Memories of Our Beloved Mama

     “She looketh well to the ways of her household and eateth not the bread of idleness.”

      Proverbs 31:27



 “Supper’s ready.”


     As kids, we all waited for Mama’s call. She could whip up a great meal with next to nothing. There were no recipes for her. A pinch of this, a dash of that, or two eggs was also good without. We always came home from school to find a hot meal waiting on the table. She passed down all her secrets to us kids.


     The years flew by. We all married and started families of our own. My husband, Buddy, and I were building our own home. Whenever we worked on the house, if Mama was there, she volunteered her services by doing all the cooking. Our two daughters and our son loved making cookies with their grandma.


     Mama taught me how to cook, and I planned a special meal for her one day—a big feast. My sister, Penny, was coming, too. I had a turkey in the oven and all the makings of a Thanksgiving dinner.

     The sound of a car pulling in sent me to the door. Mama and my sister, Penny, always the life of the party, smiled & waved.


     “Supper’s ready, come on in.”


     Putting my arms around Mama, I noticed she didn’t look right. Her skin cast a yellow tone.


     “Are you feeling okay, Mama?”


      “Oh, yes, I’m fine,” she said.


     Penny stood behind Mama and shook her head, “No.” 


     After our big feast, we all sat down to relax. I found a moment to talk to Penny alone.


     “No, Mama has not been feeling well lately,” she said, “and we both know she doesn’t like going to a doctor.” 


     We both knew we had to convince her to go. After a long talk & some resignation, Mom reluctantly agreed to see a doctor.


      “But if they find anything seriously wrong,” she said, “I don’t want to know about it.”


     Penny and I promised we wouldn’t tell her if the doctor had bad news.


     The doctor wanted to admit her to the hospital and run some tests. Penny took 

him aside while I stayed with Mama. She told the doctor about Mama’s choice not to find out if the results were terrible.


     “I can’t do that,” he said, “but I guess if she doesn’t ask, I don’t have to tell her.”

     “Mama,” I said, “since you can’t hear very well, how about if all the correspondence with the doctor will be between Penny and me?” She agreed.


     After many tests, we were visiting Mama in the hospital, waiting for the results. We saw Mama’s doctor coming down the hall. Penny and I walked down to meet him.


     He greeted us with the awful news. 


     “The test shows that she has a liver disease.”


     “How bad is it?” we asked.


     “It will take her life,” he said.


     One of us managed to ask, “How long does she have?”


     “I can’t tell you that; it could be a week, a month, a year, or she may not

even make it out of this hospital.”


     “Will she be in any pain?” I asked.


     “Well, that’s the one good thing about this disease; no, she won’t be in pain.”


     The doctor shook our hands and walked away.


     Penny and I put our arms around each other. The world seemed to spin. We stood there sobbing and digging for tissues. 


     “We better dry our eyes and go back to her room. We don’t want her to know that we’ve

 been crying. “What are we going to tell her?” I asked.


     “Let’s tell her she has a liver disease, but that’s it’s something she can take medication for.”


     We tried to fix our tear-stained faces, then slowly headed down the hall to Mama‘s room. 


     I thought she could tell by looking at our faces that something was wrong, but she pretended not to notice as she bought our story.


     We all sat quietly, lost in our thoughts until we heard a voice over the loudspeaker.


     “Visiting hours are now over.”


     Penny and I hugged Mom, said our goodbyes, kissed her and walked away. How many more hugs would we be able to share?  


     We started making our plans. “Mama will need lots of tender loving care. After caring well for all of us kids, it’s our turn to show love and care for her. Since Mama is living with you, Penny, I can stay with her on the weekends. That way, you and Gary can work on the house you’re building.”


     We put our plan into action. Buddy dropped me off at Penny’s every Friday morning and returned for me on Sunday night. Mama was up and then down, having both good and bad days. One massive blessing during all of this was that she never had any pain. The doctor was right. Her mind stayed alert and aware, but her main complaint was being tired. I tried to make every weekend with Mama special. I considered it a blessing that God used me that way.


     One day, while trying to lighten the stress, Penny and I dressed up in costume after she came home. We were going to play Sonny and Cher. Penny played the part of Cher, which left me playing the part of Sonny. We sang along to Karaoke as we videotaped ourselves. Mama slept soundly in bed. Penny got all decked out in a fancy dress that sparkled and put on a long brown wig that reached the middle of her back. I tried to act the part of handsome Sonny. I wore a ruffled shirt and a vest and combed bangs across my forehead. Penny took the mic first. She tossed her long, dark hair back and licked her lips, belting, “They say we’re young, and we don’t know, won’t find out until we grow.” 

