Behind My Red Door

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Heart broken...

On Good Friday, March 25th, at 6:20 PM after a very long battle with Alzheimer's, I said good bye to the very best person I have ever known, my dear mom. Last year during Holy Week, mom moved the amazing Memory Care unit at the nursing home. For several months she thrived there. Late last fall she became sick and never really got fully well again. She continued to loose weight and become very frail. On March 2nd, she started care under hospice right at the nursing  home in her own bed in her own room. It was a rough few weeks and during Holy Week, on Good Friday, I kissed her goodbye as she took her very last breath here on earth. And while I am broken hearted and missing her so very much, I am also rejoicing that she now she is free from the grips of this horrible disease. 

At the memorial service I read an updated version of the tribute I wrote to her on this blog in 2008. I have included it below. 

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"A mother holds her children's hands for a moment, but their hearts forever". That is one of my favorite quotes. And I think it could be said in reverse too - don't you? I know I will hold my mom in my heart forever. I am one of the really lucky ones in this world. I had such an amazing mom! She was one of my best friends and I would not be the strong confident woman I am if it weren't for her. Actually I might not be a wife and mom it weren't for her fixing me up with the cute college guy that worked at the drugstore where she was a bookkeeper. We will celebrate 41 years of marriage in June so suffice to say ~ MOM KNOWS BEST!

Everything mom did, she did well and with love in her heart. It started right at the beginning with the Christening gown with the teeniest buttons, snaps and bows, little jacket, slip, bonnet and felt shoes she made for me when I was baptized. She made Easter dresses, winter coats with matching hand muffs, back to school clothes and even learned how to sew her own lined pinch pleat draperies and slipcovers for the furniture. When the six of us traveled cross country in a station wagon pulling a pop up tent trailer that we opened each night and closed each morning for six weeks - YES SIX WEEKS - my mom and sister and I had matching clothes. She was a saint to take four kids on a trip like that!!! And there was the year she sewed dozens of Barbie and Ken doll outfits and all the little accessories that went with them for me for Christmas. Have you ever seen how teeny those arm holes are? Every Christmas was special in our house with her handmade decorations like her famous pine cone wreath and handmade Christmas stockings.

She also painted and I have a still life portrait in my kitchen and portraits of each our two kids she did when they were young. Several family members are the lucky recipients of the quilts she made - including the ones she made for Jay's crib and Jen's bed.
When there was a bake sale at school, no plain old brownies for my mom. She made dozens of whoopie pies~ the best ones you have ever tasted. At Christmas time she made cookies that were works of art and so many different kinds too. In the summer she would make pickles and relishes and jams and jellies from the fruits and veggies in season or the ones she grew in her own backyard. We ate a lot of watermelon so she could pickle the rind. Made with clove and cinnamon, they were sweet and crisp. When we had lamb, we had homemade mint jelly to go with it, horseradish sauce with roast beef and cranberry relish with our turkey. I cannot think of anything my mom couldn't and didn't do. True story she actually went to the old Girl's Trade School at night and learned every trade they offered. They finally said "Beverly, we have nothing left to teach you".

She helped with Girl Scouts and was a Den Mother for Cub Scouts too. She made every occasion special. She made panoramic sugar eggs with little scenes inside for Easter and she blew out the inside of real eggs and decorated the delicate shells for an Easter Tree. There were never any store bought Halloween costumes ~ we all had unique hand made ones. She decorated sneakers and t-shirts for the 4th of July for the grand kids.

And every birthday, our cakes could have graced the cover of Woman's Day or Good Housekeeping. We had dolls and trains and rockets ships. Easter meant a Bunny Cake and there was a flag one on the Fourth of July with fresh berries. She did that before it was in style. And I can't forget her trademark meat stuffing for the turkey at Thanksgiving and the special Lithuanian dish we have only at Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving called Potato Kugelis.

She didn't stop when we grew up. She made my wedding dress, her Mother of the Bride dress, the flower girl's dress and decorated all the garden hats we wore. She would have made the cake too if someone didn't stop her! My first Christmas as a married woman, I got ornaments made from some of the leftover wedding dress lace. They still hold a place of honor on my tree every year.

When she and dad lived on Cape Cod, she would make cassette tapes for my kids. She would read holiday stories and played songs on the piano and she and my dad and grandmother sang along. For us big kids, growing up, listening to mom play and sing along to her piano music was second nature. It was truly epic when she no longer remembered how to play. After moving to the nursing home, I tried numerous times to get her to sit at the piano there. Only once in 4 years did she agree and thankfully she did remember a few notes. But music continued to bring her joy for most of her days there. She knew all the words to every song at every musical event, and there were many of them! She couldn’t sit and carry on a conversation so my way of spending time with her several days a week was to take her for long rides. I made CD’s of songs familiar to her and she sat back, crossed her legs and sang along to the music for as long as I would drive. So I drove – sometimes 2 and 3 hours all over Massachusetts.

When the kids got old enough, mom would do crafts and cook with them. She would take Jason to the movies I didn't want to see and she would paint Jen's nails and toes. When they moved to the Cape, she made sure to build extra bedrooms downstairs and an outside shower and bought them their own sand toys and beach chairs so her kids and grandkids would want to go and stay there. She took them to the Herring Run and the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory and every other fun thing she could find. When they were older, she would drive back here for Jen's dance recitals and Jay's football games. That's just the kind of Mamma she was.

When mom and dad started to need help at home, I also was watching our granddaughter a few days a week so often Lili would go with me to see my folks. By then, Mom was well into her struggle with Alzheimer’s so while I helped Dad with the bills or other chores, I would set up Mom and Lili at the table with the playdoh and cookie cutters. She could still share her love of creating with her great grand daughter. It was perfect!

While some of that is a recounting of what my mom did with my family, I know my sister and brother have their own stories of time with our mom. And I can’t forget that she took in her own mother for the last years of her life and of course she took on many extra duties when our dad’s hips and legs failed him.

Not only did she make sure we were loved and cared for, fed well, dressed well, educated, safe and secure, but she also worked overtime to make sure there was as much joy and magic in our lives as she could. As I said, I am one of the lucky ones in this world. I got to be her very blessed daughter.

And even though she deserves to rest, I have no doubt that up in heaven she helped serve the best Easter dinner with one of her fancy cakes and Potato Kugelis and has already started planning the best parties complete with piano music and lots of singing and dancing. RIP MOM!! I love you, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck!! "

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I have heard that God only takes home the very best on Good Friday and I believe that to be true! Now I start a new chapter in life as I learn to live without my precious mom. It's time to give back to the people that treated my mom as a member of t heir own family and I have started the ball rolling to start volunteering starting in May, on the very Memory Care Unit where mom spent the last year of her life. The staff are so very caring and loving and the residents have captured my heart as well. I am looking forward to spending some time with them each week. 

You can now find me at my public Facebook page ~

Thanks so much for stopping by! Warm hugs, Linda