Mom, You Left Too Soon

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My mother, Fern, and me, Barbara Fern

 

In the last years of my mother’s life she lived in southern Illinois while I lived over 300 miles away in northern Illinois.  I worked a Monday-Friday job and my husband was a pastor which meant his job required work on the weekends.  Thus, it was hard to have a chance to get away for a few days to visit her.

We took some vacation time and made a visit three or four times a year.  When we drove in the driveway she was always standing at the door anticipating our arrival.  Every time we left she would stand on the porch and wave until we were out of sight.

Becoming interested in doing genealogy research on my family I began asking Mom and Dad to tell me more about their childhood.  On one of our last visits, they took my husband and I to the cemeteries where grandparents were buried, to the place where my mother grew up, to the school my dad attended as a small boy.  My husband took a videotape of our adventures that day.

In February 2006 my husband retired and I was so excited as that meant we would have weekends free to visit my parents.  Now I could visit more and begin writing down their stories and take pictures of places from their childhood.

So, early in April we sat out to visit my parents.  I knew Mother would be so happy to hear that I was going to be able to start coming down more and that I wanted to hear more about her childhood and her family.

My excitement soon turned to worry.  When we arrived I found my Mother in great pain.  She had made a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon.  I took her to the doctor expecting to hear that she had some “bug” that would require some medicine and rest.  All prepared to stay and help her recover, I was shocked when the doctor admitted her to the hospital for tests.

The first couple of days seem pretty routine and we had some great visits in her hospital room – just the two of us talking.  On the third day Mom took a turn for the worse and I called my two sisters to come.  Something was wrong – much more than routine.

Mom quickly went downhill as the days passed and it became clear she was not going to make it.  The time came when we had to make that dreaded decision.  Do we continue to do treatments that were clearly painful or do we let her die with dignity and in peace?  A tough decision.

A few days later Mom was gone.

Gone – before I got to write down those stories.

Gone – before I got to spend more time with her.

It has now been thirteen years since Mom left.  As I age myself I begin to understand her more.  I find myself doing and saying things to my children that she once did and said to me.  Often I see that my comments are not welcome.  I’m being bossy, old-fashion, interfering.  All the things I once thought about my mother.  Now I realize while she may have been (and I certainly am) bossy, old-fashion and interfering, her motives were one of love.

Gone – before I could say, “Mom I understand you now.”

Gone – before I could say, “Mom, I’m sorry.”

 

Now I Am “Great!”

This past weekend I held my great-grandson in my arms for the first time.  He is just seven months old and lives with his parents in North Carolina – much too far away from this great-grandmother.

This triggered so many memories and emotions.  The overwhelming and instant love I felt when they placed his grandmother – my daughter – in my arms for the first time.  Struck by the responsibility I faced to care for this life that God had given me and my husband.  Amazed at the strong love that filled my heart at the sight of her beautiful little face.  Excited about what waited for us in the coming years as I would watch her grow and teach her to walk, to read, play with her in the park, take her shopping.  All the plans I had.

Thinking I had years ahead of me to spend with her, I had no idea how quickly she would grow up, fall in love and begin a new life.  A life where I no longer had that responsibility to care for her or teach her.  A time when she would no longer be my “little girl” but a grown woman and we would have to readjust our relationship.

But this time was also an exciting one.  Watching her fall in love, seeing her make her own way in the world.  The best part was when once again a little baby came into my life.

This time it was a grandson.  I thought being a mother was great – but holding that little boy – I thought nothing could top that.

I loved the years with this little guy.  Taking him to get ice cream or just walking after a rain and stepping in all the puddles we would find – all the time I spent with him was golden.

Too quickly he grew up.  Once again I repeated the history I had with his mother.  Watching him graduate from college, fall in love and begin his life as an adult.

Now once again I have experienced such a magical moment.  Holding my grandson’s son!  Amazing that little guy I had never seen before except in pictures, now was here with me – and I fell head over heels in love with him.

As the weekend passed by way too soon and he is now off to North Carolina again, I am thinking of my own parents and grandparents.  How life goes by so quickly but also how blessed it is to have family – past, present, future.

It is doubtful I will live to see this little guy’s children.  But I hope the memory of me will live on and stories about me will be shared with him.

I have worked some on my genealogy finding stories of great grandparents.  This visit has made me want even more to know more about those who went before me.   I will be working more in earnest once again to find and treasure their stores.

Past, present and future.  As I come toward the end of my own life I realize more than ever that in the end it is family that matters most.

