Last week, we got one of those dreaded phone calls. For those of you with aging parents, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about...that call that comes in on your cell at 4:45 a.m...that ring tone that just makes your heart sink.
Last Monday, we received word that Vern's mom, Lillian Wingert, had passed away and had gone to be with the Lord. We shouldn't have been surprised because Mom had faced some really tough times for years with her diabetes. In fact, we often referred to her as "the miracle lady" because she had survived against all odds. So, maybe what was going on was that the expectation was there that she would continue to be the miracle lady for quite a while. But, her time had come and God decided that she needed to come home.
Do you believe in coincidences?
Well here's an interesting one. Mom passed on on June 18th, which would have been Vern's Dad's 85th birthday (he passed away a couple of years ago). OK, I think that there was no coincidence there...that God has a great sense of humor (and timing) and that Dad wanted to share some heavenly birthday cake and ice cream with Mom on his special day :).
Over the years, I've heard women in my classes telling mother-in-law stories. Some of them are funny...some, not so much. I remember one class where the stories were coming on fast and furious and quite frankly, they weren't all that positive. One of the gals in the class asked me if I had some mother-in-law stories. I told her that I had tons of them...except that they were all good!
Sharing about Mom during her memorial service was something I just couldn't do without totally breaking down but I wanted to take a little time and write about her.
From the very beginning, when I first visited Vern's home during our college years, I was totally accepted. Mom made me feel right at home...in fact, I honestly don't remember ever going through an awkward transition from being a stranger to being the daughter-in-law. Mom's favorite place in the home was in the kitchen and though she initially turned down offers of help to cook, when she figured out that I really loved to cook and wanted to be a part of the meal process, she gave me things to do. It was during those times that I really got to know Mom.
She was really passionate about her family. Her husband and her "children" (she hated when people referred to them as "kids" :)) were her top priority for sure. Much time was spent in nourishing and feeding her family, in providing a clean and comfortable environment for them, and in tending her gorgeous flower gardens. Mom was also an avid shopper, loved to travel and was always game for new experiences and adventures.
She was a fairly quiet person, especially in large groups and most especially in her latter years, but she had high spirits and a great sense of adventure that very few people knew about. In fact, during her memorial service, the husband of her late best friend from high school and college days shared some really funny stories about the two girls that no one had known about. Hmmmm, the things that parents don't share :).
It was also really cool that Mom's three surviving children, Vern, Beth and Greg, all chose to speak at her service and pay tribute to her. I loved that each of them focused on different aspects of Mom...that each of them shared from their own perspective...and that the total picture of Mom was someone who lived her Christianity, who loved her husband, children and grandchildren, and who shared much by way of food and visitation time with her church community.
I just wanted to share a bit of Mom's life through a few pictures.
This was a really common sight to see when Mom and Dad were visiting. Not only did Mom read to each of her children, she spent countless hours reading to her grandchildren. I could always count on Dad and Mom to spend lots of time with Ashley when they came in from Pennsylvania to visit. If it wasn't reading, it was taking her to the park, or playing games for hours on end. I can distinctly remember Mom and Ashley playing Chutes and Ladders for hours and hours...Bingo was another favorite.
One of our favorite times together was when we took Mom and Dad to Chincoteague Island in Virginia for a long weekend. It was great seeing the wild ponies (Ashley was totally into the Misty and Stormy stage of her life), eating seafood (soft shelled crabs were in season, yum!), walking the beach, fishing for flounder, and of course, building sand castles. Mom talked about that weekend for years...she must have enjoyed it as much as we did.
Vern with Mom after Dad's memorial service. Mom was a gracious lady. You could count on her expressing gratitude through her many thank you notes, written until her eyesight had gotten poor. She loved writing letters and staying in touch. She also never missed a trick. When she'd come to visit, inevitably she would zone right in on something that hadn't been there the last time she was...with a little comment like "is that something new?". Sharp...right to the end :).
I loved my mother-in-law. I learned lots from her, including the gracious art of accepting people for who they were. My life is better for having known her.
Mom is in a better place. She's reunited with her husband (her memorial service was held on what would have been their 60th anniversary) and with the daughter she lost when Cheryl was only 25. I am grateful that Mom was a part of my life.
Her children and 2 of her grandchildren (Michael was unable to be there) before heading to the airport on Saturday.
Mom will be missed...but never forgotten.