Happy Talk Blog Header_JanI look for things to be grateful for every day.  I’ve found life works best for me when I start and end my day with gratitude – for big things and little things.  If I’m having a less than great day, all I have to do is remember even a few of my many, many blessings, and I can chase the blues away.  Many people make a habit of keeping a gratitude journal all year long, even if it’s just jotting a word or two on their calendar or diary each day.  Some people keep an official journal and write complete sentences and paragraphs about their blessings.  In November, even more people make it a habit to post something for which they are grateful every day on their Facebook pages.  Any of these are great ways to count your blessings, and I recommend that if you’ve never tried this exercise, you start now, for the rest of the month (or the year).

Today I want to share with you my gratitude for my mom, Pinky Dodson, and for the love that she shared so freely with my dad, with my sister and me, and with all of her friends and family.  Mom died a couple of weeks ago, peacefully passing over from this life to the next on a rainy Friday afternoon.  She had been living with Alzheimer’s disease for the last five (at least) years.  I thought I had said goodbye to her a long time ago, because I thought she had sort of stopped being ‘mom’ – she was not the Mom I had known, anyway.  What I learned upon her death was that she had never stopped being that MOM, even though it was hard to see it sometimes.

We were so lucky!  In the memory care facility where mom lived, most of the residents do not recognize their loved ones – husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, or friends – but Mom’s eyes lit up every time I visited her.  Although she hadn’t called me by name in years, she proudly told her caregivers that I was her daughter.  When my sister and I were both there to see her, she knew I was the ‘bad one’ (and I was).  She knew that she had become a great-grandmother – not that she was OLD enough to be a great-grandmother (she was four days shy of 86 when she died) – and she even got to meet sweet little Elliot this summer.  On the day before she died, she rallied enough to touch the screen of my iPad as I showed her photos of Elliot and her grandchildren.  She knew, and she made sure I knew she knew.

When I was growing up, I never thought of my mom as brave.  She was just Mom – she made us dinner and read us stories and played games with us.  But she was so much more!  She was my Sunday School teacher, when no one else would teach Sunday School.  She was my Girl Scout leader, when no one else would volunteer to lead a troop of unruly 4th-6th graders.  She was either my sister’s class or my class room mother every year, when no one else’s mom would raise her hand.  You get the picture – she was THAT mom – the one who allowed other kids to have the privileges that she wanted us to have, because that’s what it took for us to have them.

I grew up in Paducah, in extreme western Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Illinois.  Back in the day, the only bridge across the river was the extremely narrow Irvin Cobb Bridge.  You could see the water through the grate as you drove over the bridge – my sister and I loved it – but Mom HATED driving across that bridge.  However, she loved taking us for outings to the hills and state parks in southern Illinois, and to get there….the bridge had to be crossed.  So Mom would load us and our picnic lunches and our friends up in our giant station wagon, and off we would go.  Teeth gritted and hands in a death grip on the steering wheel, probably not breathing until we were safely on the other side, Mom would cross that bridge, because it was important to her that we were able to enjoy a day outside in nature, together.  And because no one else’s mom was brave enough to do it!

Mom taught us that it was important to be independent women – not that we didn’t need men or a husband, but that we needed to be able to survive without a man, if it came to that.  She wasn’t just talking the talk, either.  After my daddy died suddenly twenty-one years ago, Mom picked herself up and survived – no, she thrived – even while missing Daddy every day.  One of the other great gifts Mom gave us was that she taught us the importance of friendship, and she taught us how to have friends by being a friend.  Mom had so many friends, and they weren’t just her contemporaries.  She had friends of all ages, and from many different areas of her life.  She taught me to value people for who they are, and not to expect them to be like me.

Mom was a lifelong learner, too.  She went back to college to earn her Masters in Education when I was in high school, and she earned that degree a year after I finished college.  She changed careers from being a stay-at-home mom to being a teacher to becoming a social worker at age 50.  After Daddy died, she started her own business as a floral designer.  The summer before we moved her to live with us, she was still attending flower show judge courses, traveling out of town to attend classes and entering arrangements in flower shows all over the South.  I remember driving her to a course she attended in eastern North Carolina, and she told me that she thought it would be her last course – that it was becoming too hard for her to get to all of them.  As it turned out, it was her last course, and I don’t think she remembered a thing about it, even on the drive home.  It was on that trip that I knew something was really not right with Mom.