Becoming a grandmother is wonderful. One moment you’re just a mother. The next you are all-wise and prehistoric.”– Pam Brown

Just when grandparents think their work is finished someone calls them “great.”

 

 

Whose Child Am I?

AncestryDNAPlayerCardBarbaraSechrest

 

I have always been interested in history – especially American and English history.  My library contains biographies on almost every American president, most of our founding fathers, and other men or women who have played an important part in our country political system.

Growing up I was told my grandmother was Irish.  She had red hair and so did I.  Grandma was so proud of my red hair.  When I was just a little child Grandma was losing her eyesight.  I remember how my parents would have me stand in the doorway at her house where the sun would shine on my hair and she could still see my red hair.  Guess that is why I always loved being a red hair.

Fiery Red-heads Have More Fun!

A few months ago I started doing genealogy research on my family.  It has been an interesting journey.  I found one ancestor whose story gives the impression that she was not a very happy camper.  The picture I found of her certainly appears to back that story.  However, in most of the pictures taken in that time period no one appears to be smiling.

Mary Wampler

My third great-grandmother.

I was so excited when I found what I thought was an ancestor who was the founder of the American Bible Society and president of the Continental Congress from 1782 to 1783, Elias Boudinot.  Then, I discovered he was not a direct ancestor but a brother to my direct ancestor, Elisha Boudinot .  Still, it was a thrilling moment for this history nut to find that Elisha was friends to George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin.

As a little girl my mother spoke so lovingly of her grandpa and it was great to find a picture of him.

Calvin

My great grandfather, Calvin Wilson

It was from this line of ancestors that I have my Irish DNA and my red hair.

Receiving a record of my DNA and researching my ancestors has made me really stop and think.  From this wide background of people from Ireland, England, Germany, France and Switzerland is this person called Barbara.  But who am I?  Am I more than just DNA from a multitude of people from different cultures and lands?

Who is my father?  What is my true identity?

I am more than my DNA.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  — Romans 8:15-16 

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.  John 1:12

Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.  Psalm 27:10

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. Psalm 68:5
These verses are more than just words to me.  Throughout my life, God has been my father, my comforter.
I am more than 71% Britain or 11% Irish.  While I enjoy learning about my ancestors (the famous Frenchman, the English prince and the Irish drunk), I am so thankful that I am a child of God!
Praise to the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ
Our God and our King, to Him we will sing
In His great mercy, He has given us life
Now we can be called the children of God
Great is the Love that the Father has given us
He has delivered us
He has delivered us
Children of God, sing your song and rejoice
For the love that He has given us all
Children of God, by the blood of His Son
We have been redeemed and we can be called
Children of God
Children of God
A mystery is revealed to the universe
The Father above has proven His love
Now we are free from the judgment that we deserve
And so we are called the children of God
Great is the Love that the Father has given us
He has delivered us
He has delivered us………………………………………….Lyrics by Third Day

 

 

Remembering Mom

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Rosie Fern Sechrest – 4/16/1918 to 4/4/2006

Hard to believe it has been 12 years since my mother died.  Hard to believe it has been that long.

My birthday and my mother’s were only eight days apart so we often celebrated them together.   The year my mother died my husband and I had gone down to her house in southern Illinois in late March so we could celebrate our birthdays a few days early.  For years I lived in the northern part of the state while my mother lived in the southern part and so our time together was far and few between.  I worked a Monday-Friday job and my husband’s job as a pastor took up the weekends so I only saw her a few times a year.

But that was all going to change.  In February of that year my husband retired and now we would have our weekends free so we could make more trips down to southern Illinois to see her.

I was so anxious to tell her that now I would be coming to see her more often.  Being interested in my genealogy I was looking forward to asking her more questions about her childhood and maybe even visiting some of the places where she went to school or lived.

That was not to be.

When I arrived at my mother’s home I found her in a lot of pain.  She had made a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon so my husband and I took her to the clinic.  She asked me to go in with her for the doctor’s exam and it was only then that I found out she had been having problems for some time.

After examination the doctor admitted Mom to the hospital.  He did not seem to be too concerned saying only that she might have an infection and needed some tests and medication.

The first couple of days Mom seemed to be doing fine and the doctors assured me they would soon get to the bottom of Mom’s pain.  I even assured my sisters they did not need to come, Mom would soon be back to normal and I would be taking her home.

