Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

A Mother's Love Never Ceases

January 17, 2000

My 98-year-old mother awoke from her sleep briefly at 4:00 a.m. the morning of the new millennium and my sister Bonna congratulated her - she had made it to the year 2000! She mumbled something and went back to sleep never to wake again.

For the past month my mother had been slipping into a world of sleep and confusion. She would be awake for only brief periods during the day. After all these years her mental acuity finally left her. She had a similar bout of fading in early November, but rebounded to her old self when all of my brothers and sisters rushed up to Fortuna, California to see her. Everyone wanted to see her before she died.

I wasn’t able to go then, but with two of my daughters and a granddaughter, we had a remarkable visit the day after Thanksgiving. What a treasured memory! She was as sharp as a tack and it was a great visit. I am glad I was able to have that final visit while she was herself.

She will be missed. We were never prepared to let her go until her quality of life disappeared. She was actively concerned with her family until the end. She had saved boxes of letters, pictures and keepsakes for each of the children over the years. It was all there. It was her final legacy. I was told to bring an empty suitcase and I brought back a full one.

I will miss her phone calls. We all will. She called children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren to keep up on our lives and family news. She wanted to know about my travels and worried about them. She wanted to hear of my safe return. She had lost a son when he was age 27 and since then she carried an appreciation for the fragility of life. I always knew I had a mother who loved me.

She was proud of the family, hungered for details and kept up not only with my life but the children’s life as well. She especially enjoyed the missionary letters from Mongolia and Slovakia. On holidays and special occasions and for no occasion at all I could depend on a phone call from my mother. This wasn’t just for me, but for everyone in our big, big family.

My mother, despite macular degeneration of her eyesight and with the help of magnifying glasses, sewed and quilted baby blankets for all of her newly arrived great-grandchildren. She made over 70 blankets plus one for a great-great-grandchild and others for great-nieces and nephews. This never-ending project finally ended, but not without a quilting party of children and grandchildren during the November visit when everyone put the finishing touches on a quilt for the latest arrival, my grandson Luke, born August 29, 1999.

She kept in touch with friends and acquaintances over the years. It took effort and thoughtfulness to remember and love so many people. Many people from many places count her as a friend. Her health was good enough to enable her to fly to visit her family. She attended her family reunions and enjoyed the people from her generation with great relish. Family members would plumb her for information about their parents and grandparents.

She was not intrusive nor was she demanding. She understood her limits in showing her concern. She was easy to care for. My sisters, who lived close and came to assist her in her final years, enjoyed being around her. Bonna took pleasure in providing the nursing care she needed the last few months of life. Her role was made easier by my mother's easy-going nature and the love she radiated. It wasn't a burden but a blessing to be at her side.

The trials of her life are past, including the death of two children, first a son and eventually a daughter who looked after her during most of her retirement years. In years past she performed heroically as a farmer's wife and a seamstress. She took on responsibility and did the best she could under times of hardship and poverty. She was prototypically stoic from her Norwegian heritage and shielded her family from her own troubles. She was the anchor for our lives. She was the glue that kept the extended family together.

In later life, she learned to enjoy basketball on TV and kept up with her favorite teams. She tended to her abundant flowers, her raspberry bushes and the beauty of her surroundings. She engaged in a good conversation and was up-to-date on current affairs and happenings in the world.

We were lucky. We had a mother who gave emotional support and encouragement, who listened and cared, who gave freely and learned to accept help graciously. It was fun to be around her. She had a good sense of humor. Around Christmas, as my sister went in to check on her, she pretended to be asleep. At a choice moment, my mother let forth with a resounding "boo" that scared the daylights out my sister.

We were lucky to have the mother we did and to have her as long as we did. She showed us that a mother’s love never ceases. The example of her love will march into the 21st century even if she can’t do it.