Even these last few years, when her quality of life was negligible, when she was living in a ‘home’ with people she didn’t know, when she had to depend on others to help her with basic daily functions, when she was wheelchair bound, when we had moved her away from her friends and her home, she ALWAYS had a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye when I saw her.  She was a favorite at the ‘home’ – she rarely spoke, but she shared her sweet smile with everyone.  She didn’t make trouble, and she seemed mostly content.  She would still talk to me, and I could always make her laugh.  Every now and then she would come out with some four-syllable word, used properly and in context, and I would know she was still in there.  Until the last week of her life, every single time I left her, I would say, “I love you, Mom”, followed by “See you later, alligator”.  And every single time, I got “After a while, crocodile”.  And I know she loved me, too.

I thought I knew what it was like to have ‘lost’ her already, but I was wrong.  I miss her terribly, and I’m so glad she was my mom.  I love you, Mom!

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46 Responses to Blog: Thankful for a mother’s love

  1. JaneenK says:

    Dear Jan,
    What a beautiful remembrance of you mom. Thanks for sharing her with us. Hugs to you

  2. Glenna says:

    Jan, I know what you are talking about. I lost my Mom at the age of 63 from cancer. To this date I think of her and many times when something exciting happens that I always shared with her, I find myself reaching for the phone to call for her and she has been dead almost 20 years now. She taught me so many things, and even though we didn’t see eye-to-eye, and were not really close until after my Dad died, she was always there for me. Thanks for a wonderful story.

  3. Liz Propst says:

    Beautiful journaling Jan!!! And I’m so thankful your mother taught you the gift of friendship and how generous you have been in not only having the vision for a scrapbooking company…but one in which friends and sharing are encouraged. Thank you!!

  4. Shelley Marangoni says:

    Jan,
    I am actually sitting at a crop this weekend trying to catch up by looking through pixels pages that I have missed over the months I haven’t been scrapbooking! Now I have tears in my eyes as I read your post and pray for God’s love and mercy as you remember and celebrate your Mom’s life. I am blessed this evening that I sit across from my mom at this retreat and will always remember our times scrapbooking our lives together. Thanks for sharing and blessings to you.

    • Jan says:

      Thank you, Shelley, for your sweet words. You are blessed – give your mom a big hug for me! We’ll be celebrating Mom’s life next weekend – a bittersweet time, for certain.

  5. Katrina says:

    Simply beautiful Jan! The memories and the pictures!
    Interesting thing, I thought I wouldn’t survive my moms death, yet 10 years later I’m still here and happy to know she’s by my side every step of the way. The love, memories, kindness never leaves us, and just knowing how blessed we were to have them as a anchor in our life. Wow

  6. Martha Lundgren says:

    Oh, Jan. Thank you so much for sharing your Mom with us. Beautiful mother. Beautiful daughter.

  7. Kaye Rhodes says:

    I’m so sorry for you loss, Jan. April will be 40 years since my mom left this life, but she’s never left me. Love and prayers to you and your family.

  8. Pam Jones says:

    Dear Jan: I am so sorry for your loss. My mom, too, was a victim of this devastating disease. She died in 2002 after 2 1/2 years in a memory care facility. She had been fading away from us for at least 5 years before she went into the facility. I know exactly what you mean…I thought I had cried all the tears I had in me before she died. At the cemetery, I found myself crying now for myself and the loss of her. (My dad died in 1987.) I find myself overwhelmed even now, all these years later, at unexpected times. The good news is that your mom will always be with you. When you have that kind of love with her, she’s will be right there with you for the rest of your life. Praying that God’s comfort will surround you.

    • Jan says:

      Thank you, Pam. It is good knowing we take our parents’ love and lessons and prayers with us for our lifetimes, and that we get to pass them all along to our children. It’s still hard to lose them, isn’t it?

  9. judychronicles judychronicles says:

    Jan, so sorry for your loss. We lost our Dad 12 months ago….it’s still really hard. We miss Dad everyday. On reflection you realize just how important they were and are. Judy

  10. Kris says:

    So sorry for your loss, Jan. Thank you for sharing your story and photos – beautiful, and the last photo is especially meaningful.