Then it was my turn to bellow out.


     “Well, I don’t know if all that’s true, but you got me, and baby, I’ve got you.”


     Then you could hear us sing in unison, “I Got You Babe.”


     Penny and I were laughing like crazy and singing our hearts out. We heard a commotion coming from the bedroom and stopped singing to hear Mom yell, “What is all that horrible racket out there?”


     Next Friday, it was just Mama and me. I wanted her to be the Star in my videotape production. When I was a little girl, Mama would give me anything I wanted if I just asked her enough times. That’s what I was hoping for that Friday.


     ”Oh, come on, Mama, it will be fun.” I had to ask several times before I convinced her to play along with me. She agreed to do it, so I hurried before she changed her mind. It was the right time since it was one of her good days. I had to get her in costume, but I didn’t want to make it too complicated. I wrapped a stole around her shoulders and covered her bright red hair with the long brown wig. I convinced her to go outside and sit in the old outhouse. I left the door open and got the background music ready so she could lip-synch into the mic. The video was all set to record, and Mama looked so funny in her get-up. 


     “Here’s your mic, Mama. ”I handed her the mic, then turned on the music and played, “Don’t let them tear that little brown building down.” Mama got into her part, and she was hilarious. I played it back for Penny later, and she laughed so hard. “I can’t believe you talked Mama into doing that. Watching all these videos will bring laughs for years to come.”


     Being a caregiver can be a rough job. I wondered if Mama understood or realized everything she asked us to do for her. Out came the video recorder again. She’ll know after I get finished.


     With Mama in bed, I videotaped myself, pretending to mimic her and doing everything she had asked me to do throughout the day.


     “Hey Wanda, what’s for breakfast?”


     “How about some more coffee?”


     “Did you feed tramp yet?” (That’s her mini black poodle.)


     “Hey Wanda, now Tramp needs to go out.” So I’d bundle up the dog, take him out on the cold winter mornings, and stand there shivering, waiting for him to go, before I’d take him back inside.


     “Don’t forget to wipe his paws.” Mama hollered.


     “Aw, he’s cold now. Will you bring his bed closer to me?”


     “Where’s the remote? It’s time for Wheel of Fortune.


     “Wanda, will you close the drapes? You’re tall.”


     “Hey, do we have any of that chocolate cake left?”


     *I hate to bother you again, but will you help me to the bathroom?”


     “I’m getting hungry now; what’s for lunch?”


     “I’m thirsty.”


     So, I continued with all the things she needed until bedtime.


     Then I pretended to do each of the things she’d asked me. I took time the day before to write everything down so that I would remember. At the end of the tape, I collapsed on the couch with a moan and pretended to fall into an instant sleep. I played the tape back for her. She couldn’t believe all the things she wanted me to do. She couldn’t stop laughing and kept wanting me to play it repeatedly. I had to play it again when Penny came home, just for her.


     Mama always served her family well. Oh, how I longed, if only once more, for her to

 serve something to me again, although I knew that wasn’t possible.


     Mama unexpectedly dragged herself off the couch and slowly entered the kitchen.


     “I want some strawberry shortcake,” she said.


     Maybe she feels guilty after watching my video.


     “You go sit down, Mama, and I’ll get it for you.”


     “No,” she said, “I want to get it for myself.”


     I sat down and watched her. She grabbed a large bowl and placed a golden shortcake in the center. She scooped on several spoons of bright red strawberries. Out came the whipped cream and she squirted it in circles and then topped it all off at a peak. She walked into the living room, but instead of sitting down, she walked over and handed it to me.


     “Here,” she said as she smiled. “I fixed it for you.”

     “Thanks, Mama,” I managed through tears. And thank you, Lord, my heart is 

whole. Losing my Mama was a day I’d dreaded ever since learning about death. Even though I knew she had accepted Jesus as her Savior, and I knew that we would see each other again, there was the pain of separation. Who will be at her side when it happens? Whoever it is, I know that the Lord knows best. My sister, Penny, was very close to Mama. They’ve lived together for many years. We all wondered how Penny would handle it when she had to tell Mama goodbye. We didn’t think she’d be able to take it if she was with Mama when she died.


