I have had two mother's since I married. One, a fiery, flamboyant, glamorous, Air Force wife, my birth mother, and the other, a shy, devout clergy wife, who shared her musical gifts primarily through playing the organ and piano in worship services, my "mother by marriage." Both were formative women in my life. I am writing this love letter to Dorothy well after Mother's Day. One, because I missed doing it on Mother's Day and two, because I will not have another Mother's Day with Dorothy, my husband's mother. She is dying.
My mother, Rose Lee has loved me all of my life with a fierce, protective, and challenging love. My "mother by marriage", Dorothy has loved me for most of my life with a gentler, but no less challenging love. Both expected a lot from me. My birth mother expected me to be beautiful, to develop my talents as an artist, to be a good wife and mother, and to give back to my community. My "mother by marriage" expected me to grow in my faith, to love others, and to raise my children as Christians. Of course, I fell short. But they both continued to love me and support me in the things I found important.
Although so very different in temperament, these two mother's have enjoyed a friendship spanning fifty years as they shared children who married each other, and grandchildren, and now great grandchildren. Dorothy, never a goody-two- shoes, in spite of her devoutness, laughs at my Mother's sometimes salty and always outrageous comments. Rose Lee enjoys making her laugh and "plays to the crowd" to entertain her.
Both women have a deep and abiding curiosity about what is important to people. They both worked hard in their churches and volunteered in their communities. Both are beloved among their friends and families.
|Dorothy Neatherlin Gaume with Olivia Jeffers|
When Dorothy came to the realization that her heart failure is irreversible and that she only has a short time to live, she has been adamant that nothing be done to prolong her life. As always, she set about making sure that everything was organized, everyone was cared for, and that everything was said. Including, "tell Rose Lee that she wins." Ignoring her increasing weakness and discomfort, she spends her days making time to talk with each of us and the many visitors from her church and the Manzano Del Sol community.
When her priest, Fr. Christopher McLaren, came to celebrate "Last Rites", she realized he was willing to sing, requested several of her favorite hymns and even though she was having a lot of trouble breathing, followed along knowing all the words by heart. The rest of us lamely attempted to sing by Googling the lyrics on our IPads. Joyfully she accepted our less than perfect singing as true worship. At the end of the service she gave Fr. Christopher her blessing, just as she has blessed all the lives that she has touched through the years.
Dorothy is an example of a "life well lived." My friend, Betsy Yost Schlossman, posted this on her Facebook page;
Dorothy has nailed every one of these attributes!
She is clear about her values, she loves with abundance, she accepts disappointments with grace, she laughs often, she never stops learning (mastering an IPad in her nineties), and she always turns to God for strength. She will leave an enduring legacy of love to her children and all the generations to come.
A Virtuous Woman teaches her children the ways of her Father in heaven. She nurtures her children with the love of Christ, disciplines them with care and wisdom, and trains them in the way they should go. Proverbs 31:28
As we spend the way too few last days of her life with Dorothy, all of us are reminded of the many ways she has shaped and formed our own lives.
Our love goes out to you as you face death with the faith,courage, grace and stubbornness with which you have lived your life.