    • Jan says:

      Thanks, Kris. I love that last photo, especially since it was taken by my sister exactly one minute after Mom breathed her last – but my sister didn’t know that when she took the photo…

  11. What a sweet Mom! She raised you right Jan (regardless of your “bad” years) and loved you always, I’m sure! Think of the wonderful connection little Elliot has to his great grammy because you are taking the time to tell her story!

  12. Tameka says:

    Wow. Gotta love mom…. I can’t imagine being without my mom and it is little things that make us love mom so much… Love the bridge story…because I can only imagine what fear she had to overcome to make sure you girls had a blast. That is love.

  13. Deanna Emmert says:

    I am sorry for your loss, Jan. This December will mark 10 years since my Mom died after having battled endometrial cancer. This last February, my dad died from esophagus cancer. And now I am the one who has “inherited” the family photo archive because my sisters didn’t know what they would do with all of the slides, photos, etc. (My dad was an avid amateur photographer but didn’t do much with the photos.) I’m not sure I have the courage yet to deal with all of those photos and things, but p2P is giving me a lot to think about and I think I might be able to get to it soon. Thank you for your blog today!

    • Jan says:

      Thank you, Deanna, and I’m sorry for your losses, too. We will be there for you when you tackle those photos. Think of them as a gift from your daddy – I’ll bet you’ll have lots of fun looking through them and remembering good times – when you’re ready for that.

    • scrapb00k1ng scrapb00k1ng says:

      Hello Deanna,
      My father was diagnosed with Esophagus Cancer in March 2013, he passsed away in August. It was so sudden, and a shocking loss to our family because my dad was healthy. I am so sorry for your losses, I feel your pain. I too have been given the family pictures as well. It is hard sometimes to go through them, but I am very blessed to be able to have them and create a very special digital scrapbook for me and my family. It was so tough to do, but I was able to create the metal photo frames of our family. My fmaily will be getting them for Christmas.

      Hello Jan,
      I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for writing the blog today. I have had a rough week, even though my eyes were filled with tears while reading it, it has helped me more than you can imagine. Take Care.

      • Jan says:

        Thanks for your kind words and encouragement, scrapb00k1ng. I can feel how raw the pain of losing your daddy still is. I hope that making a book with your family pictures eased that pain a bit. Best to you as this first hard holiday season is upon us.

  14. Cathie Owens says:

    Jan, Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories of your Mother. She is a beautiful lady. I enjoyed very much reading your memories thank you so much for sharing. Mother’s always do have a special place in our hearts and memories.

  15. Ruth Bell says:

    You have a great legacy with such lovely memories. She helped mold you into who you are! And we are so happy to have met you as the mothership of the pixies and all of us peeps!

  16. Corene says:

    Beautiful life! Beautiful tribute to her! Beautiful memories. Sounds like your mother was blessed to have you for a daughter. This month marks 2 years since my mother went home and I still miss her.

  17. jolleyontheroad jolleyontheroad says:

    Love!

  18. pamelajb says:

    Jan what a lovely sincere blog and a wonderful tribute to your Mom. Love your page and your Mom defintely does have a beautiful smile! My very best wishes as you grieve and reflect on the many happy memories. There is no one like Mom.

  19. Fay Wilde says:

    A beautiful remembrance and tribute to your “Mom” Jan. I still carry my Mom in my heart and memories too. She will always be with you!!

  20. Janis says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your Mother! I am sorry for your loss. . .

  21. Linda DeLaughter says:

    Dear Jan: As your “subscribers” read your blog, they will all be touched by the intensity and honesty of this beautiful tribute to your Mother. My Mom had the same phobia about bridges, and forbade us from going across the I-10 twin spans to New Orleans when we lived “across the lake”.
    She was certain that all cars crossing the bridge would end up in Lake Pontchartrain.
    Seriously, your memories of her resonate with all of us. I only wish I had my Mother around now to share my excitement that I found all those missing cousins in Germany!
    Thank God for great Mothers!

  22. Carolyn says:

    Outstanding! Love that you put the last picture as well. I love you.

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