My little sister Caroline stepped into heaven July 28. She was five years my junior and this old photo (circa 1980) captures how I remember her. Spunky, fun-loving, innocent, witty. To her things were simple and life was good. Even when it wasn’t.
For most of her life, she battled the complications and residual affects of a brain tumour discovered when she was a newlywed. The treatment destroyed her health and stole what would have been a normal life.
She spent her last 13 years in a nursing home, confined to a wheelchair, sometimes unable to feed herself or brush her own teeth. When anyone visited her, and I am not exaggerating, and asked how she was, she gave the same reply. Every time. Sometimes it was a croak, sometimes a whisper, but the words were the same: “really good.”
Caroline and Kevin have a daughter, Chelene, who wrote the most poignant eulogy for her mother that I have ever heard. Chelene’s tribute made me think — how do I want to be remembered when I am gone? As we all know (but easily forget amid the bustle and challenges and competition of life) it is the simple things. God has been calling me to simplicity for years and Chelene’s tribute to her mom typifies that call.
I didn’t know my Mom before 1981 – obviously – the year I was lucky enough to be born her daughter, but what I learned from her in the last 34 years could fill a novel. I would like to share some of her with you, since I believe everyone that had the privilege of knowing her was truly blessed. If I could summarize Mom’s philosophy on life into three categories, they would be:
Live Simply – Mom appreciated what she had, fully embraced each and every day, and was perfectly content with the life she had built. She loved Carrot River, she loved being a homemaker and stay-at-home Mom. She was the most amazing mom, and growing up would spend hours reading, playing games, teaching me, and taking me on outings. Once I was in school full time, Mom volunteered her time at the school helping children improve their reading, she loved volunteering her time to such a worthy cause and impacted the lives of many students.
Knowing how much I loved board games, Mom would play them whenever I wanted, for however long I wanted, no matter how ridiculous (I remember one game involving cardboard pizza slices and toppings that I made her play regularly!). Games became a frequent family activity. At one point she, Dad and I had a year-long ongoing game of Michigan Rummy that we would play over lunch when Dad was home from work and I was home from school. We used plastic poker chips, since Mom would never be comfortable gambling, even with pennies!
Over the years Mom had many hobbies – Cross-stitch, needlepoint, sewing, crossword and jigsaw puzzles, and once we got a home computer, her love of mahjong was born!
Love Deeply – Mom lived this with every breath. The love she had for family, and for God, knew no bounds. Not a single day has ever or will ever go by without feeling Mom’s love all around us. Her family was everything to her, there was nothing she wouldn’t do for us, and we always knew that we were her whole world.
When it comes to my Dad – anyone who doesn’t believe in soulmates never met my parents. Everyone who crossed their paths could attest to this. Mom’s favourite person was my Dad, you only had to look at her face when he walked in the room to know the depth of her love for him and his for her.
Mom always made an effort to embrace our hobbies simply because she’d rather spend time with her family than anyone else. We were the three musketeers. She became an occasional fisherwoman (and often caught the biggest fish!), enjoyed riding on the “bikes” (ATVs), and spending hours at the baseball diamonds watching Dad play ball. The three of us could often be found riding in the truck, three across, listening to the latest cassette tapes (once our taste in music started to diverge, Mom usually got to choose the music!). We took a memorable vacation to Minot, ND where many memories were made.
In 2008, Brian (officially) became part of our family after being around for 10 years, and Mom loved nothing more than reminding him that hats are not to be worn at the table – ever – not just at mealtimes! Mom found a kindred spirit in Brian, as she finally found someone who ate as slowly as she did. Many games of Sorry! were played as a foursome, with Mom usually winning by launching a sneak attack when the rest of us were too busy trying to beat each other. Mom’s presence at our wedding is one of my fondest memories, and one that I will treasure forever.
2013 brought the arrival of Blake, Mom’s grandson, and pride and joy. The smile she got on her face when Blake came to visit was second to none, and she couldn’t quite believe he was “hers”. Blake loved visiting Mom at the Health Centre, “playing” the piano, trying out each and every remote controlled recliner, and pushing Grandma up and down the halls. Blake will grow up hearing many stories of his beloved “Grandma Cline” and the amazing person she was. She set the bar unbelievably high, but I strive to be as great a mother as she always was. It will be no small feat.
Laugh Often – Mom never let a day go by without laughter (even at times when it was at her own expense!). Her clever, quick wit could often catch you off guard, and she would crack jokes when you would least expect it. Sometimes she didn’t even expect it! I fondly remember several occasions where Mom and I would collapse in a fit of giggles, to the point of tears – and while I can’t remember the reason, I can hear Mom’s laugh clearly and it warms my heart.
These three statements make up the core of who Mom was as a person and are a sample of the many, many things she taught me. You may notice I did not mention her illness, and I did this on purpose, as Mom never, not once, let it define her. In my entire life, I never heard her complain about the burdens she had to bear, not even once. She met each challenge with courage and her unwavering faith, without complaint or self-pity. It simply “was what it was”, and she never let it stop her from the principles by which she lived her life. Mom’s strong, quiet, and humble faith in God has always and will always inspire me, and I know that she is smiling on us today, joyfully and at peace.
Mom, I am not sure how I can begin to say goodbye to you, and I do so with a heavy heart – but know that I am filled with joy that you are finally free, and know you will be with us always. I will strive every day to live by your example of love, grace, and patience. I am so humbled and honoured to be your daughter. I love you forever.