Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Death of My Mother

My mother died three weeks ago - on Sunday, July 13, 2014.

When we went to bed the Saturday night before, she was already asleep. We were all happy to see that because she had been feeling quite low for most of the day on Saturday, as well as the couple of days preceding. My doctor husband happened to get up around 3 a.m. Sunday morning and he checked on her. She was still sleeping peacefully.

When we both got up around 6 a.m., Lou was the first to go by her room. I had made a stop in the laundry room to transfer some clothes from the washer to the dryer. I typically try to not do laundry on Sunday, but our son, David, was leaving that morning for a trip with friends to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and had asked me to throw a couple of things in the wash the night before.

I was standing in front of those machines when Lou opened the door and tenderly said, "Shelley...I think your mom's gone."

I'm tearing up remembering it.

You don't forget where you are and what you're doing when you find out your parent has died.

It just now occurred to me that the person who loves me the most in this world (beside both my parents) had to deliver that difficult news to me with both my mom and my dad. I consider that a sweet mercy from God.

Another sweet mercy from the Lord is that I got to see both my parents right after they died, and not just in the casket. I know it's basically a "duh" statement, but nobody looks like themselves in a casket. When I saw Mom on that early Sunday morning, she looked like herself, just asleep.

It gives me great comfort to know she went to sleep in this world and woke up in the next. Because she was a Christian, we hold fast to promises like 2 Corinthians 5:8.

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

The days after someone you love dies are blurry and busy. You cry a lot and strangely, you laugh. At least, we did. My mom was such a personality. A sassy, clever, "call it like she sees it" force. You loved her for it most days, and the other days, it drove you crazy. Isn't that how it is with family?


What a good word - a good gift from God.

Our family came together to celebrate mom's life, and what family couldn't make it, there were calls, cards and messages that comforted from afar.

One of my cousins, who is only 12 years younger than Mom, was able to come to the visitation. She brought a couple of pictures of Mom that none of us kids had ever seen. It was such a delightful surprise in the middle of our sadness. They were pictures she had given to her parents many, many years ago and had somehow ended up in my cousin's hands. The only negative thing about them being black and white is that you can't see her clear blue eyes.

Pictures of loved ones are precious at these times. Which is one of the reasons, I guess, that when the family comes in like they do at funerals, you take group pictures - of people who've been crying off and on. It always strikes me a little strange how we smile for the camera in the middle of these sad times, but you do. Another thought that goes through my head is how much the person you're grieving would love to be there with all the ones who are gathered because of them. Mom would have enjoyed seeing her children...

Keith, Hugh, Andy, Kathy, and me

and most of her grandchildren.

Joe, Daniel, David, Luke
Abbie, Jeffre, Savannah, Mary Grace
Faith, Hannah, Elizabeth, Camryn

Since my scattered crew (a couple from Tulsa, and one from LA) was in, I too, asked them for a sibling picture...

Hannah, Faith, Elizabeth, Luke, Mary Grace, David
and a whole family picture.

Alex, Hannah, Lou, me, Luke, David
Elizabeth, Faith, Mary Grace

I also want to include another picture of Mom. This was her engagement picture, and one I stared at many times when I was growing up. I thought she was so beautiful and elegant.

My beautiful and elegant mother lived 88 years. She is now pain free and home free, and that gives me great comfort. I miss her, but the separation is only temporary, and I would do well to remember that. Death will come to us all and remembering that truth adds a good, important weight to life - a call to not waste this precious gift given to us by God.

As I end, I'm including the program from the funeral, my brother's (Andy's) sweet eulogy of Mom, and her obituary for those far away who knew and loved her and her family, but were unable to attend.

Our family has felt loved and cared for during this time. We are very thankful for the many messages, calls, and cards that have come. They are precious to us.

Andy's eulogy:

