Monday, March 16, 2015

Her Peace Was Good
It is almost six years ago now that I began this blog. I needed it. It helped me. It gave me the outlet for my emotions during one of the hardest times in my life, the slow loss of my mother to dementia.
Caring For Generations served its purpose and I am grateful that so many people shared this journey with me, and that some of what I wrote helped others. That was the unanticipated gift of this space.
Six years and I find myself ready to close this chapter.

Mom will always be with me. Always. I will never miss her less.  I could never love her less. She is my mother.
I can think of no better way to close this today, what would have been her 90th Birthday, than with the words I spoke at her funeral. Words my sister and I put together to capture who she was. This woman who created us, who raised us, who loved us.
Thank you, Mom. I love you and will be with you and Dad when it is my time. Until then I will live this beautiful life you gave me to the fullest.
April 27, 2009
Today we grieve. For my family we grieve our loss of Mom, our loss of Grammy Lois and our loss of Great-Grammy Lois. You come here today to grieve with us and by that simple act our grief is lightened. We thank you for that. Over the past several days we have gathered as families do and shared our memories of Mom. Shared together what we remember of our life with her and realized all over again just how precious memory is.

I remember suppers at the kitchen table in our house on Mabel Street. Mom and Dad and Penny and I in our seats, those seats assigned long ago by an unknown method all families use. As most of you know, food and cooking were not high on her list of priorities, but Mom cooked and every night we ate together. Invariably, if my father or any one of us said the steak was tough or the pork chop dry Mom’s response was, “My piece is good.”

That comment, her comment, ‘my piece is good’ is as easily applied to her life as it was to her supper. To Mom her piece of life was good. She chose to see it that way and by her example we learned to do the same.

Mom taught us a lot about life, about friendship, about love and about faith. She didn’t do this consciously, she did it simply by living, loving us and her friends and serving as an example. She taught us how to welcome people into our lives, not just for a moment but for a lifetime. Friendship wasn’t casual to Mom. Her ‘Club Girls’, women with a 60 year history of friendship continue to support us and until just a few weeks ago Mom talked of her intent to host club one more time. Friendships like that aren’t accidental, they’re intentional.

Friendship was simple to Mom, if she liked someone she invited them into her life. Once they were in, they stayed. Her ability to welcome people extended to my sister’s and my in-laws and Mom was delighted to be connected with the Hartmans and the Smiths and considered them her family as well as ours.

I can’t speak of Mom and not mention humor. Our family has a sense of humor that rivals no other. Mom told us once during a shopping trip that she never worried about being separated from my sister and I in a large store because all she had to do was wait a minute and our laughter would direct her to us. We don’t giggle, we jump into laughter with full force.

Penny and I come by our humor rightly, Mom and Dad raised us on theirs. Dry, spontaneous and quick with a comeback Mom could crack the veneer of any serious occasion, and often did. Her humor appeared at some of the most unexpected moments surprising those around her, and sometimes even those of us who knew her the best.

There were times over the past year or so when we thought we had lost our humor. Things just weren’t very funny. But it was there and it was Mom who found it first. When Medcu paramedics lifted her off the floor of her bedroom and checked her for a head injury they asked “Do you know who the President is?” Her response, “Why, don’t you?” Last week when I bent over her bed at the Barron Center, kissed her and said, “I love you, Mom,” she looked at me and said, “I don’t blame you.”

While we didn’t always know what to expect from Mom, there were times when she was completely predictable. At birthday parties or Christmas she was the first to suggest we open the presents, usually just after she had had cake or candy. We could all count on cookies in her cookie jar and candy in the silver dish on the end table. Mom had a sweet tooth. Cookies, cake, pie, candy the form was irrelevant. She loved sweets and Penny and I often found candy wrappers or candy itself in the pockets of her sweaters, jacket or slacks. One of the CNAs at the Barron Center took me aside one day and asked if we could bring in more pajamas for Mom. I was surprised because she had several pairs there already. When I asked why she said they didn’t like to put her to bed with chocolate on her nightgown. That was Mom.

