Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blessings for a Swedish Mother

Our friend Sigrid passed from her physical body this morning. We have known her for nearly forty years, known her as mother to our friend Lois, and during the years while she lived as integral part of this three people-multiple doggies family we have come to know Sigie as a constant. Sigrid lived life on this earth for 89 years during the depression of the thirties, the second world war and the social changes of the 50's and 60's to the present. She experienced the world changing and through it all she maintained her essential nature and kept her focus on her family: her husband Wes and her daughters Diane and Lois. To compare us, my family -- my Hawaiian-Chinese mother, my Filipino father and the network of our predispositions and personalities with that of our friend Lois and her Swedish momma and US Army Lt. Colonel father, we are as different as could be imagined. Through the decades of our friendship the differences have grown less and less important as the soul and nature of our friendship grew in strength.

Lois, Doug, and I stood in the bright light of the Grand Ave kitchen just after Lois received the call from the hospital telling her that Sigrid had passed. Pete sat at the breakfast bar with a cup of coffee. I had my mask on, hair tucked under my floppy cotton hat and a scarf wrapped around my neck. "I won't hug you, I've got hairspray in my hair," Lois said. I knew that. Instead we held hands and stroked and patted the comfort one to the other and all sorrow seemed to exchange itself. "I think of Helen, too." Lois and my mom (Helen) share the Pisces sun and are both an example of service in ways only those who know them can understand.

Throughout the two weeks since Sigrid has been in the hospital, my own thoughts about end of life circled around the experiences of my own parents passing. I was here in the Northwest when both Ma and Dad passed. Lois had such a different relationship with her mother; the two women and Doug spent the past seventeen years together and caring for Sigrid has been Lois' primary commitment. In the last two weeks Lois was there with her mom in that critical care room just as she had been for the rest of those seventeen years. Available and fully present she was there to honor her mother. "And, I'd do it again," Lois said, and I know she would. Without doubt that is the lesson I have learned living here with our friends again. From the teeny wheeled home outside the front windows of the big Grand Ave home, I see what service to LIFE is about, and witnessed a living example of "Honor thy mother." Pete and I have watched, listened and been privy to a lesson of commitment that is the uncommon value of kind-spirit and fulfillment of promises. This tribute is to mothers and to the daughters who commit to them throughout a lifetime.

I count this friendship and the reality of their challenges, changes, and the grandness of their hearts as blessings. Just after we showed up in our vardo, still road-worn but ready to share the evening meal. The round dinner table was filled to capacity. Two terriers parked beneath the glass table scouting for a dropped nibble. Conversation was easy, funny and loud. Out of the blue a Southern drawl amplified and added to the conversation about farmers in Eastern Washington. "Why is it always the turnip truck, why not the beet truck?" Between bites of carrot, a toothy grin filled her face. I laughed and pointed at her. "Sigrid! You crack me up." She was a constant: ducks-in-a-row, do the right thing kind of gal who rarely missed what was happening (unless she wanted to miss it) and could show up with a bit of humor or commentary that accounted for the Southern Belle's unexpected wit. I heard she made the best sardine sandwiches and took the time to remove those tiny bones from their little bodies before serving. Who would do such a thing? One Swedish mother.

A few days ago while Pete and I raked and pruned the limbs from the flowering cherry tree in the front yard, I saved out four limbs and wove a simple wreath. It was a ritual of simply recalling the times when all our limbs were supple. I handed that wreath to Lois tonight. "It's a Sigie wreath,"I said. Lois was already back into her routine of unloading the dishwasher and emptying the clean laundry. Simple routines to keep a household going are things her mom would appreciate. I'm sure one Swedish mother shines on her with pride knowing she had indeed raised a daughter of undeniable quality.

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