“The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work. Please know that it is worth it then, now, and forever.” – Jeffrey R. Holland
This Thanksgiving weekend, our responsibility is to give thanks to God for the blessings he has bestowed on us. For me, this year, in particular, I have to offer the Almighty my unbounded gratitude for giving me parents who molded me and my sisters into what we are today. Traditionally, our parents give us the foundation for building an honest, productive and loving life, that we are obliged to pass on to our children.
Last Wednesday, my sister, Dana, called to tell me that the hospice nurse at my mother’s care facility told her that my mom had only 24 to 48 hours before she passed away. I quickly packed a few clothes and started driving toward Huntington Beach. At dusk, I was pulling into the rest stop on Interstate 10, just outside of Palm Springs, when my cell phone rang. It was Dana. My mom had passed away about fifteen minutes before, while Dana was driving over to see her. My sister, Denise, was also en route from Riverside. Fortunately, my sister, Debby, and her husband, Jerry, were there when my mom passed. I sat in my car for some time, shedding some tears and thinking about my beautiful, loving, supportive, humorous, and intelligent mother.
Just before I was four years old, I was diagnosed with tuberculosis. During the months before I was admitted to Olive View Sanatorium for children with tuberculosis, my mom taught me how to read. It had to be a labor of love for her to continuously read me my favorite book, The Three Billy Goats Gruff. After who knows how many hours, which must have been stiflingly boring for mom, she would start pointing out words as she read. I began recognizing the words and after a while, with her help, I could read the pages back to mom.
I spent a year at Olive View. Our parents could pick us up one weekend a month and take us home. Decades later, my dad told me that it would break his and my mom’s hearts when they would have to drive me back to Olive View. He told me that I would say that I had a stomach ache and should stay home. He told me my mom would always get teary eyed when I did this.
When I was 13 years old, I tried out for the Christmas play at the Westchester Playhouse. I was offered the lead role, but was reluctant to accept it, because of a fear of performing for an audience. Mom sat me down and told me that the best way of overcoming a fear was to face it directly. She said that once I had acted in this play, my fear of public speaking would dissipate. Of course, she was right, as usual.
After my father died in 1987, my mom moved to Oceanside. Mom had always been athletic, and she continued to play tennis and golf. In her eighties, she even got a hole in one. Mom reignited her interest in tap dancing and joined the Ocean Hills Village Tappers. For well over a decade, she performed with them. She would always rebuff and give me a dirty look, when I referred to them as the “tap dancing grannies”.
The last four or five years had to be really hard on mom. She started to lose her motor skills and went from using a cane, to a walker and was ultimately wheelchair bound. She mostly lost her ability to speak. I believe she recognized my sisters and me, but I’m not sure. Shirley Arlene (Miller) Williams was 96 years old when she passed. My sisters and I thank God that mom passed easily. We are also so thankful that we had the best mother any kids could ask for. Shirley’s kids, grandkids and great grandkids are thankful she is in a better place.