How do you write an obituary for your mother? How do you decide what the most important pieces of 91 years of life are for the final words people will read about her? How do you create a legacy in just a few hundred words?
The obituary I wrote last week for my mother, Gloria Quesinberry, barely covered the surface of this amazing woman.
Most people know she loved flowers and gardening. But do they know she especially loved marigolds, gardenias, Spath lilies and caladiums? Or that she never hesitated to bend down and pull a few weeds out of someone else’s yard — mine included?
She loved every moment of her membership at the First United Methodist Church of Winter Garden — nearly 50 years — and perfect attendance was important. We went every Sunday, and if we were on vacation, we found a Methodist church to attend. I still have my lapel pins to prove it.
Mother loved the old Methodist hymns, like “Old Rugged Cross” and “Amazing Grace” — but her favorite was “In the Garden.” She told me more than 30 years ago that she wanted that song played at her funeral. And for the next three decades, every single time we sang it in church, I stood there and cried because I knew it would one day be her funeral song.
After watching me cry one too many times, she finally told me not to play it at her funeral because she didn’t want me that upset.
Well, her memorial service was Sunday, and, yes, it was sung. And, yes, I cried again. It was beautiful, and it was perfect, and Mother would have loved it. Maybe she would have cried too.
Mother was a giver — a giver of her time, her talents, her patience. She took pride in caring for others her entire life, whether it was her babies, her grandbabies, her own mother or her husband.
As a little girl, I thought (no, I knew) I had the perfect life. Because I had the perfect mother.
When I remember my childhood, I’m reminded of all the different parties Mother planned — birthday parties and slumber parties with friends and gatherings with family to celebrate everyone’s birthdays. Chocolate mayonnaise cake always was my favorite.
She often carried a metal tray with small cups of soda to our wooden swing at the house on Highway 50 for “Pepsi Parties.”
I can still smell the blue striped hand towel she carefully pinned into the insides of our nightgowns so the Vicks VapoRub wouldn’t get my pajamas greasy. She cut my butter-soaked toast into little squares when I was sick.
No matter how tired she was, she always had time to scratch my back, even in my adulthood. I will miss that small yet huge showing of affection.
She pretended to make me drinks out of the “soda fountain” in the dashboard to pass time on long trips when I was little and complained of thirst. She drove my little sister around town with the air-conditioner on full blast whenever she had an asthma attack, even if it was 3 a.m.
As I got older, she added taxi driver to her list of motherhood responsibilities, dropping me off at friends’ houses, the skating rink, the movies.
At night, she fixed rich, chocolate milkshakes for a snack. She taught me how to bake chocolate chip cookies — although mine will never be as good as hers.
Mother was one of the field trip moms and homeroom moms at Dillard Street Elementary, and my friends and classmates knew if she was bringing cupcakes they would be homemade with an extra dollop of icing.
She came from an era of saving and reusing items and kept probably 87,000 pounds of tin foil, Baggies, and plastic utensils and cups out of the local landfill. I’ll admit, a little bit of that rubbed off on me.
She put together goody bags full of candy for family vacations, and she made sure Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny didn’t overlook me.
I always had a new outfit on the first day of school and new dresses for Easter.
She showed me a lifetime of what a loving marriage looks like, and she readily spent time with my children so this single mom could go out.
She was in the audience for every one of my dance recitals and piano recitals and school performances, and she was there for my children’s school and sports activities too.
Mother made me practice the piano, even when I didn’t want to, and I know she was disappointed when I said I didn’t want to play anymore. I now wish I could play. I tried a few years ago to pick it up again, but my brain and fingers wouldn’t cooperate.
Mother taught her children to say please and thank you, to always put a smile on our faces, to write thank-you letters and to be kind.
She was there for my successes and my failures — either with smiles and hugs or with tears and hugs — but always ready with a hug.
The last month has been a blur — both tediously slow yet swiftly moving too. Sitting by her bedside watching her breathe; getting “the call” at 2 in the morning on a Wednesday; contacting the funeral home; picking the right songs, the right flowers, the right photos; making sure someone could make Mother’s special punch for the reception. Making sure everything was perfect, as if she herself was hosting her final party.
Now we have to go on with life without Mother — just like we did without Daddy five years ago. Three times last week I started to call her to tell her something mundane. I suppose that will happen for a while.
Above all else, she made sure I always knew I was loved. She was, without a doubt, the best mother in the world.