Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC
A couple of days ago I sat down to brainstorm about the subject of my blog post for today. As I have been focusing on volunteering with my posts, I thought I would highlight a national nonprofit that gave opportunities for mothers to volunteer. To my surprise, I couldn’t find such an organization with the exception of very focused groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Then I thought I would focus on organizations that helped mothers. I found lots of groups that help pregnant moms, new mothers, single parent mothers, etc. But somehow I wasn’t finding anything that really grabbed me.
So I decided to dedicate today’s blog to my own mother who was one of my inspirations in creating the Year of Giving.
Born Lenora Ann Reed in 1943, my mother grew up in the sleepy coal-mining town of Richlands, Virginia. It’s a beautiful part of the country. I can remember driving down Route 460 as a child, well I wasn’t driving, but I was in the car, and seeing the breathtaking vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The house she grew up in still stands on a steep slope overlooking the town. Today nearly 6,000 people live in Richlands compared to about 4,800 when my mother was a child. Not too much has changed in my mind. The King Kone ice cream and hot dog stand still gets people lined up two or three deep. Mom used to love their chili dogs. I went back last year with my dad and got one. They must have been better back in the day.
Mom graduated from Richlands High School in 1960. She followed the footsteps of her older sisters and went to nursing school, however, nursing wasn’t for her and she ended up working for the federal government in Washington, DC.
She was living with my uncle Jack on the fourth floor of a crimson colored brick apartment complex in Arlington,VA. The place is still there today in fact. In the summer of 1962 my dad was moving in across the hall. “There were some girls who were whistling and giggling at me as I was carrying things in,” he told me smiling. “They kept hiding though when I would try to see who it was.” Well, the rest is history as they say.
Jerry and Lenora were married on January 23, 1964. They packed up the car and drove to California, sold everything except what they could carry in some suitcases and started out on a trip around the world. The first stop was Honolulu. They figured they would work for a while there until they had enough money to move on to the South Pacific. They never made it any further and five years later left the tropical paradise of Don Ho and moved to California where my brother and I were born.
The next 20 years were spent raising us kids. Although we had a baby sitter when we would get home from school, they rarely left us with a sitter to go out to dinner or those kinds of things. They completely put their social lives on hold in order to spend time with us. Our house was full of love and laughter and a few screams of my brother and me fighting.
Mom was extremely generous. We didn’t have much money to give, but she was always thinking of others before herself. She searched voraciously to find the perfect card to send to her friends and family. She wrote beautiful kind letters. She led by example; instilling in my brother and me virtues of kindness, sympathy and honesty.
When I was 16 I was selected to be a Rotary Youth Exchange Student and went to Guasave, Mexico for my 11th grade year of high school. On the eve of my flight, we sat in a hotel outside of Baltimore, MD fearing the unknown of a year apart. Tears were flowing and my mother took me for a short walk outside our hotel. She told me something that I will never forget.
“All my life I have worked to help you become independent. You’ve grown up so much and are setting out to write a new chapter of your life. We shouldn’t be crying; we should be celebrating. This is what your father and I have dreamed of ever since you were born is to see you mature and develop into your own person.”
I think we both knew that I still had a lot of growing up to do but as always she had a way with words to make the pain or the sadness go away. I must have received at least 100 letters from her during my 11 months in Mexico.
Mom died on the morning of December 15th, 2006 from some complications from a by-pass surgery she underwent a few days earlier. She had battled heart disease for more than two decades since having her first heart attack days before Christmas in 1984. It’s somehow ironic that someone with such a big and loving heart would die of heart related illness.
Today I remember her. I remember her smile, her laughter, her listening, her dancing with my dad in the kitchen, her gentle touch, her love of books, her love for family, her fondness for her work and coworkers and most of all her hugs. I celebrate her life and the beauty she brought to the lives of so many others.
If you are able to spend the day with your mother, make sure you tell her that you love her and appreciate all that she has done for you. Hug her and hold her an extra moment while you remember all of those who have lost their mothers.