Focusing on the blessings that flow from individuals in our lives gives honor and meaning on many levels. It honors the people who have been a part of our lives. It allows us to celebrate the positive, to make it part of our own self…it helps use weave the ones we’ve loved deep into our being that we might pass on their legacy. It is a healing endeavor that reminds us no one is lost from our lives when we deliberately treasure the deposits made. Finally, it glorifies the God who created them–and us–and placed our lives together.
Every life story is different…and each life writes many stories. This week I have worked with someone whose mother is in a final battle with cancer. He wanted to put words to the letters of his mother’s name to capture who she is…what a beautiful way to treasure this time they have together . As I worked on that, I referred back to my own tributes to those whom I’ve loved. So this morning, I share with you this story that gives the legacy of my mom. May it be a tool for you to create a story of one who has shaped your life.
Every life leaves a legacy…and when we have loved someone we have the chance to weave their legacies into our own.
I’d be delighted to help you weave your story.
I’m thankful God allowed me to be Evelyn’s daughter—to have her legacy so closely entwined with my own.
Evelyn – mom—was born in 1929 at the start of the depression and was the baby of her family. No doubt, the financially tough times and her firm upbringing influenced the strong, courageous individual she became. Mom could easily have been Nike’s spokesperson for “Just Do It.” She never wasted time wondering ‘what if’ or ‘if only.’ She simply took what life presented and did her very best with it. She lived with courage, tenaciousness and principles of right and wrong.
First and foremost, mom had a ‘can-do- attitude.’ She was always willing to launch into a new venture. When the funeral director asked mom’s occupation I didn’t really know how to respond. Mom simply did whatever happened to be most practical at the moment. As a child, she learned to work by walking from Colesville to Binghamton to sell eggs. She married at 16 and soon went to work as a maid/child caretaker for a man who would later become her second husband. The laundry room at the Psych Center must have been a great place because she still kept in touch with friends from then—almost 50 years ago. The businesses she and dad launched were even more varied: an auction house, a catering business, three different restaurants, a pig farm, pony rides and for a few years artificial inseminators at area farms. Mom also baby-sat for some children over the years—loved one enough to make him my brother and loved others enough that their families still keep in touch. Even though she had no interest in make-up, mom even sold Avon for a few years and received dozens of awards for her work. She always did her best at whatever was before her.
A necessary follow-up to the ‘can-do’ attitude was her ‘get- on- with-it-attitude.’ Sometimes mom could seem harsh or emotion-less but the truth was she had a very soft heart. She showed that early in her life when she took bread to the home of a family with scarlet fever. Her parents had firmly told her to stay away from that home and she was beat with a shingle for her disobedience. That soft heart for the sufferings of others continued throughout her life. When dad, Carl Walls, battled cancer, mom was stoically by his side. She worried after his death that he never knew how much she loved him. It was never in doubt in anyone’s eyes but hers. A couple years ago our family (Craig and the kids and I) were sick with the flu on Christmas Day. It was mom—at 78—who braved the flu virus to bring a fully cooked dinner to us. Although she couldn’t often say words of love, she did her best to show her love through actions. The honor of being the Chenango County Volunteer of the Year this past August was a fitting tribute for her caring acts over the years.
No tribute would be complete without mentioning the many animals mom welcomed into her life as well. She didn’t really care for animals being in the house but she never turned away an animal in need either. The animal menagerie that was our home for many years often had babies that needed round-the-clock feedings or special care…mom always rose to the occasion. Wild animals entered every so often…the baby deer on the collage boards was one of those creatures. Only the snakes never received any compassion…they were chased down with hoes or lawnmowers or whatever was handy.
Despite mom’s soft heart, she lived in a ‘no-whining-zone’ for her own emotions. When our home burned down before Christmas one year, there was no time for mourning. Plans were made and blessings celebrated. The kindness of friends, the overwhelming generosity of our community…those were the things mom & dad focused on. Even when her finger was cut off in the clean-up after the fire, mom refused to shed a tear. Many nights she was awake with pain but never complained. After dad’s death, she could never acknowledge her own grief…it just didn’t fit with how she survived. She simply did her best to move forward. Mom’s courage was evident throughout her battle with cancer. From the very first diagnosis, through the surgery & recovery and even after the final diagnosis where she learned the cancer had spread, mom maintained a stoicism. She simply said she hoped she could finish her days with grace and peace. She did just that.
The greatest tribute for mom would be to weave those legacies into our own…be courageous, stand strong for what you believe in, be committed to doing the right thing and live holding nothing back.