May 10, 1925 - November 14, 2011

(Mom C, Phil and Matt)

Yesterday Phil’s mom died and for a long while we will grieve.

Her passing was not unexpected, in fact, we’d prayed for the Father to mercifully take her before the pain got too great.  Yet still, the searing agony of losing someone who loved each of us so well is staggering.

We are sad and we should be sad. No amount of convincing platitudes erases the fact that she’s gone from our lives. Even the Library of Congress sized mental files of love-filled memories won’t lessen this very real loss.

We wanted her to live forever… and we know she does… but we want her here.

And so today we travel back to relish the woman we’ve lost: Mom, Grammy, Ruth, Mom C. My family pauses to remember, I pause to remember…

I first met the woman I came to call Mom C when I was the painfully shy girlfriend of her middle son. The day Phil took me home to meet his mom, I wore an off-white ensemble that made me feel as confident as I possibly could while meeting this one whose son revered her. We picked up Chinese food on the way, which promptly leaked brown greasy sauce all over my pants. I was mortified!

Ruth never even noticed.

Instead, she saw me for who I was: the woman her son loved. And on that basis alone, she took me into her heart and let me be myself.

For our wedding, Ruth did the flowers, gifting me with a fairy-tale like setting in which to pledge my heart to her son. When I walked into that warehouse turned wedding chapel, the beauty of her craftsmanship took my breath away! A “few roses” had become a bower of unbelievable artistry… just the first of many loving gifts to start our story together.

Over the years Ruth became my friend. I could say anything to her without fear of censure or disapproval. I trusted her to believe the best about me, even when she knew the worst. Her advice always made so much sense, even when she mixed it up with old wives tales and mid-west traditions.

I remember ignoring her advice when it came to my firstborn son and schedules. The “new research” favored demand feeding and let-the-baby-decide sleep arrangements. My mother teamed up with my mother-in-law to let me know they thought all I’d get for all that “new research” would be an appallingly demanding baby. They were right! It took months to undo the damage done with all that permissive nonsense… yet neither mother once gave me that I-told-you-so pursing of the lips. My mom and Mom C just loved me and laughed when I complained.

The boys (Jack, Phil, and Mark, along with husband, Bill) were her world. She loved them by feeding them delicious meat-laden meals and by baking cakes and pies and the best coffee cake I’ve ever tasted. She’d iron shirts on demand, made their beds way too late in their lives (!), and let their rock band practice in the family room. There she’d be, beaming at their music, opening the windows so her neighbors could hear, whipping up a batch of fudge to “give them energy”.

(Phil on the drums with his band)

How does a young bride compete with that?

Early on, I just jumped in and joined the worshipers-of-mom… and copied every recipe I could. She made it so easy to love her because she loved me regardless of the glaring evidence that I’d never possibly reach her level of revered womanhood. She’d just laugh her little chuckle as if to say, “Oh well, it doesn’t really matter much, does it?”

Mom C never had any daughters of her own; neither did she have a sister. So when the granddaughters came along, her innermost girliness came alive! She bought them frilly dresses and shiny shoes, and a pink satin penoir set that made little Elizabeth feel like a princess. She delighted in Rebekah’s thick thatch of curly dark hair, buying ribbons and trying everything to keep her not-so-girly granddaughter from pulling them out. My girls followed her around the house in their aprons, begging to “help” cook, making a mess and loving every minute of it.

Once when we came for a visit to their retirement home, she called me a week after we’d left to let me know that she’d finally washed Matt’s fingerprints off the mirrored door… she’d just loved seeing those little hands in her home.

(Mom C and John Mark)

Do you see why I loved her?

I know you’d find it hard to believe that a woman like this came from a terribly dysfunctional home. An alcoholic father who’d disappear for months at a time, a mother who got too sick to take care of her, spinster aunts who took over for a while… she never knew a safe, solid home life. Yet she would have scoffed at the idea of using her broken family as an excuse to be demanding or manipulative or even sad. Instead, she determined to build a family that would thrive on the love she dished out with all those homemade meals.

And she loved her “boys” (every one of them over 6 feet tall, and Ruth reaching barely over 5 feet!) no matter what. When they made mistakes, she just loved them. When they made life style choices that worried her, she just loved them. When they became successful, she loved them. And when they suffered she loved them still. It was her way, to love those boy-men no matter what.

Just a few friends and a smattering of family will be at Ruth’s graveside Monday morning. Yet the impact of her love lives on in uncountable lives. She changed a family by her love and then her family changed their families and now a new generation of families is growing up to change their own families… and isn’t that the way a whole world gets changed?

By one woman who chose to love… no matter what?

I miss you, Mom C

From my heart,


LOVE STORIES will resume on Tuesday this week with another story. Check back then!

EtcIntentional Parents