Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Last of her Generation

Rose Ballard - my mom
October 2, 1918 - October 10, 2013
Forever in my heart
Last Sunday my family gathered to celebrate Mom’s 95th birthday – the one we all knew would be her last.  I could not be there, so they read her a letter from me.  Perhaps she heard it, perhaps not, but I know she felt my love. 

Sunday night, her care facility phoned to say she likely wouldn’t make it through the night.   Still she hung on for three more days. She always was a strong-willed woman, doing things her own way in her own time. 

Early this morning she passed away.

Her last week on earth, like much of her life,  was full of music:  the care home’s music therapist sat at her bedside, playing guitar and singing;  our dear family friend sang all the old campfire songs and when she ran out of those made up songs about Mom’s life;   the staff brought in CDs of her favourite music to play for her.  She was surrounded by caring people who helped to make the passing easier.

Mom lived a long and full life – a life of adventure and family, a life of laughter and friendships and service to others.  She was a camper, a hiker, a lover of mountains and oceans and all nature, a traveler to places like Africa and New Zealand and Coppermine, NWT.   Most of all, she was a mom.  She loved her family deeply and was there for us through good times and bad.

Mom and Dad's wedding
England, 1941
Mom with one of us kids

It would take a book to tell her story: a child growing up in England, a war bride, an immigrant with husband and three young children, active member of PTA and church in our home town of White Rock.  

Mom as a teenager in England
Part of the grass hockey team at school

And  for 55 years, she was a very active member of the Girl Guide Association – Brown Owl, Lones Advisor,  National Cadet Coordinator, Commissioner, International Trainer, Trefoil Guild member, and I’m sure many other positions that I’ve forgotten.  She was honored with two of the highest awards given by the Girl Guide Association -  the Medal of Merit, and the Canadian Beaver Award, as well as a Lifetime Membership. 

Mom, honored member of the Girl Guide Association

The outdoors was, next to family, one of her greatest loves.  Each summer Mom and Dad piled us kids and all our gear into the car to camp our way around British Columbia.  We hiked and mom taught us the names for the flowers and trees and birds;  my dad and I fished, and mom cooked our catch for dinner in a cast iron pan over an open fire. 

She spent a few years living in Quebec – my dad was transferred there from British Columbia shortly after we kids had all left home – and when she was widowed at 59,  she returned to her beloved west coast, back home to White Rock, BC.  She joined with a group of friends for weekly hikes until well into her 70s or early 80s.  In her little gold Honda Civic,  friends by her side and a thermos of tea and a packet of sandwiches in her knapsack,,  she would putter off here and there to hike this trail or that.  Her favourite hikes were trails to the alpine meadows of Mount Baker and Manning Park.  She called those places ‘her’ mountains.  

Mom's Mount Baker
Always visible from our childhood home

The last two years have not been easy for Mom as she experienced the loss of her sight,  her mobility, her memory, as well as the loss of several  close friends and family members including my sister, Carole.

We all grieved for Mom, and she for herself, when she could no longer live the life she loved.  But even these past few months,  she was still in there, her love of family always present, and her sense of humour popping out from time to time.  She was still the mom we knew and loved.   And now she is painfree at last, and at peace,  and reunited with my dad and my sister and all those who have gone before her.

For many years, Mom has been the last living member of her generation on our family tree.

And now she is gone.  

The Girl Guides make trail signs as they hike,  using twigs, grasses or stones to leave silent messages for those coming along behind them.  The sign I always liked best was a circle with a single rock in the middle.  It meant “ I have gone home”. 

Mom has gone home.  Her long hike is over.   It is time for rest. 

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest;
God is nigh.*

Love ya Mom.  See ya on the other side.

(*TAPS – lyrics by Horace Lorenzo Trim.  Sung at the ending of each Girl Guide day. )


Irene said...

Lovely tribute, Jean. Wishing you peace in your sorrow.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a treasure Jean..may she RIP after such a long full life..

Cheryl K

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say Jean except I'm so sorry for your loss.


Mark & Del & The Royals said...

Thank you for sharing your mom's life with us Jean. It's easy to see where your wonderful traits come from.
What a lovely silent message for those coming along behind.
We shall remember it.
Warm hugs

Anonymous said...

Gosh Jean, after reading this I feel I know your Mom so well. Nice of you to share those wonderful photos and memories of her long life. She sounded like a really super lady.
Hugs to you...

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Jean.


Anonymous said...

Jean, when I read your blogs I am amazed by the many things you are successful at and what a wonderfully community minded person you are. Now I know why. You take after your mother.
Thank you for sharing your memories and pictures of her.
I am so very sorry for your loss.

Caroline A said...

Thinking of you Jean.

Anonymous said...

Lovely tribute, my thoughts are with you.

Anonymous said...

There could be no more perfect tribute than the circle of stones. Hugs to you in your sorrow.

Deb S.

Brigid said...

My sympathies to you in your loss, Jean - yes, she'll be waiting with all those - two- and four-footed - that you've loved and lost.

Sheryl said...

Jean, I am so sorry for your loss. What a lovely tribute to a cherished mom.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful and special lady you described your mom as..i am so sorry for your loss..Marion

Marie said...

Jean, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, at this particularly difficult time.

Unknown said...

I'm truly sorry for your loss Jean, thank you for letting us take a peek at some of your Mom's huge accomplishments, it is easy to see where you learned to love the outdoors. from a former Brownie and Girl Guide a very big salute and hugs
Kate D. & Lucy,Finn, and Lady Grayce

Anonymous said...

Dear Jean..may your Mother rest in peace,thank you for sharing your memorie's & life with us.The necklace with the stone in the middle...says it all.
God Bless you,..your remaining family & Furry friends. deepest tworsympathy marion J

Blue Mountain Dog said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your Mom's life and photos with us. She sounds very special indeed.