Forgive me while I indulge myself with memories and thoughts of the most important person ever in my life – my mother – on her birthday.
My mother, Jessie, was born on a farm in the Michigan ‘thumb’ on April 10, 1906. As she often said, she was born with the horse and buggy, and lived to see men on the moon, and the computer age. She lived through two world wars and a depression, the great flu epidemic, was widowed twice, lost one child in infancy, and two of her other three children before it was time for her to finally leave us here on earth. She told me many times how lucky she was that I was born when she was 41 years old, as I was her only child to survive her. I was unexpected, but not unwelcome.
Today would be her 114th birthday, if she had lived to see this day. As it is, she lived to be 91 years, and 3 months.
Time is flying by, and it doesn’t seem possible that she has been absent from this earth for almost 23 years. She will live in my heart here on earth – until it is my time to join the rest of the family!
My mom wasn’t famous, or rich. She was just a girl, born on a farm, who did her best. She wasn’t perfect, but she was special to her family and many friends. Her favorite things were family, gardening, writing poetry, and spending time with children. She was a Christian to whom sharing her faith was the most important thing of all.
She didn’t like to cook, and said that if she ever took up drinking alcohol, it would be when 5:00 pm rolled around and it was time to start dinner.
Did I mention that she had a great sense of humor? When she died, and cousin Bette, aunt Verna and I saw her for the first time in her casket, my cousin said there was something wrong, but she couldn’t pinpoint it. Then she said, “I know! She isn’t smiling!” Then we both started crying … By the way, she asked to be buried in pretty night clothes, and she was – a pink satin negligee and wrapper.
Here is part of a tribute that ‘Curtie’ – the self-described pesky kid next door – wrote about Jessie:
Jessie always gave me a tour of the garden, site of the old barnyard, the reason for the ease at which things grew, I was told. It was here where Jessie’s enthusiasm for the simple things in life made an impression on me. It was early July, the second season for some new strawberry plants from Kraft’s Greenhouse. As we walked down the row, Jessie exclaimed, “Oooh Curtie, look! A berry!” And at that moment it seemed that I had caught the contagious joy of the first berry of the season. That thought has always remained in my mind, and I retrieve it often. It reminds me that the important things in life are the simple things, and it reminds me of my friend, Jessie.
Sisters Verna, Evelyn and Jessie. On vacation at Niagara Falls.
Jessie and great-granddaughter Julie. Jessie’s 90th birthday party.
Mom and me on Mother’s Day.
Aunt Verna, granddaughter Jen, and Jessie, in Bradenton, Florida, Christmas, 1993.
Jessie and Jen, on the farm.
Her granddaughter wrote to her ‘Gram’ for her 90th birthday:
When I was a teenager, I remember Grandma used to say “You never listen to me!” But Gram, you were wrong. I listened, and I watched and learned; and I believe that there’s a little magic piece of you inside me.
I know it’s that little piece that makes me stop on my walk to the train in the morning to watch the rest of the sunrise, or pull over to the side of the road to pick up a fall leaf or smell the lilacs in the spring. Grandma used to cut fruit apart to show me the beautiful patterns inside. She watered the plants and told me to listen to them drink. She brushed the dirt off the vegetables in the garden and bit into them, telling me to taste their goodness. She sees beauty and magic everywhere. I believe she sees God all the time, in all the good and lovely things of the earth.
Gram, I hope you know how rich my life is and what wonderful memories I have because you were there for me. What a lucky child I was to have a grandmother with an endless supply of “rainy day” projects and your bottomless scrap bags and boxes full of fabric, felt, sequins, buttons, construction paper, papier mache, modeling clay, paints and brushes! You were always thinking of Kevin and me, planning special treats and activities for us. And you always, always had time to listen to my childish thoughts and ideas. Maybe I was “spoiled” as a child, but I think it’s great that you made me feel like the most important person in the world.
Even now, I feel your unconditional love and your prayers for me every day. When I can’t sleep, I hear your voice: “Think quiet thoughts.” When I’ve messed things up, I remember your wise, “What’s done is done.” Most important I remember your “I love you.”
Thank you for all you have given to me. Happy Birthday!
Thanks, Mom, for doing it all. Thanks for teaching me what is important in this life. I only hope that I can do half as well, and half as much, as you have. I’ll try, anyway.
I love you, mom. Happy birthday!