdom
The most important thing is the support of family and friends.
Keep some younger people in your life; especially the children.
Don’t hold grudges – leave past disappointments and hurt feelings behind.
Don’t hurt others by word or deed and apologize immediately if you do.
Don’t be jealous of others.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but don’t expect too much.
Lend a helping hand whenever you can and be kind to others especially those who are having difficulties.
Do your best to stay healthy: eat well but don’t deprive yourself of a treat.
Exercise is important every day – either aerobics or going for a walk.
Never be afraid to try new things and continue to learn new things.
Concentrate on the positive and don’t grieve over things you cannot do anymore.
Be grateful for what you have and enjoy every day you are alive.
Note 1:) Pink and white dogwoods are Mom’s favourite and I thank Shutterstock for having what I needed. And she also loved this song. Press the arrow to play and enjoy.
Note 2:) This reminds me of Mom, one in a million.
Note 3:) Thank you for reading this far and getting to know a little about my Mother. She, of course, was a faithful reader of my blog. I appreciate all of you. Warmest wishes and may you enjoy this Easter and Passover time. Trudy
Note 4:) a few memories: When a loved one dies, besides missing them we miss the way they were with others. My Mother did not know this sweet addition to the family – Sophie’s dog Sasha – our new family member who arrived five days before Mom’s birthday but she would have loved her.