Passing by a farm house, dad saw a figure through a thin stand of trees. He leaned back, reining in the team of horses and wagon he was driving. The trees moved by slowly, allowing him to see a young woman bending over a rake. She was in a garden, close to the road. She was wearing a light coloured dress but dad was drawn to her profile. She caught him staring when she raised her head and looked back across the shallow ditch. Dad said he remembered her face well. Shy smile, bright clear eyes, wavy long brown hair. "She was sure pretty," he said.
Dad was 73 when he told me this story. And as he did, it seemed as though the creases on his forehead smoothed out and his blue eyes deepened to the colour of the lake we were walking beside.
One day dad stopped the horses, or the car, or whatever he was driving, and got to know mom. A cracked and yellow edged picture from their courtship shows mom sitting on the front of a 1930 something Chevrolet. Dad has his arm around her waist and is leaning into her, one foot is raised, resting on the running board. Mom has that shy smile and those bright eyes that dad spoke of; and she seems ready to float up off the fender.
They married after a brief courtship, settled into the vagaries of farm life, and raised a family.
In her quiet and charitable way mom gave herself to her kids; and over the years taught us forbearance and industry.
She is a woman of faith. It was needle pointed, embroidered, stitched in pictures and religious thoughts, and hung up around her home. Most often it was taped to the fridge in hand copied bible verses.
If she was worried, verses would appear on the fridge door. The greater the difficulty, the more bible verses.
They also showed up in the tobacco pouch I thought I had hid well enough. Over the years, as her kids grew up, I’m certain the entire King James Bible passed across the refrigerator door. And all the while, she maintained her forgiving and magnanimous spirit.
This is the part of her faith that floats to the top. And many of us here have experienced the beauty of her heart, faith and spirit.
I saw her beauty in other unexpected ways. Being raised in an evangelical home we were taught a doctrine known as the rapture. In church, it was preached with intensity and it made an impression on young minds. The rapture is the belief that before the great tribulation, as mentioned in the book of Revelations, God will rapture, or take up all true Christians from the earth.
I was nine or ten years old the day it happened. It was Saturday and I had slept in. The morning was fresh and bright. But the house was still. There was no usual muted mid-morning clamour. No squeak in the floor that told me dad was leaning back in his chair. There was no little sister rustling about, no usual rattle in the kitchen.
I went down stairs. I stood at the landing and knew the rapture had happened. The door was wide open, they hadn’t gone through the ceiling, they were sucked through the door. I was left behind. And the amazingly bright day turned dark.
I ran outside in a blur. I turned toward the street… nothing. I ran to the back of the house…my mother was hanging up the wash. Oh no! Mom didn’t make it either!
I stood blinking. The world returned. My sense returned, and I realized that if my mother was still here, nothing happened. She would easily have been the first to be snatched up. The day came back in a blaze; twice as fresh and twice as bright, as a result of my survival.
My mother was a vision, as radiant as an angel, beautiful as she stretched and stood on her toes pinning white sheets to the sky.
Today would be a good day. I would find a wild crocus for her. She liked wild flowers.
Mom taught us an appreciation for growing things. She loved her garden and the fresh things it produced. But I remember her saying how she wished she could grow fruit like they could in Kelowna.
I have a favourite picture of mom. It’s from a vacation that mom and dad took in B.C. In the picture mom is holding on to the stem of a cherry, pulling off the ripe fruit with her teeth. Her other hand is holding down a loaded branch. On her face, an expression of sheer delight. Occasionally she gave herself permission for sheer delight.
Delight is what she has given and still gives to her children. Like the kind of delight my dad experienced when he first spied her through a thin line of poplar trees.
Thank you mom, for your steady grace and secure love. You are numbered among the ones who will inherent the earth.
Today on your 90th birthday we lift a glass to you…you, to us, remain, always, beautiful.