Feb. 12 was the first anniversary of my mother’s death.
A year later, like most sons, I recall my mother’s cooking – her fried chicken and fried pork chops; her chocolate pie and strawberry pudding; a sour cream coconut cake that was supposed to rest in the refrigerator a few days before you sliced it. My mom made her own barbecue, the only barbecue my wife would eat, and one of my favorite meals was cornbread and pinto beans with homemade chow-chow, a pickled relish.
But my mom was much more than a good cook. Though forever rooted in her native Stokes County, she had a sense of adventure. She traveled often with a group that included her sister, a sister-in-law and a cousin. She even bought a minivan to make their frequent trips more comfortable.
My mom traveled often because she could afford to, thanks to a work ethic that never waned, even after her cancer diagnosis. When I was a boy, my mom kept children in our home while rearing three boys of her own. Later, she worked for a church daycare before landing a job in housekeeping at a hospital. When the hospital laid her off just short of seniority, she quickly found a similar job at another health care provider.
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In phone calls that grew in frequency in her last years, my mom was my source of Stokes County obituaries – both in our church and in our extended family. In many cases, it had been decades since I had seen some of the departed, but news of their passing brought me closer to my own Stokes County roots.
A year later, I miss my mom’s matter-of-fact approach to her cancer. She didn’t want to die, but if that was God’s will, then so be it; not much use in fretting about it or feeling sorry for herself.
My mom’s life was often hard, but I like to think that the sacrifices she made to rear three sons and then two grandsons, she made willingly. I also suspect that she lived life largely on her terms.
It was then an admirable life, and one that I miss every day.