My parents were two of the most energetic and enthusiastic people I have ever known. My mother especially never turned down any invitation that held the slightest promise of enjoyment. She was very talented in many ways, establishing a millinery business, making hats that were known around town. She was always willing to use her talents to help others. Daddy was a railroad man and also a dedicated sports lover. Our small family had big celebrations attended by lots of friends for each of their eightieth birthdays as well as their sixtieth wedding anniversary. Even into their eighties they were both hospital volunteers, church workers, football fans, and they were continually making new friends.
Soon after they finally moved from their home of thirty six years to a more manageably-sized condominium, my mother’s cancer returned, and she died three weeks later. My father was lost without her – dealing with failing eyesight and almost no hearing, living in a new place without familiar things and people near, and missing the one who had spoiled him for so long by tending to his every need.
I tried to visit him every day after work, and many days I was his only human contact. Those afternoons together became a calm in the storm of my busy life, and the father who had always been a bit overshadowed by my more outgoing mother became so dear to me. My children came to know their grandfather in a much more personal way and his advice and heirloom gifts will always be treasures they hold dear.
Unbelievably my father soon discovered that he, too, had cancer. Other complications, including a broken hip and a blinding stroke, came upon him in a period of two weeks. Despite the excellent care of his compassionate doctor, he just couldn’t overcome all of this, and he passed away six months after my mother. When she had passed away, friends asked me what would I do with my father, since my mother had always taken care of him. After his death, having had the gift of those six months with him, I wondered what I would do without him.
Over a year after Daddy died, on my birthday, I made a visit to the cemetery. I was missing both Mama and Daddy and wanted to spend some time with my memories of them. The cemetery setting was beautiful and peaceful, but I did not find what I was seeking at their graves. All that was there of my parents were their names on the footstones. So I then went by the house where they had lived for so long. The new owners were not at home and remodeling was underway. I walked through the yard, out to the riverbank, and peeked in several windows. There I could feel Mama’s and Daddy’s presence. This is where they had lived for so long, and this is where I could best remember them – how they loved God, loved life, and loved me. This is where their spirits reached out and touched my heart.
My parents did not have much monetary wealth or even many valuable possessions when they left this world. Their legacy of laughter, service, and love, however, live on.