A Mother’s Day Tribute
A Mother’s Day Tribute…
Mama had a huge influence on No Time 2 Cook, and with Mother’s Day approaching, I honor her and loving mothers everywhere. However, our story could be your story, as well. As it unfolds, Mama could be your father, wife, husband, son, daughter, sister, grandparent . . .
Our story is about relationships and how they can change overnight when receivers becomes the givers and givers the receivers. How in adversity we discover inner strengths and recognize new gifts. It’s about support of family, friends, and the community around us. About memories, tears, laughter, joy, and fellowship. Our story is about a painfully sweet journey of love, grace, mercy, and even hope. It’s about saying goodbye.
At age 82, Mama was still working as the lead proof reader for the Mississippi House of Representatives. Her last day of work was a Friday, and the following Wednesday, she was diagnosed with stage 4 non-smokers lung cancer. That day we knew, our lives would never be the same again.
Life with our Mothers
Who remembers longing for their next birthday? Waiting for the sun to come up on Christmas morning? How about the impatience for the birth of their first child? We seem to spend the first half of our lives anticipating and wishing for the next event, milestone, and celebration. And, God willing, our mothers have been present to celebrate and support us on each and every occasion.
Mama never missed a big event, EVER! And, she was there for most of the small ones as well. She was also my biggest supporter and the inspiration behind No Time 2 Cook. Many of our recipes either came from Mama or she was there when they were developed. As once a busy mom, she recognized the role No Time 2 Cook would play in helping bring families back to the dinner table.
At age 50, I began to realize Mama’s mortality as a few dear friends lost their mothers to illness. My perspective of time began to change wanting to stop the clock and slow everything down. The thought of losing Mama gripped my heart and literally took my breath away.
We lost my daddy to a brain tumor when I was in my mid-twenties. He was only 51. He and mother had been high school sweethearts and married in their late teens as did many of their friends at the outbreak of the Korean War. They were inseparable and completely devoted to one another. After service and college, Mama stayed home and Daddy traveled.
Support from our Mothers
With Daddy away during the week, Mama focused her attention on mothering my sister, Kay, and me. She spent her days keeping house, preparing meals, and driving us to our many activities. She was also involved in Girl Scouts and volunteered at our church. Much of Mama’s church work revolved around visiting and taking meals to older home bound members. Seeing their needs first hand got Mama really excited about No Time 2 Cook as she caught the vision of how our meals could minister to the elderly.
In later years, Mama and daddy spent their weekends taking care of our family farm. Mama raised a big beautiful garden every summer, and Daddy raised Black Angus cattle and tended his grape vineyard. They were also great hosts throwing big parties and meals for their many friends and our large extended family. Mama was the most organized person I have ever known and it was during these years as a teenager and young adult that I began to learn about planning, cooking, and entertaining for large groups of people. Little did we know, but Mama was setting the ground work for No Time 2 Cook.
When Daddy passed away, my sister was married and busy with her family raising a houseful of boys. I was a young single professional teaching Home Economics at the university in Monroe, LA. Mama’s “Empty Nest” years would now be spent without our daddy. In her grief, she sought healing through her family and friends turning her focus once again toward Kay and me. Though we would have given anything to have Daddy back, we loved having so much of Mama’s time, presence, and assistance in our ever growing hectic lives. And, that’s how it was for the next 32 years.
Faith of our Mothers
Needless to say, Mama’s illness caught us completely off guard. This wasn’t the way it was suppose to happen! Mama was healthy, living in and caring for our family home. She was still tending her vegetable and flower gardens and working her part time job at the legislature. She was our mother who was always there when we needed help, support, companionship, advice, a listening ear. The day of Mama’s diagnosis, everything changed!
Mama faced her illness with calm and perfect grace. Though willing to have treatment at the onset, she was firm in her resolve against extraordinary measures. She would endure some discomfort to a point but would not sacrifice complete quality of life at any cost.
Mama knew her final destination and what and who was waiting when she crossed over from this life to the next. I overheard her many times say, “I often wondered if my faith would stand when facing the end of my life. Now that the time is here, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my faith is solid and will carry me through to the other side. And, the peace I feel is indescribable!” That was my Mama! Though her health and strength were failing and our roles reversed, there she was stronger than ever.