I come to thank God for my mother.  She was a great mom who loved all her children and grandchildren, sons-in-law, and daughters-in-law.  She was also known by many as friend.  As a mom, she willingly made all the usual sacrifices for her children in terms of time and material things.  She was a great mom and I will miss her.
My mom was a Christian, trusting in Jesus Christ as her Lord and savior, and she made sure all of her children were at church every Sunday.  I am also confident that God used mom as at least part of the means of drawing each of her children to himself.  In my own case, I do not remember when I became a Christian, but I remember very well mom calling me into her bedroom after a particular evangelistic meeting we had just attended.  I was in the neighborhood of eight years old and Davy Crockett was one of my heroes.  Mom knew this, of course, and after calling me into the bedroom she reminded me about Davy Crockett’s motto:  “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.”  I don’t recall her exact words but she told me something to the effect that a decision for God, especially to become a Christian, is always right. 
Mom was a reader and she made sure we always had books to read.  I don’t know about my siblings but, sadly, I didn’t read most of what she bought for me.  She kept trying, though, and I eventually did read some of the books she bought.  Mom and dad both believed in education and she and dad both sacrificed a lot, and I know it was a lot, to send all of their children to private school and then they paid for most of them to attend college.  I never heard them complain about whatever it was they had to give up in order to do this.  
Mom was always fun to have a conversation with.  She told you what was on her mind.  She was also very adept at the technique of speaking sotto voce.  At a certain point in the conversation, mom would make some sort of editorial comment to no one in particular, but usually for all to hear, and usually it was a highly specific and unequivocal criticism, and often it was funny (except when I was her target).  Mom was refreshingly politically incorrect.  
I was in the habit of calling my mom on Sundays, just to check in.  Most of the time we didn’t talk about anything particularly important.  During one of our last conversations, I was telling her about a particular patient who was suffering from a litany of ailments.  She was sympathetic and asked how old he was.  I told her, “He’s pretty old, mom, he’s 88.”  She appreciated the joke.  
Mom’s last 10 years were spent without my dad and that was tough on her.  And her last two years were also tough for various health reasons.  But the silver lining there is that she lived most of the last two years with my sister, Shelley, and her family.  Though that had to be hard in a number of ways, I am also sure it was also good for all of them, especially mom.  Shelley and Lou and all the Harris children, thank you for how you lovingly cared for mom during her final months.  
On Sunday morning when I got the call from Shelley that mom had died, I happened to be reading my Bible, from the book of Malachi.  Shortly after hanging up the phone and telling Debbie, I went back to reading and very quickly came to Malachi 4:2, which says, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in his wings.  You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”  I’ve seen calves running and skipping from stalls and it may sound corny but at that moment I imagined my mom in heaven, freed from the tether of her oxygen and her other physical limitations, running and skipping as I know she did in her youth, feeling nothing but good, walking and leaping and praising God.  So sure, we her family and friends grieve, but not as those who have no hope.  Because Jesus really lived, died and rose again, we have a very sure and certain hope in the resurrection of the dead to everlasting life in God’s presence, where there is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore. 
So, on behalf of her children, grandchildren, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, other relatives and friends, I thank God today for my mom, her faithful service to him as a mom, and for her witness to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Thank you, God.  

Mom's obituary:

Violet Marea Petty Vaughan

Violet Vaughan, beloved mother, formerly of Munford, Tennessee, passed away Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Bolivar, MO, at the home of her daughter.

She was born May 29, 1926, in Campbell, MO, to Samuel Andrew Petty and Minerva Bell Redmon. As a farmer’s daughter, growing up in the heart of the depression, she learned how to make do and do without. She determined at an early age to leave the cotton fields behind, so after graduating from Campbell High School, she attended St. Frances Hospital School of Nursing, Topeka, KS,  and graduated in 1947. For the next 9 years, she then worked at hospitals in New Orleans, LA, Jackson, MS, Kennet, MO, and Memphis, TN, before meeting and marrying Dr. Hugh Wynn Vaughan in 1954. They moved to Munford, TN, where she hung up her nurses cap to become a full time mother. After their fifth child graduated from high school, she returned to the nursing profession for eight years, working at Covington Hospital in Covington, TN. She and Hugh were married 49 years before his death in 2004.

Violet was blessed with a quick wit and was known for her many pithy comments. To get her children through awkward situations, she often advised, “Hold a high head and a booming tale, and go on!” She loved cooking, crossword puzzles, cross-stitch, reading, poetry, Adrian Roger's sermons, and in her later years, TV watching. She prided herself on being an excellent speller and wordsmith. She was blessed to have her clever mind till the end.

She was a faithful wife and lovingly attentive mother. “Her children stand and bless her…” Prov 31:28a

She is survived by her 5 children: Hugh Vaughan, Jr., and his wife, Charlene of Huntington, WV, Andy Vaughan and wife Debbie of Rochester, MN, Keith Vaughan of Lakewood, WA, Kathy Poston of Ripley, TN, and Shelley Harris and husband Lou of Bolivar, MO. Other surviving family members include 15 grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. 

Services are Thursday, July 17, at 11 am at First Baptist Church, Bolivar, MO. Visitation will be from 6-8 pm on Wednesday, July 16, at Murray Funeral Home, Bolivar. Interment in Greenwood Cemetery, Bolivar, MO. Memorial contributions can be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing so that those of us who could not be with you could be a part of Mrs. Violet's home going. I was blessed to know both of your parents and our community has never been the same since Dr. Vaughan retired and they moved away. What a blessing they were. Continue to carry their legacy forth. Blessings to you and yours.
    Carla Lindley