Remembering Mom


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.





Everyone Needs a “Big” Sister

She has always been there.  My “big” sister, Velma.  I call her big, not because she is physically bigger than me.  In fact, I think she is a little smaller.  But she was my oldest sibling and calling her “big” sister is probably better than calling her my “old” sister.


Me and my “big” sister, Velma.

Velma was the oldest of four children and I was the youngest.  My parents told me from the moment of my birth, Velma felt that I was “her” little doll to play with and take care of.  They told me when I was only a few weeks old the whole family decided to go berry picking.  They packed the car with a picnic basket and Mom went into the house to get me out of my crib.  But I was not there.

A little panicked, my mother looked out the front door to see Velma carrying me to the car.  Stepping over the ditch by the driveway, she slipped and dropped me.  I was not hurt but the family often joked “that explains a lot about Barbara.”  Dropped on my head.

In the days before automatic washers and dryers, microwave ovens and all the conveniences we enjoy now, my mother had her hands full keeping up with the house work and taking care of us.  Velma stepped right in to help.  So when it was time to go to church or any other event where I needed to look my best, it was often Velma who helped me get dressed, fixed my hair, made sure I had brushed my teeth.

Velma took home economics in high school and became a very proficient seamstress.  Her senior year she made us matching dresses.  The school had a fashion show for the students to show off their sewing talents.  Velma was asked to include her “little” sister in the show.  Although that was years ago, I still remember how excited I was to be in a fashion show with all the “big” kids.  Velma and I practiced over and over in our kitchen how I was to walk on stage, turn around slowly and walk off stage.  The night of the fashion show I think I was the hit – a little girl with red banana curls!  I will always remember the pride my sister had in me – gave me confidence I needed.

Velma not only took care of many of my physical needs, she was concerned about my spiritual need also.  I had a Bible storybook that I had read over and over.  I loved reading about Joshua, Gideon and David and I loved the stories of the Old Testament prophets.   That bible story book was my first introduction to the wonderful stories about Jesus.  The book is worn out, but I still have it sitting on a shelf in my study.  Over the years I have moved a lot and do not have anything from my childhood but that book.  I still treasure it.

However, for my seventh birthday Velma thought it was time I graduated to a “real” Bible so she bought me my first one.  She also got me some new pajamas.  I was so proud of both gifts that I insisted I wear the pajamas and she take a picture of me in them with that Bible.  Although that Bible was the King James version (in the days before all our new translations) and hard for a seven-year-old to understand, Velma encouraged me to


Just keep reading.  The more you read it, the more you will understand.  Ask God to help you.

So I did.    Perhaps the fact that I read the King James Bible faithfully instead of the “See Spot Run” books is why I became not only an excellent reader, but a very fast reader.

She was my role model.  As a young girl I was in the Sunday School class she taught for young girls.  I still remember the navy blue dress she wore with a white-collar.  Her shoes were navy, red and white.  I thought she was so sophisticated in that outfit.  When I got my first job I bought myself a pair of navy, red and white shoes and purse.  I watched her style of teaching – and I have patterned my own Bible teaching after her.  People say I am able to present great truths of the Bible in a simple way that a child could understand.  If that is true, I owe that to Velma.

I recently visited my sister and her family.  Got to me thinking.  I will be 70 in April – and my sisters are the only ones who share all my history with me.  They are the only ones who remember my banana curls, my playing and singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”, and much much more of my history.  They are the only ones who share so much history with me.

My “big” sister has never had the joy of having a “big” sister, but I hope being her “little” sister has been a blessing to her as she has been to me.

Sis, if you read this, I LOVE YOU!



 Sisters are a blessing?  Or a curse?


Growing up I was fortunate to have two older sisters.  Time and distance now separate us, but the older I get, the more I like to remember those days when we were young and still free of wrinkles, arthritic backs and grey hair.



My oldest sister, Velma, was often more of a second mom than a sister.  Nine years older than me, she helped Mother out by seeing that I was dressed for church or school and my hair properly combed.  She helped me with my homework and told me stories.  They tell me when I was only a few weeks old Mother went to get me out of the crib to carry me to the car for a trip to town.  Panicked when I was not in the crib, she looked out the window to see my sister holding me in her arms and headed toward the car.  As she approached a ditch she tried to jump over it with me still in her arms.  Unfortunately, she dropped me.  Although I was not hurt, my family always teased me that I had been dropped on my head as a baby (said as they rolled their eyes and laughed).

Velma took home economics in high school and became a very accomplished seamstress.  She made many of my clothes.  During her senior year she made matching dresses for me and herself and we were chosen to model them at a fashion show at the high school.  Night after night in our kitchen Velma would practice with me making sure I knew how to walk, when to turn, how to hold out the hem of my dress as I courtesied to the audience.  On the night of the show I don’t know who was more excited – Velma or me.  Waiting at the back of the stage for our turn with all the “grown up” seniors, I could hardly contain the excitement I felt.  With my red hair in banana curls, everyone was saying, “What a cute little girl!”  I felt so special.  But what really made it so special to me – and still is special after all these years – is I could see how proud my sister was of me.  Her pride and joy in me at that moment still lives in my memory.  (Thanks Velma!)

A year after her high school graduation she married a young man named Gary.  I was heart-broken.  How could she do that?  How could she leave me for him?  She normally shared a bedroom with my other sister, but I was allowed to sleep with her on her last night at home.  I asked her, “Why would you want to go sleep with him when you can sleep here with me?”  How we have laughed about that question through the years?  (After I grew old enough to figure why she would want to do that.)

She assured me she would come to visit me often and I could come stay with her and Gary during summer vacations.  That was not reassuring to me because I thought, “Yeah, she will come visit, but he will always be there”

And He has always been there.  Faithful, steadfast as a husband, father and the greatest “brother” anyone could every want – he has been there for over 56 years.  I can’t imagine life without him in our family.



My second sister was more a playmate.  Only five years older than me she played paper dolls and jacks with me.  She was a giggler and always made us laugh.

Minnie and I took piano lessons when we were very young.  Mother and Dad could not afford to pay for both of us to take lessons separately so they made a deal with the piano teacher.  She would teach both of us.  Minnie would take a lesson one week – then I would take a lesson the next week.  As we played we would share with one another the discoveries we made during our practice sessions.

As a young teenager I looked up to her as a role model.  She was so pretty and so smart.  Knowing I could not compete with her in the looks department, I was motivated to try to match her academic achievements in school.  It’s probably because of that strong desire to measure up to her that I did so well in school.  (Thanks Minnie!)

Minnie and I shared some memories that no sisters should have to share.  But it brought us close in a difficult time.  When our father deserted Mother and the two of us, times were tough.  We struggled financially and emotionally.  Minnie was the breadwinner in our family for a few years as I was still in school and Mother was so scared of going out into the working world.  She took on a responsibility no young woman should have had to do, but I never heard her complain and she never made me or mother feel bad for depending on her for our daily needs.

Thankfully the day came when she also found “Mr Right.”  By this time I was old enough to understand why she would leave and I rejoiced in her happiness.  So thankful for all the years of joy she had with Ralph.

Although most of my memories of my sisters are full of joy, I would be lying to say we never had fights or disagreements, that there were never times of misunderstanding.  But when I add up the times they made me mad or hurt my feelings or just frustrated me and then add up the times they made me laugh and feel loved, the good memories far outweigh the bad.

I thank God for my sisters!

This quote from Barbara Alpert says it all – but I especially like the line “who sees you at your worst…..and loves you anyway.

She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she’s the reason you wish you were an only child. ~Barbara Alpert