I lost my mom Sept. 7, two weeks after her 96th birthday. I keep reminding myself that she lived a very long, full life, with 95.5 of those years good quality time. That helps, to a point.
I have no doubt that she is, as they say, in a better place. But this is a bewildering time of transitions for me. I’m working to let go of the images of her final week on earth and to get back to memories of all the decades that she filled with family and friends, love and laughter.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that I haven’t been posting as frequently the past couple of months. This is why. My thoughts and emotions are so scattered that I can’t harness them enough to write anything coherent.
So today, I would like to re-run a post that I wrote on Mother’s Day, 2014. I’m not updating it to reflect anything that has come later. I’ll save those thoughts for a later post.
Happy Mother’s Day
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.
–from The Oven Bird by Robert Frost
The majority of my friends no longer have a living mother to celebrate with today. I know that. I am grateful that Mom is alive at 93 and that she was able to spend a few hours with me this afternoon.
Mom was diagnosed with mild dementia about seven years ago. At the time, she was still able to live alone, with some support from me. She drove her car until she was 90. She had a social life centered around our church. Her Christmas card list was longer than mine.
But over the years, the dementia has stolen more of her memory and more of her quality of life. Then, in November, she had a stroke that caused little physical damage but left her memory and speech permanently diminished.
I am fortunate. She remembers me. She also remembers my brother and sister-in-law and a handful of friends that she sees most often. She is one of the highest functioning residents in the memory care unit where she lives.
As one of my friends pointed out today, I am now the one mothering my mother. I, who have no children, am trying to give back to Mom a fraction of what she has given me for 66 years. Sometimes I do fairly well. But not always.
Mom does remember Home Sweet Abbey. Nothing makes her happier than coming home with me for an afternoon. When she sees me arrive to pick her up, after punching in the code to open the door of the locked unit, she claps her hands in glee. We make the five minute drive, and I help her through the door from the garage into my kitchen. Immediately, her eyes begin scanning the room.
She is looking for my cats. For Angie and Shadow, though she doesn’t remember either of their names or which one used to be hers. As we approach them one at a time, I begin whispering Good Kitty, hoping the cat will be receptive to Mom’s persistent petting. Today the girls were fairly cooperative.
Mom found Shadow in one of her favorite napping places in my sunroom.
Then Angie shared the couch with Mom for a while, as we watched old episodes of The Lawrence Welk Show.
While we enjoyed our cookies and ice cream, the sky was darkening ominously. Mom noticed and said, “We’d better go back.” I agreed. It wouldn’t be easy getting her, her gifts, and her walker from the car to the nursing home in the rain and hail that were predicted.
Now, back home, the rain batters my windows and Robert Frost’s question lingers in my mind. What do I make of the diminished thing that was this Mother’s Day? How do I remember the beautiful, sweet, brilliant, loving person my mother was without mourning what she has lost? And what I have lost? And, isn’t it too soon to mourn, anyway? I still have her. Or do I?
Yes, surely, a diminished thing is preferable to nothing. And for that, I am grateful.
Yes, I am grateful.
If you would like to read the obituary I wrote for Mom, you will find that below:
Marjorie A. Dierksen, 96, Woodstock, died Sept. 7, 2016, at Hearthstone Manor in Woodstock.
She was born Aug. 25, 1920, to Bruno and Hilda (Hagen) Hahn, on the family farm in rural Davenport, Iowa. She married Carl Dierksen Aug. 14, 1940, in Marshalltown, Iowa.
Marge led a long life filled with adventure and love. She was a farm wife and full-time mother while her children were growing up. Then she worked as a secretary at the Rock Island Arsenal in Rock Island. After she and her husband moved to Colorado Springs in the early 1970’s, she worked as a secretary at the U.S. Air Force Academy. In 1989, they retired and moved to Woodstock.
Through the years, she traveled extensively in the U.S., took a trip to Germany to visit a castle where distant cousins live, and learned to fly a small airplane. She enjoyed sewing, quilting, scrapbooking, and going out to lunch with her many friends. Even in her 90s, her Christmas card list held more than 100 names because she kept every friend she ever made.
She was an active member of Grace Lutheran Church, Woodstock, where she was blessed to be a blessing. She served on the church council, as a deacon, as a home communion minister, and as leader of Grace Circle. She also participated in the sewing circle, Ladies Aid, and Senior Luncheons. She worked on Mistletoe Magic and the rummage sale for many years. She loved to tell the story of how she and Carl found the Lord.
She is survived by her children, Caryl Dierksen, Woodstock, and Craig (Rosie DeLullo) Dierksen, Kiowa, CO; two granddaughters, Tina (Scott)Takahaski and Jessica Mears (fiancé Mike Walker), both of Colorado; two great grandchildren, Drew and Morgan Mears; and the residents and staff of Traditions at Hearthstone, her final family.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband in 1996, and her beloved cat, Molly.
A Celebration of Life will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, at Grace Lutheran Church, 1300 Kishwaukee Valley Road. A visitation, beginning at 9 a.m., will precede the service.
Memorials in her name may be made to Grace Lutheran Church, 1300 Kishwaukee Valley Rd., Woodstock, IL 60098; JourneyCare Hospice, 405 Lake Zurich Rd., Barrington, IL 60010; or to a charity of one’s choice.