transitions

Since I wrote last, my mother died. She would have been 99 years old had she lived to February 24th. She died January 5th.

My siblings and I had planned to get together for Mom’s birthday in February. When she died, we decided to get together anyway, and planned for her memorial service to be held on what would have been her 99th birthday. The service was, indeed, held on that date, and the church was full of people whose lives crossed Mom’s path. There was laughter, some tears, but mostly there was a growing sense of the end of a stage of my family’s life.

I am the last member of my family in this town. Someone needs to take care of Mom’s estate, her, Dad’s, and the grandparents’ graves on Memorial Day. That falls on me. I am glad to be able to do that much, though, well, it will be a sad duty, too final by far: My brother, sisters, and I are in our sixties and seventies, but we now are orphans in some real sense.

Mothers and fathers are “Mom” and “Dad” in our lives until they die. They have an honored place and value. Both my parents were coherent till the end, if physically diminished. I was able to talk business with Dad up till the end. Mom always had a quirky sense of humor that I enjoyed feeding with cartoons and funny things I came across or that my sister sent by e-mail. I loved them both, but came to like them a whole lot as an adult child.

Both believed in service to their community. Dad, for example, was a founding father of the state police officers organization when he was chief of police of my town and the local senior center. He worked well with others to see those two things came together and worked for the state and community. Mom taught swimming for 60 years through the American Red Cross. The city recognized her contribution by naming the bath house of the new swimming pool after her.

Those are very short descriptions of their contributions, and by no means all they volunteered to do as long as they were able. So strongly did they believe in volunteering that the following motto appears both on the plaque on the bath house and on Mom and Dad’s grave marker: SERVICE TO OTHERS IS THE PRICE YOU PAY FOR THE SPACE YOU OCCUPY.

They believed in it. They lived it. I’m proud to be their child, and volunteer myself in honor of that family value and the good I can do for my community, too.

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