When I was growing up back in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, Mother prided herself on preparing us kids for anything life might send our way. Her own mother had suffered a massive stroke when she was only five years old. As the oldest of four children, my mother professed that it was hard work and a strong faith in God that got her through those rough years. She was a shining example of Yankee faith and fortitude, and she passed along those values to each of us.
Still, nothing could have prepared me for the void that Mother’s death on October 14 would cause. She’d lived 96 healthy years and passed quietly in her sleep after enjoying a wonderful visit with the four of us. I was grateful for that. But now the person who’d helped me get through everything was gone.
Never again would I dial her telephone number after a difficult day on the job as a nurse practitioner at the VA Medical Center. Never again would I hear the dearly familiar pearls of wisdom that had shaped my life.
Sometimes when a patient was going through a trying time, one of Mother’s little sayings would come to mind and I’d share it with them. I remember the first time I met Mr. Sampson, a World War II veteran with emphysema and arthritis.
I’d just moved to Appalachia from upstate New York, and my accent quickly branded me as a northerner and the new kid on the block. Mr. Sampson wasn’t at all happy I’d been assigned to his care. “I’m short-winded and can’t get around good anymore,” he practically barked at me. “It takes me twice as long to cut the grass as it used to. And then they give me some foreigner like you.”
After an introduction like that, I said a quick prayer, and all of a sudden a memory of Mother and me on our dairy farm back home came surging back.
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