Apr 192011

This time of year is always hard for me.

Not just because I’m so sick of winter that I could puke and crave the warmth of the sun and the fresh spring air.

No, it’s another reason that brings about a lot of memories.  I wish that I could say that these were good memories, but they are not.  They are reminders of an event that was very painful for me, and others in my family.

You see, 12 years ago today I lost my best friend:  my Mom.

This picture was taken when she finished nursing school in the mid-1950s.

As I’m sure you have guessed, today is not the only day that I think about her, but it is one of several days a year that I miss her the most.

When she quietly passed away, she was finally free from the pain that she had endured from Rheumatoid Arthritis for 7 years.  For those years, she was unable to do the things that she loved the most:  garden and crochet.  She had to end her nursing career early on in the disease because her entire body became affected, and at the time there was no medically known way to deal with it.  She became a guinea pig to the medical establishment, whose doctors were the best in the world.

I was looking back at some old files on my computer the other day, and found something that I had written around this time 8 years ago.

A real keepsake does not need to be a piece of jewelry or an item that is displayed in a home.  I feel that it can be something that a person carries with them in their mind and heart.  It has special meaning; a presence.  For me, it is my hands.  I look at my hands and see my mother, and the gifts that she gave to me.

She taught me that my hands could make meals that would feed my family.  They could dig the ground to plant seeds to that would grow to can vegetables to store for future meals.  They would work the land, feel the dirt and pull the weeds.  They would also nurture delicate flowers to blossom and grow; to show beauty.

Her love for playing the piano that she passed down to me with lessons, encouraging me on with her words as my fingers played the notes and listened from the audience as I played in concerts.

The patience and time my mother would take to teach me how to knit and crochet…to create beautiful slippers, potholders, and afghans.  The blankets that I make, asking for her guidance as I work each stitch, hoping that they will turn out as beautiful as hers always did.

My hands look older than their 38 years.  They have planted many gardens, crocheted blankets for babies and families. Blazed trails and built bridges.  Flipped burgers and cleaned tables at restaurants   They have wiped tears and nursed cuts.   I look at my hands and see a lifetime.

My children often ask me what my mother gave me that I cherish the most.

And I tell them about my mother’s hands.

These are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think about her.  There are many other wonderful memories, like how we always used to spend our birthdays together (since they were a day apart) either getting our hair done, going out to eat or meeting up at a casino to gamble (one of her favorites).

One thing I never do is make this a sad day for myself, because there are so many wonderful things that I have in my life because of her.  The many things she taught me that I am able to pass down to my children and grandchildren.

I have to tell you I am not a fan of these kinds of posts.  I do not like to talk about sad things.  So instead of this being something sad, I would like to think of it as the remembrance of truly remarkable woman and all of the good and happy things that her life represented.

Thank you for allowing me to share this with you.

Phyllis Mary (Papenheim) Larson

October 22, 1935 – April 19, 1999

  12 Responses to “In Memoriam”

Comments (12)
  1. I miss her too, Mom. She was such a wonderful lady, even if she was yelling at me because I was doing something stupid (i.e. climbing the tree in the front yard and then falling straight on my back!). Like I said before, I can always hear her voice yelling, “Chrissie!”, and sometimes that makes me think more than twice about what I’m doing or about to do. I miss planting Marigolds along the driveway, picking hundreds of raspberries with Nichole, going to Marigold Days in Mantorville and having yummy funnel cakes, and even playing yours, Steve & Sheila’s games in the basement. Best memory ever is the Polka Fests and the Motorhome. Laying down in there reading and re-reading your guys’ old Archie comics! The only way I reconcile myself from being sad is remembering those things and knowing I will see her again some day.

  2. Beautiful memories!! You’ve always loved the “Archie” comic books, and the old ones are the best, I think. Marigold Days was something that your Grandma always looked forward to, as well as the Polka Fests in the summer.

  3. Nice post……..had to find tissues! You girls always find ways to tug at a grumpy old man’s heart.

  4. I thought about doing a “Tissue Warning” at the beginning…

  5. Probably should have, Mom! And I’m glad we can do that, Daddy! 🙂

  6. Thank you, Mom! The memories sustain me, and will for years (I hope)!

  7. I miss her very much. I tried to block it out most of the day, but reading this at the end of the day made me miss her even more. I was going to do a post on her, but I think I’ll wait a little while, and do it when I can do it justice. The memories assailed me when I read your post, but in a good way. I know she’s there watching over us, all of us, and helping us through all of our tough times and good times. The best thing I can think of is “Footprints”, her favorite poem. I think of Grandma as being “God” in the poem though, and I the one who she carries around in the tough times. She was always there for us, and is there still. We just have to be open to her. I find myself channeling her quite often, and it makes me smile. I will always love her, as she was more than just my grandmother, she was my godmother, and also a woman who held a large part in my life. She taught me many things, and I am learning from her still to this day.

  8. “Footprints” was one of her favorites. Also Elton John’s tribute to Princess Diana “Candle in the Wind”. I bought her the single to that and you should have seen her smile! All-time favorite movie: trick question! There were 2: Sound of Music and Wizard of Oz 🙂

  9. Beautiful tribute, Sandy. Your mom was a great lady – and a wonderful aunt!

  10. Thanks Dee. I’m sure that everyone has their own special memories of her, and I know that she loved all of her nieces and nephews very much!

  11. I love that picture of Phyllis, and first saw it a few years ago when Karen and I were visiting your Dad. I think he had forgotten where it was, he said something about one of you girls having found it. Of course I well remember your mother, and especially the many Christmas Eves we shared (the dishwashing!). We were not that far apart in age, and shared a love of nursing. When your parents were married, it was mildly scandalous, because in those days Lutherans did NOT marry Catholics! Grandma Larson and my mother and Alice, too, I think, welcomed Phyllis into the family, and were supportive of the marriage and of your mother. Your mother and mine were fast friends, and my mother mourned the death of her friend for the rest of her life.

    Funny story: Phyllis called my mother once in an absolute panic, there was a bat in the house and she didn’t know what to do! Mom had to go out and take care of dispatching the poor little creature, who was more terrified of Phyllis than she was of it. I laughed and laughed at the thought of your mother being afraid of a little bat!

    Be sad, but smile, too. Cherish your memories. Love never dies.


  12. Thanks for the smile with the bat story Laurie! I must take after Mom on that one because I just HATE them and literally “hit the deck” when one gets in the house! The story behind the picture is kinda neat: I don’t remember how, but many years ago either Mom gave me this picture in wallet form or I found it, and Steve had it blown up full size for each of us to have. Thanks also for the wonderful memories, more to enter in my mental scrapbook 🙂

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