Friday, May 22, 2015

Remembering Mother (Verna Mae)

My mother died in 1991. Two years later Dad remarried, and Verna Mae came into our lives. next week they celebrate 22 years of marriage--longer than many first marriages!

 Although she could never be the mother who carried me, she has been a good companion to Dad, and mother to my sisters and me and our spouses, and grandma to our children.

I say that she entered our lives in 1993, but of course we knew who she was; she was part of our lives long before she married Dad. Lois knew her before the rest of us children. Verna Mae worked at Navajo Mission in New Mexico with Mother and Dad Heise in the 1950s, so she was part of Lois's life before any of the rest of us.

When Wilmer Heisey (the superintendent of the Navajo Mission) became the executive secretary of Brethren in Christ World Missions, he knew who he wanted to work in the office. I don't know if having Verna Mae come as his administrative assistant was a condition of taking the job, but she did move back to Pennsylvania and joined him in the missions office. her organizational ability and work ethic were basic to Wilmer's ability to handle a difficult administrative task.

In my research (working on a history of BICWM) I came across a massive compilation put together in 1978 of all the BIC personnel who had gone out in missions, from the beginning of our work until that date. Wilmer planned the compilation, but Verna Mae was a primary worker in bringing the whole great work together.

Along with the work that she did over many years in the office, she has a straightforward ability to accept people of all backgrounds and welcome them in her presence. Dad has commented on this, noting that she gives the gift of acceptance to everyone.

In recent years she faces the kinds of difficulties that many of us experience as we get older. But in all that happens she faces each moment as God's child, welcoming whatever and whoever comes to her. As her children and grandchildren we are grateful that she is part of our lives.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Remembering Mother (Heise)

I wrote about my mother last week, but of course every mother’s day Lois and I remember two mothers—each other’s as well as our own. (We also remember Verna Mae, but that will wait for another blog.) I cannot describe mother as Lois remembers her; this is my story only. 

The picture that goes with this blog shows Lois’ mother and mine talking together at our wedding. I called my mother “Mom” and Lois’s mother “Mother”—don’t know why; just know that it is so. Mom was short and feisty; Mother was taller and gracious. (Mom could be a gracious hostess; I’m not comparing, just reminiscing.) 

I have told the story elsewhere of the first encounter I remember with mother as a hostess. She cured me (without meaning to) of using sugar in my coffee. I say the first encounter I remember because my family of origin used to stay with Mother and Dad Heise when we were on furlough. I remember such a visit when I was 15; but all I actually remember was that they had a son my age, Glen. We played table tennis (Glen put a mean spin on his serve that I never did master) and chess. 

I did not notice his younger sister, although many years later I married her—nor did I notice his parents, except in the general way that a 15-year old might. Just Glen, and chess, and table tennis. 

Mother was a good hostess—wonderful food and good conversation at the Heise table. She valued having everything in its place. Food was prepared just right, from vegetables to main course to dessert, and the presentation of the food was as good as the food. When Lois and I formed our own family, I was struck with how clearly the Heise family remembered menus, and shared those menus with each other in our weekly calls home. All part of good hosting! 

Mother valued her relationship with God. She and Dad drove 30 miles every Sunday to go to church, often morning and evening. Dad was a deacon in the church, which reflected the people’s awareness of his spiritual maturity, but was also a statement about mother. In her last days she anticipated the joy of Heaven explicitly and clearly, which was a statement about the way she had lived her whole life. 

She was also an athlete when she was young. When Lois was in school, one year the mothers of the band members played a game of basketball, and she was one of the best players. In March basketball fever would grip her, and she would follow the progress of the University of Kansas through March madness. NCAA basketball was one of the few reasons she would turn on the TV in her house. 

Mother loved Dad, and her children, and her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren; she enjoyed playing Scrabble with Dad and with her family. We miss her, and we miss talking with her and visiting her. One of the joys of Heaven that we anticipate eagerly is our reunion with Mother, and with Dad, and with my mother, and with all of those who have gone before.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Remembering my Mother

Memories are personal, subjective, true, and not always quite accurate. So if my siblings and father contradict my memories of my mother, I grant their accuracy, but my memories are also true. 

I remember boxing with mother. Take one moody boy in his early teens; add a feisty mother who believed in tackling moodiness head on. Result: a boxing match. Mother would bounce around me (all 4' 11" of her) jabbing away until I broke down in laughter. It was hard to feel down with a mother like that. 

I remember her hustle and bustle. She would work incessantly at whatever needed doing. She and Dad rarely did the dishes together—he was methodical and careful; she washed and piled dishes in the dish drainer quickly. A bad combination. This sounds a lot like Lois and me. I prefer to do our dishes on my own, methodically washing and putting them in place and then drying them equally methodically. (I may leave them on the counter for Lois to put away, which I don’t think my father did.) 

I remember mother’s attitude to discouraging events. She would say to me, “Well, you can meet it [whatever had just happened] with a smile or with a frown. It won’t change, but you will.” Her theme song might have been:
Climb, climb up sunshine mountain, faces all aglow.
Climb, climb up sunshine mountain, heavenly breezes blow.
Turn, turn from sin and doubting, look up to the sky.
Climb, climb up sunshine mountain, you and I. 

She had too much energy to enjoy singing “How tedious and tasteless the hours”, an old gospel hymn with the same message as the children’s chorus. I remember that she told me that the church she grew up in sang that hymn so slowly that they made the time “tedious and tasteless”. 

I remember her love and care. She was the glue who held our family together. We are still together, all this time after her death (24 years ago today), but we miss her love and care, expressed constantly and consistently and deeply and warmly. 

I remember my mother. And love her still, and always.