As a girl Mom and her friends spent hours at the movie theatre. Mom loved the movies and Penny and I worried that Kenny and Jim would have to pass a test on Gone With the Wind before they’d be allowed to marry us. I was named for Rhett and Scarlett’s daughter and am thankful that my father stepped in and refused to go with Bonnie Blue! Mom carried her crush on Clark Gable well into her 70s, and shocked us all when she replaced him with George Clooney.

I look around this sanctuary today and realize how much of our life is tied to this church. Mom taught Sunday school, belonged to the Women’s Federation, sold books at the Church Fair and served on many committees. Dad was a Trustee and a Deacon and it seemed like they were always here ‘waiting on tables’. Immanuel is woven into the fabric of the Cash family and extends beyond to a larger circle of family and friends. Mom and Dad were married here and raised us in this church. Penny and Jim and Kenny and I were married here as were many of the Hartmans. Our last family gathering in this sanctuary was 6 months ago today when our daughter Michelle was married. Dad’s funeral was here 25 years ago and today we bring Mom full circle.

In recent months Mom talked a lot about her faith. It was rock solid and we are comforted to know through her visits with Deborah that she was not afraid. However, once again we got the unexpected when she announced to Penny last week that Jesus was a Baptist. As if this weren’t enough, she went on to clarify that even though the Catholics tried to claim him, he was a Baptist.

Mom was a lot of fun. She stirred competition between her sons-in-law by telling them both they were her favorite. She made it even more interesting when she included Penny’s brother-in-law Greg in the running. This favorite game spilled over to her daughters and grandchildren and has been the subject of much good humored debate. Penny and I called her bluff many times when we stood before her and asked which of us was the favorite. We both were. When Bill walked into her room at the Barron Center she’d wink and smile and ask him if he wanted to be her boyfriend. She particularly liked to do this if one of the young CNAs was within earshot. She’d drop a comment about her father’s six wives into random conversations just to see people’s reactions. When Penny and I would argue, as siblings do, she would tell us she didn’t understand why we fought because she and her sister Muriel never fought once when they were kids. We were 10 or 12 before it dawned on us that they didn’t argue because they never lived together!

Mom’s piece was good. She lived by the rules all her life and had a few of her own that she left with us:

Give your children two things, roots and wings. As long as those wings don’t take them out of Portland.
Surround yourself with good people.
Love simply.
Laugh often.
Neatness doesn’t count.
Faith is everything.
Some things just have to be done.
Life isn’t fair
If it’s not one thing, it’s two.
There is no such thing as too many books.
Chocolate really does make it better.

Rarely without a book in her hand or a smile on her face, Mom lived her life with simple grace and dignity. While others rage against what life offers, Mom accepted it all with thanks and joy and carried no sorrow for long. We could use more people like her in the world.

We heard Mom say many times, many, many times, “Getting old is tough, but it beats the alternative.” I picture her in heaven now and believe she’s changed her mind.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Home Sweet Home

It looks like any house in Our Neighborhood, USA. Modest, middle class, comfortable. When you see it you think it is a nice color, the lawn and hedge well kept. When you see it you think a nice family must live there. You think all those things and you are right, to a degree. A nice family did live there. My family.

This is my childhood home. This is where my sister and I grew up. This is where we listened to the Beatles for the first time. This is where we woke up early on Christmas morning. This is where we kissed our boyfriends good night. This is where we put on our wedding gowns. This is where we brought our children. This is where we grieved our father's death. This is where we lost our mother by minutes. 

This is our final step.

This is for sale.

What is not for sale are the memories. They live with us. Every day. Every time we want them, they are there. Every one of them.

It's someone else's turn now. Another family. Another life to be lived in this house, in those rooms, in that yard.

I hope their turn is as wonderful as ours was.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Wonderful State

July 24, 2013 Naples, Maine
Some things are good for the soul. The difficulty comes when we must recognize which things in our life are good, and which things are not so good. If we're fortunate, we have people around us who love and support us through the incongruity. I am fortunate.

A friend recently told me she wanted to see pictures in which I am happy. Pictures that reflect the me I am reclaiming.

I hope she likes this picture. I do.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Celebrate With Food

This may not look like much. This food couldn't be simpler...blueberry muffins, blueberries, and strawberries. But for me, to me, it is a lot.