     Mama lost one of her sons, Rodney, several years ago when a drunk driver killed him. My brother, Ronnie, was still with us. I also have a sister, Colleen, who’s a little older than me but didn’t live with us. Our grandma raised her as an only child. Colleen didn’t have to go through all the hard times that the rest of us did; she could have anything she wanted, or so we thought. Last, my baby sister Rena was Mama’s last baby.


     Rena joined our family the year before I graduated from high school. I inherited the job

 of a built-in babysitter. On the rare occasion that a boy was allowed to come over, I’d pretend that Rena was my baby. How would it feel to be married and have my baby? Rena is the actual baby of the family. Mama called her Na Na. After all the 

other kids moved out, Mama still had Na Na to love and shower attention on. Rena has the family’s bright red, naturally curly hair, which is adorable. She’s also a fun-loving person who likes to laugh a lot.


     Rena and Penny are two of a kind. Rena eventually got married and left home herself. She kept busy working two jobs but came to help with Mama every chance she could. One day, while Rena was there helping, it was a nice day, so we all went outside. Rena looked at a frog nearby.


     “Look at the frog, Mama,” she said, “I wonder what kind it is?”


     “It’s a tree frog,” Mama said.


     Rena and I rolled our eyes at each other and wondered the same thing.


     Is Mama starting to lose it?


     “Well, I thought they were supposed to be in trees?” Rena said.


     “Well, sometimes they fall out,” Mama said, then laughed.


     We all had a long, deep belly laugh when we realized Mama’s joke. That was one of Mom’s good days.


     Then, all too soon, her bad days seemed to outnumber her good days.


     One morning, Penny’s teeth were hurting her, something awful, which was unusual for her because she never had problems with her teeth. She hated to leave Mama, but she couldn’t stand the pain, so she made an emergency appointment with a dentist and left.


     We had all slept in the living room with Mama the night before since she wasn’t doing well. None of us got much sleep. Rena and I were the only ones by her side as the hospice nurse bathed her. Suddenly, my nose started bleeding quite badly and it wouldn’t stop. I had to go upstairs and lie down. As I lay on the bed with a cold cloth on my face, it seemed to help. I prayed for Mama.


     I heard a commotion coming from downstairs, so I headed back down. 


     Rena looked stunned.


     Something was wrong. I glanced at Mama and realized the angels had come for her while I was gone. The hospice nurse pronounced her dead. Her baby girl, Na Na, was the only one at her side. Rena and I sobbed in each other’s arms, trying to comfort our broken hearts. Mama was gone.


     The house turned into a flurry of commotion. Someone called the family. Penny was still at the dentist. We didn’t want to call her there. We watched out the window and waited for her. How can we tell her that Mama is gone?


     Penny’s husband, Gary, was outside. Penny’s car pulled in, and Gary walked out to meet her.


     Penny stopped and talked to her husband. Suddenly, she collapsed in his arms. We heard her sobs throughout the yard. Penny couldn’t bear to come inside. We waited, prayed, and watched out the window for her.


     We all embraced and cried until she strolled inside in her husband’s arms. 


     The house became full of other relatives. Someone called the funeral home, and I saw the black hearse pull in. I walked over to Mama, leaned down, and kissed her.


     “Goodbye, Mama, I love you.”


    After sixteen months of caring for her, we had to say goodbye to our beloved mother. Mama was a Christian, and God made His presence felt. God gave each of us the strength that passes all understanding. He drew us closer to Himself and each other. Although it broke our hearts to see her go, we knew her heart was full of joy because she walked with the Lord. She would be with her son, Rodney, whom she had to say goodbye to many years ago when a drunk driver killed him. I have a picture of Mama and Rodney standing in front of the Christmas tree with their arms around each other. Now, they are in each other’s arms again.


    Buddy came to be with us and after a long, long night, he took me home.


     I opened my eyes the following day and looked out the window to see it snowing. Mama loves the snow, so I’ll call her. Then I remembered I couldn’t call Mama that morning; God had called Mama the day before. I’d live the rest of my life without my mother, and I felt like I was next in line. But I thanked God that He let us have her for fifty years. We have the memories of those years to bring comfort as we remember all the precious days we spent with Mama.



       I remember reading this somewhere:



                           “Those who have a Mother Treasure her with care, 

                    For you’ll never know the sorrow Till you see her empty chair.


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