Robert Meyer
Mother's long journey comes to a gracious ending
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By Robert Meyer
January 24, 2017

At 12:30 AM Sunday morning January 15th, my wife and I were awakened by a knock on the front door. When I answered, two men with badges, one a sheriff's deputy and the other in plain clothes inquired as to my identity. For a fleeting moment, I wondered if the telephone call I received 18 months earlier, from a guy with a foreign accent, saying I owed the IRS $3,000.00, was actually from a real agent. In that case asking him how the weather was in Afghanistan and hanging up wasn't a good move. The plain clothes man then touched my shoulder and said "We regret to inform you that your Mother has passed away." I immediately felt different, but hardly relieved.

Last summer, I was in a dental office when a song came on the music system that brought back a memory. I remembered hearing this song by Paul Revere and the Raiders (Him Or Me – What's It Gonna Be) when my family was traveling back home from the Wisconsin State Fair nearly 50 years ago. A light blue station wagon barrels down the interstate, while one of my older sisters was holding a radio in the back seat. We didn't have an in-dash radio in the car.

I remembered that incident again this week because, with the passing of my Mother, it occurred to me that half the occupants riding in the car that night, all members of my immediate family, are now deceased. First my older brother, then each of my parents.

With that said, I want to present a few incidents from the past that represent the thoughts I have of my Mother.

First we travel back more than a half-century. The year is 1965. Appleton, Wisconsin is a shopping hub for neighboring communities. The stores are open late on Friday nights. Police are directing traffic on three busy corners intersecting with a downtown teaming with people. I am entering the first grade. On Friday after supper, I walk with my Mother, the five blocks to Voeck's Drug Store, where you can order a lime or cherry beverage from the soda fountain. For the rest of the evening we walked up and down the avenue looking at stores and shops. Sometimes, I'd get a new toy. The youngest kid is always spoiled after all. Adding to the festive nature of the experience is the imagery conjured up by the recent hit song from the British vocalist Petula Clark, aptly titled "Downtown."

Next we fast forward to the early 1970's. In her younger days, my Mother had a collection of 78rpm records, which featured vocalists from the 1940's accompanied by orchestras. These records eventually got damaged and were discarded. Carnival vendors of that era had stacks of these records that they used for games were you could win prizes by throwing baseballs at the records to break them. The only song I can actually remember was entitled "Drill ye Tarriers drill," a modern compellation of an Irish folk song about immigrants who worked on the railroad. My Mother boasted of her Irish heritage, though it was only a minority component of her ethnic background.

Eventually, my Dad brought home a stereo system that more resembled a piece of furniture than an electronic devise. My Mother bought records of the same genre, now on 33rpm long play albums. In our new house, the kitchen table was a focal point, not only for eating, but for playing board games. I might be playing checkers in the kitchen with friends or family, when suddenly a piece of music like the "Blue Tango," or Frankie Lane signing the theme to "High Noon.' would start playing in the background.

Finally, I move to a more contemporary illustration. My Mother often bought figurines and trinkets with Christmas themes. One year, she purchased an interesting piece from a local Walgreen's drug store. It was a platform with a snowman walking his dog. When she pressed a certain spot the snowman would sing Jingle Bells, then his dog would bark the tune. Afterward, each would take turns vibrating. I hate to admit it guys, but this thing was cute. After a number of years, my Mother stopped displaying it at Christmas, so I asked her where it was. Apparently, the battery had run low and it was more complicated than just opening a compartment and changing batteries. She asked me if I wanted to take it home, so I did.

While many folks knew my Mother when younger, they lost touch in the mid seventies. After a brief hospitalization, my Mother got a job placement as a live-in housekeeper and care-giver for an elderly woman. Six years later, when the woman died, she moved into an apartment where she lived for over 35 years until last December. At that time, due to worsening Dementia, family members had to intervene to get her the treatment she needed. She move to an assisted living center to begin the final and exceedingly short chapter of her life.

But something as important as reflecting on a life demands more introspection than a few lively anecdotes or historical observations.

My Mother gave birth to three children in succession, then I came along several years later. Conclude what you want from that.

My Mother experienced the onset of emotional problems that coincided with her pregnancy with me. In a sense, one might say that her life's potential was marginalized by giving life to me. I specifically chose to be a mental health specialist during my military service in order to get more insight into her condition. As a result of this condition, there was some difficult situations growing up, and I sometimes wallowed in self-pity over my predicament.

But years later, on her birthday, shortly after the death of my older brother, she told me she had regrets over how her past behaviors had contributed to end of her marriage and loss of her household. At that point, I recognized that I could no longer feel sorry for myself; she had suffered far worse loss.

In the Christian tradition, we profess to having a loving and gracious Savior. Yet, even those who are not very devout recognize there are significant problems of suffering and injustice everywhere we look. This paradox is known as the "Problem of Evil." For myself, I have found satisfactory answers to this problem in the catechisms and scriptures of the faith. Others have become disheartened or cynical. But what is sufficient for the inquiry of the mind does not always satisfy the cries of the heart.

I have surveyed the pictures of my Mother's early life, and I see an energetic young person with potential, aspirations, hopes and dreams. Numerous people have attested to my Mother's kind and generous spirit, yet at times drastic changes in her temperament exasperated those close to her.

In my heart I grieve that her life's potential was so handicapped. But in my head I'm thankful and blessed that God allowed my mother to pass on peacefully in her sleep. Each of her children, in separate visits, got to see her in a good frame of mind the last time they saw her. My Mother died on the 67th anniversary of her first child's birth.

I close with this citation that I believe stands in the gaps.

Romans 8:28New International Version (NIV)

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

© Robert Meyer

 

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Robert Meyer

Robert Meyer is a hardy soul who hails from the Cheesehead country of the upper midwest... (more)

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