Mother’s Day 2010 will be a bitter-sweet day for me, because it will be the first without my own mother. As you, my readers and friends, know, I’m dealing with my grief over Mama’s death by writing about her as each “first” holiday approaches.
Mama was quite a woman. She and my father homesteaded in Alaska in 1947. They packed three little kids ages four, three, and one, into an army surplus jeep towing a luggage trailer and headed out. I remember my father’s mother standing beside the jeep, crying so hard the front of her dress was soaked. Everybody thought they were crazy.
From that point on, Mama’s life was an adventure. The description of her homesteading years are a step back into the 19th Century. The only convenience she enjoyed beyond what the pioneers had was the jeep. She chopped wood, washed clothes on a scrub board, shot game, and read by kerosene light. She helped Daddy build a dirt floor log cabin with a sod roof. An old sourdough knew that cabin was no place for a pregnant woman and three little kids, so he loaned my folks a cottage in Copper Center, a trading post about 25 miles from our homestead.
The house flooded in February because of ice jams and we moved into the Copper Center Roadhouse, where Daddy worked as the cook. Mama had to go 200 miles away to the nearest doctor to have my baby brother. In the spring, we moved back to the homestead. Our community’s first school was held on the front porch of our cabin.
Widowed at the age of 30, Mama was left to raise four children by herself, until she met my stepfather who helped her finish the job. Gene, with his snowy hair and beard, rosy cheeks, and bright blue eyes, became a delightful grandfather to my children. Widowed again at the age of 52, Mama married Woody. When he died, Mama helped me start Tahoma Companies in Cedar City. We worked together for nearly 10 years, until her health began to decline and she was forced to finally really retire. During that decade and the previous one, she also worked for my brothers in their sign business.
She was a Relief Society president, a Sunday School teacher, and the scribe for her Patriarch husband. She won numerous awards for her beautiful oil paintings and water colors, and she had a delightful sense of humor that drew people to her.
When Mama left this world, she had 38 grandchildren and 109 great-grandchildren, with four more on the way. All who knew her appreciated her loving, generous personality. She typified exactly what a mother should be. She was sure that her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were the smartest, most beautiful creatures to walk the earth, she taught them with love, not criticism.
All her life, she thought about, served, and sacrificed for her family. Until only a few months before her death, each of her great-grandchildren received a hand-made blanket or latch hook pillow at birth (sometimes the gift didn’t arrive for a year or two, depending on how many little ones were born near each other). And each grandchild and great-grandchild received a card with a dollar bill in it every birthday.
I believe a mother’s love is stronger and more enduring than any other kind of love. I believe it comes closest to the love God shows us than any other human emotion. Memories of my mother and her love soothes and comforts me and helps me feel God’s love during this stressful time in my life.