Saturday, February 20

Remembering Mom

Mom left this earth to be with Jesus three years ago today.   She was 82.  How I miss her still!  She was a beautiful person.  This is her as a young woman.  She grew up on a farm just a few miles down the gravel road from where Dad and his family farmed in North Dakota, but they didn't become sweethearts until several years after high school.

Rollie and Aggie on their wedding day.  Actually, they had the professional portrait done the day after their wedding as they headed out on the honeymoon.  She made her own satin gown and veil.
They had a double wedding with her sister, Lois-- they hardly all fit in the front of the church!
This is one of my favorite photos of Mom with her cat glasses, not sure which of my sisters made the cake???
 Mom and Dad had eight children, can you imagine?  I am still wondering how she ever survived.  Just think of it- 15 straight years of diapers and not disposable ones either.  Actually there may have been a teeny break between my brother and my twin, Linda, and I, for maybe a year, but then double whammy.  And she didn't just survive it, she was like a supermom- she made very healthy, from-scratch meals for us every day, she sewed our clothes, raised a huge garden, canned everything, butchered chickens every summer, baked about ten loaves of bread every week, kept us and our clothes clean (can you imagine the laundry?), kept a pretty clean house actually, and still found time to be involved with Ladies Aid, Homemakers Club, PTO, teaching Sunday School, driving us everywhere and going to our events.  Uff dah. 

Here's the Zimmermans! 
This was taken after church and I have to wonder what that morning was like at our house, getting everyone ready and to cooperate!  Mom and Dad don't even look stressed do they?  Sister Connie on the right didn't look too thrilled, though!  Most if not all those dresses were sewn by Mom or maybe my sisters might have made their own?  I remember the photographer had me stand on two or three hymnals- I wasn't nearly that tall!

Another of my favorite photos below.  She was sleeping.  I think I was the one who took it but am not sure.  On the back of the photo Mom had written "Think my legs must've got tired as I was in the midst of drying the blender.  I don't even know who took it."  I remember it was such a shocking (and very funny) sight because we never saw her lie down or rest.  She was a busy body from the moment she got up until late at night.  She had short legs but could move very fast! 

One of the most endearing things about her was that she was a hummer, all day, every day, as she worked tirelessly to serve and meet the needs of her family. How I wish I could hear that humming again, not very many people hum anymore. She also had the gift of encouragement and kept the Current Card Co. in business ordering piles of cards and stationary and little gifty things and would faithfully send cards and letters to all her kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, siblings, anyone in the hospital and on and on, always thinking of someone else and how she could cheer them.

This was taken in 1997, about the time we started noticing signs of dementia that were later diagnosed as the dreaded Alzheimers.
It started with short-term memory stuggles, trouble with word finding, not being able to follow a recipe, etc.  She was sooooo discouraged and frustrated by this, which began a downward cycle of anxiety and depression.  She very gradually progressed through stages of paranoia, hallucinations, confusion, and losing familiarity with things and people, which was the hardest thing--when she no longer recognized us.  What a heart wrenching thing to say good-bye to your Mom while she is still alive.  She looked liked Mom and felt like Mom but Mom wasn't there.  She had stopped humming. : (  In the last 2-3 years before she died she became very much like a child, needing help with bathing and dressing, began wearing diapers, and required constant supervision. 

Linda and I visiting Mom in a nursing home where she spent a few weeks in 2005 after falling and breaking her hip.  She went home after it healed and our sister, Karen, whom our Dad called his angel, quit her job and moved back home from Colorado to help care for her.  What a blessing that was for Mom and Dad and the rest of us, too.
There were just a couple things that she still seemed to make a "connection" with even up until the end.  One was her baby doll.  She still knew exactly what to do with a baby and would rock and feed and sing to that baby doll.  It was an absolutely precious sight.
The other thing was the old hymns and songs that she loved so dearly, the ones she used to hum around the house.  When those were played on the piano or a CD she would perk up and try to sing along and sometimes get up and dance!  Most of her last two years she was very irritable and became quite combative at times, which was so totally out of her character we could hardly believe it.   But there were occasional times when she would find something humorous and let out a chuckle or laugh or give a sweet smile.  She made us laugh too, with her antics, very strange behaviors and jumbled words.  She would come out of her bedroom with underwear or a pillowcase draped on her head, wear two different shoes, put mascara on her lips as if it were lipstick, tried to pour dish soap on her pancakes, mixed and ate her food in strange combinations or stirred it into her milk.  Brother Dale once found her dentures tucked into a box of crackers in a kitchen drawer!  One time when I was home visiting I was trying to coax her into going outside to sit- it was a very warm summer day.  She insisted on wearing her winter coat and brought a diaper with "just in case we get hungry" she said. 