Here, I could spend pages describing the downward spiral, sharing the disappointment when Mama could no longer stand the chemo. The day we walked out of the oncologist’s office knowing it was our last visit. And, with the hospice referral tucked inside my purse, how thankful that I was behind Mama in her wheel chair and she couldn’t see the tears streaming down my face. But, that’s not our story. It is however about relationship, fellowship, and the people who participated along the way.
Caring for our Mothers
Mama settled in to our home without a miss. At first, it wasn’t very different from when she would come for an extended visit. She went to work with me every day listening and participating in the day to day discussions about No Time 2 Cook. She helped in the house as her strength allowed. We had our coffee time in the morning and a little wine in front of the fire at night.
There were many letters, cards, phone calls, and visitors. Everyone wanted a piece of “Joy” and she relished in the attention. Each visitor came with their own set of memories. We laughed, we cried, we reminisced, we fellow-shipped. It was a sweet time with Mama in the center, and I began to realize what my friends and family were going to mean to us over the coming months.
And, where do I begin when describing the support of her medical staff? Mama’s doctors were never in a hurry as if Mama were their most important patient of the day. The techs, the nurses, Mama’s sitters, and her hospice team were the very best! There big smiles and cheerful dispositions helped keep our focus on the positive.
My sister and I were a team when it came to Mama’s welfare. But, with Kay in Jackson, I actually think it was harder on her than on me. She was isolated from Mama’s daily care and medical treatment. I could see firsthand how Mama was doing, and Kay had to depend on my reports. With Mama away, Kay took over her house, gardens, finances and bills. Every weekend, she drove to Oxford to help with Mama’s care. Those were sweet times for the three of us.
Kay and I have always been close, but caring for Mama strengthened our bonds beyond imagination. As our beloved mother was slipping away, God in is infinite mercy and grace, was growing a love between we two sisters that would carry us through our pain and grief long after mother’s passing.
Precious Moments with our Mothers
Time marched on and the cancer spread. Mama became weaker and could not be left alone, and sitters were required when I was at work. I’ll never forget the day her hospice team arrived. A hospital bed and other equipment were ordered and my sun room became Mama’s bedroom. It was a day we dreaded but actually became a sweet time of relief and release.
Mama was thrilled to be next door to the master bedroom with me sleeping just a few feet away. I was relieved to have her close as well. Also, the sun room was in the center of our house and Mama always did love being in the middle of everything. As she spent more time in bed, she took great comfort waking and hearing the beat and rhythm of daily life from the heart of our home. She was right where she needed and wanted to be.
Mama’s health reached a plateau from late May through early June. We even hosted our family reunion in Oxford during that time. I just moved Mama, sitters, and household to the hotel for the weekend where the reunion was held. It was a glorious time, with children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and a slew of cousins in attendance. Mama was in her element. The weekend was a true celebration of her life.
Our daughter, Annaleigh, was away from home during the early days of Mama’s illness. She was a high school senior studying dance at a residential arts school, and upon graduation, coming home for the summer. I worried about Annaleigh and how she would handle the changes taking place in our home and her response to Mama’s weakening condition. My fears were groundless. Annaleigh took on the role of secondary caregiver like a pro. In fact, as mother’s care became more intense and demanding, I saw in Annaleigh the gift of healing and a true caregiver’s heart.
Since entering college, Annaleigh is still dancing but in addition has decided to pursue physical therapy school upon graduation. Would she have discovered these gifts without this life experience? Maybe not. What a beautiful picture of when we let go and let God unfold his perfect plan for us.
‘Til We Meet our Mothers Again
Five days after our family reunion, Mama suffered a massive stroke and five days after that she was gone. My husband, Jeff, best described Mama’s passing when he said “Joy just slipped quietly into the arms of the Father.”
Right after Mama got sick, a sweet cousin told me, “Joe is pacing the river bank just waiting for Joy, his beloved, to cross over.” I pondered her words and why they brought me such comfort. Now that Mama’s gone, I know the answer. Mama will be pacing the river bank awaiting me and all her loved ones just as I’ll be pacing for mine. And as that age old hymn goes “God be with you til we meet again”.
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