I still struggle that I told them that.  By the third day Mom took a turn for the worse and within a couple of days it was clear there was something seriously wrong.  By then I called my sisters that they needed to come, but I always felt guilty that I had assured them there was no need to come.  By the time they got there, Mom was clearly not doing well.

Yet, in a very selfish way, I was glad that I had those couple of days with Mom all by myself.  Being the baby in the family, Mom usually seemed to trust more on my older sisters for help and it made me feel so good to be the one adjust her pillows, straighten up her cover, being a help to her.

So my feelings still are mixed.  Guilty because I assured my sisters they did not need to hurry down; yet thankful for those couple of days of just me and my mom.

Mom was a jolly woman.  I remember as a child when she and my aunt (a Methodist minister) would do the Charleston dance at our family gatherings.  Her pies were the best.  Many Saturdays Mom would spend the day baking pies:  chocolate, coconut cream, apple, peach.  Sunday nights would find our kitchen and living room filled with members of our church who came over to visit – but I think more to enjoy Mom’s pies.

She always made her own crusts but as she got older she started buying frozen crusts from the store.  While I missed her delicious crusts, the pies were still good.  When my husband and I visited, I knew Mom would have a pot of beans (for me) and coconut cream pie for my husband.  Of course, she also had a chocolate pie because that was my favorite.

After Mom died, I grieved for her.  But, slowly, over time I began to get used to not having her around.  Lately, however, she fills my thoughts almost daily.  I think it is because I am getting old myself and as I age, I understand my mother better.  Sadly, I often wish I could apologize to her.  Many times I got irritated at her – and now I find myself doing and saying the very things she did.  I understand her better now than I did when I was young.

But it is too late to let her know that.

Because of my Christian faith, I believe someday I will see my mother again.  While I will try to apologize, I imagine she will just laugh and say “Come on Barbara, let me show you the rose garden”  for she knows how much I love roses.

Until then, if your mother is still living, give her a call and let her know how much she means to you.

 

 

 

 

From Irish to French?

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Searching for the past!

When I was in junior high we had an assignment to find out our family’s background – what nationality made up our family tree.  My parents did not have a lot of information to share, but Dad said his mother’s family was Irish and his father’s family German.  Mother was not very clear about her father’s side of the family.  He was an orphan and never shared much about his family.  She never met any of his parents, siblings, aunts or uncles.  What little she knew was that there was some Indian ancestry there.  Mother said her mother’s side was English.

More Irish!

Recently I received some genealogy research from one of my mother’s cousins tracing my grandmother’s family back several generations.  I was so excited when I found that my great-great grandfather was not English, but Scot-Irish!

Of all my grandparents the only one who really showed any interest in me was my father’s mother – the Irish grandma.  She was a red-head and I am also.  She loved that I was a red-head and that I looked like her side of the family – the Tates.  Because she made me feel loved and proud of my red hair, I have always felt a connection to that Irish heritage and always loved anything Irish.

Knowing that red hair is a recessive gene and required that both my parents pass on the gene for red hair in order for me to be a red-head, I knew someone in the past on my mother’s side had red hair.  But I was so excited to find out that only a few generations back was an Irish gentleman.  So now I can thank not only my Grandma Tate but my great-great Grandpa “Paddy” Wilson for my red hair.  (Fiery Red-heads Have More Fun!)

But French?

I was excited to find that second Irish connection, but surprised to find that my ancestors were also French.  My great-great Grandpa Wilson married a French lady.  And it appears of all my ancestors I have traced so far it is the French connection that is the most interesting.

The Boudinots were Huguenots who fled France after King Louis XIV revoked the decree of Nante and began religious persecution of Protestants.  From France they immigrated to England for a short period and then on to North America, arriving just in time to be a part of our early history as a new nation.   I’m just beginning to learn more about these French ancestors but it appears they were involved closely with the birth of the USA.  Since I am a history nut and have read everything I can find on our founding fathers and mothers, it is so “neat” to find that some of my ancestors were closely involved in that history.

So who cares?

I realize that in one sense it doesn’t really matter who my great-great-great-great grandfather was – yet as I age, I find it more and more important that we do not forget our past.

What other surprises await?

I have traced enough on my Grandmother Smith’s side to feel no more surprises – it’s Irish/French.  But a mystery remains on my Grandfather Smith’s side.  The only sibling of my mother still alive told me I should not try to trace that side of the family.  He was very mysterious as to why I should not.  Research so far does appear there may be a secret there.  But what?

So – what is your heritage?  What interesting stories does your family tree have?