Leanne and I saying good-bye at the family service, it was a sad but wonderful time of sharing memories.  What a blessing it was for her to finally be free and to enter the presence of God!

The once strong but gentle hands that nurtured, served and prayed so faithfully.   
Thank you, Mom!


Rachelle said...

Oh my gosh, Laurie, what a wonderfully written, loving tribute to your mother. Thank you for sharing her life with us. I cannot imagine raising that many children... all the meals and the laundry. I think you have her smile.

Claire B. said...

Oh my goodness, Laurie, this tribute moved me to tears and beyond. The part about her remembering what to do with a baby (doll) has to be one of the most precious things I have ever read. Believe it or not, I lost my own mother 13 years ago today - yes, today. My mom had the horrible disease of ALS and so I know how hard it is to see ones mother fade; and yet, isn't their beautiful essence somehow always there and now, with us forever. God bless you, may you be blessed by sweet memories.

Connie said...

Laurie, This was a lovely tribute to our Mom, and beautifully written. I read it through tears.
Thank you for posting it!
We just got back from Spokane and celebrating Annabelle's 4th birthday...the cycle of life moves on, in another generation.

Mary said...

What a wonderful tribute to your mom, Laurie! I have fond memories of Aunt Aggie and visiting all of you at the farm. It reminds me so much of my mom and the struggles with the disease are so similar. My mother can no longer sing and can’t even walk. They look so much alike!

Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease and you really nail it when you wrote – “What a heart wrenching thing to say good-bye to your Mom while she is still alive. She looked liked Mom and felt like Mom but Mom wasn't there.” Because that is exactly how it is with Alzheimer’s.

Love the blog and the pictures are amazing. Thank you for sharing these beautiful memories.

Darla Kelly said...

Alzheimers claimed our mother's mind also. You girls have said it all - the way the disease takes them away except for the empty body. Your Mom and I had a special bond after I worked with her after you twins were born. We exchanged Christmas letters every year. I never did see her sick. We visited at Mom's funeral and she spoke of Mom at Mom's funeral (she and Mom had a bond also). It has taken me awhile before I could respond to this. So many good memories. She never never complained about all she did. Like you said just hummed through it! You did a beautiful job of sharing these memories Laurie.

Anonymous said...

Hi Laurie...I hope this goes through as I wrote on here before and the comment didn't work...don't know how to respond to these blogs. Anyway...this was just a wonderful tribute to your Mom and it brought a lot of tears. Aunt Aggie was just a special person, so caring and giving to others. This is the hard part in life losing a Mom or Dad. We are blessed tho to have had them this long and to have the years of memories. I remember being at your farm. Playing upstairs, in the barn and in that one building by the road coming into the farm. I remember you and Linda on the table just after getting a bath..this was in the old house and Linda peeing on me...just shot up in the funny! Aggie sure looks like Mom in the picture of her standing in the doorway. Mom had gone through the same stages as your Mom. Mom would hold a doll too as they go back in time and actually act like a baby again in some ways. Mom was happy tho and goofy so I had many laughs and good times with her while she went through her different stages. Dad was so good to her and helped in anything he could and still goes to see her 3 times a week and treats her as if she knows what is going on. I finally had to tell Dad that I just can't do it anymore as she just couldn't do anything for herself so I called to have her move into the home. It's been almost 7 long and I pray that the Lord will take her home soon. Alzheimers is just such a terrible disease. Thanks for sharing.

Karen said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful tribute to Mom, Laurie. For quite awhile after Mom passed away, I could only remember her as she was with the Alzheimer's, I suppose because I spent so much time with her at the end. But gradually the memories of her as the wonderful, caring person she was came back, and now that's how I always remember her. She was the most selfless person I have ever known, always putting others first, and she truly did have the gift of encouragement as you said. Your story paid tribute to both parts of her life, the Petals and the Thistles. Kudos!