It is a lot because unlike the majority of people, I rarely think about food. My family and friends have tired of my refrain - "I don't care about food!" - and my poor husband (who loves food and, yes, is trained as a chef) has put up with my disregard for 39 years.

I recognize the problem.

Recently I began working at understanding food and my relationship with it. While I doubt I will ever become a person who lives to eat, what I am becoming is a person who understands how important food is to those I love and because of that, it needs to be important to me, too. Or at least I need to pay more attention to it.

So, on the morning of the Fourth of July, I presented my husband with this breakfast.

He was pleased.

Small steps count.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


My thought this morning was a post on struggle. To write about the hardship that accompanies life, the pain and the sorrow we feel as we, and those we love, are faced with cancer, divorce, unemployment, financial stress, rejection, and a host of other life events that take their toll. So many of these events are present in my life right now it seemed the natural choice.

I brought all the people I love through my thoughts and gave a moment to each of them who are on the forefront of a struggle. (It took a little time to do this...but that was time well spent.)

As the parade of family and friends continued, it changed. Not the people, but the backdrop against which I viewed them. What evolved was not the slow, sad list of struggles, but the longer list of joy and fun and love that I share with each of them. I didn't see cancer and the long road ahead of treatment, I saw summer evenings on a boat. I didn't see divorce, I saw welcome smiles and time together. I didn't see unemployment, I saw opportunity. I didn't see rejection, I saw the full embrace of a loving family. As for financial stress, I saw how unimportant money really can be.

Maybe I really am a little too much of a cup half full kind of girl, but it is my choice to make and I certainly am not going to spend any time struggling to change that.

I leave you with an example of struggle. This is my granddaughter, Ryleigh (you've met her before here). Not all hills we climb are as simple as learning your first song on the piano, but regardless of the size of the hill, our struggles are hills nonetheless. The title of the song is "Love Someone". If anyone knows how to do that, she does. If I'm a cup half-full girl....she's a cup is overflowing one. Her Great-Grammy Lois would be proud.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Happy, Healthy, Birthday!

Today I am 58. An age you won't find on cards in Hallmark stores or hear of surprise parties complete with black balloons and Over the Hill gag gifts. 58 is not a hallmark age. It is not one we celebrate. But for me, 58 is a hallmark. 58 is enormous. My father was 58 when he died. My father-in-law was 58 when he died (I guess technically he was 59, but since he died early in the morning of his 59th Birthday, I have always considered him to be 58). So you can see why 58 is an age to be reckoned with.
I spent my day, my 58th Birthday, with my husband. We went to breakfast, we went for a walk, we ate lunch in the sun on the deck and I had a nice long visit with my sister.  It was a beautiful day.

I thought a lot about my father and father-in-law today and how short their lives were. I thought about all they didn't get to do. I thought about all they missed. I thought about heart disease and cancer, the diseases that took them from us. I thought about genetics (maybe I obsessed a little too much about genetics....maybe I shouldn't have ordered the bacon and eggs!). I thought about how fast 58 years goes by.
And then I thought about the future. I thought about my future with my husband. With our children. With our grandchildren.  With our extended family. With our friends. I thought about my career, where I've been and where I'll go. I thought about my health. I thought about the 26 pounds I've lost. I thought about how strong I have gotten.

I had my granddaughter take this picture of me just a few moments ago. She told me I am beautiful. I intend to stay that way for a very long time.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


I like this picture. It was taken at my nephew's birthday celebration last month. If you compare it to the picture I posted earlier this week you should see a difference. I see it. The difference is about 20 pounds. When I look at this picture I see not only a lighter me, but a happier me (and not just because I'm in the arms of my husband!). It's not just the weight, it's who I am, or who I am becoming.

Throughout my life I have faced challenges and I don't think there are many I have not overcome. I'm sure there were, but none come to mind at the moment. The challenges in my life have been emotional, medical, social, familial, dangerous, scholarly, career, etc. The one thing they haven't been is physical.  

Now, for me, it's physical. And I'm facing it. And I'm doing it. And I'm winning.

It's April 7th...have you done your 14 crunches today?