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Unsinkable Betty and What's Next


It’s been a while since I’ve written much. I admit, I’ve been busy, but not busy in the way that most people think of busy-ness. I haven’t been swamped with work (although work and ministry are a constant presence in my world), nor have I been overwhelmed with meetings, speaking engagements or opportunities to travel. In fact, it sort of seems like everything that I thought I would be doing right now at this stage of my life has been relegated to the coat closet for the time being, replaced and re-prioritized by helping my mother move out of her home and into assisted living near my husband and me.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been on the road weekly between Houston and Port Neches, lending a hand to my sister, Lori, and her husband as we thoroughly and systematically disassembled my mother’s home and life and literally moved it to another city. It may sound harsh and uncaring, but I can assure you, that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, every moment spent on that project was carefully planned and executed with her comfort and transition in mind. Watching her sift through 86 years of memories, 66 of those spent in a great marriage with our father, was one of the most painful yet necessary things I’ve ever witnessed. Knowing she would have to drastically downsize her belongings meant that whatever the family didn’t take would be sold or donated. Behind every cabinet or closet door and inside every drawer, as well as the attic full of belongings was a memory to cherish, a photo to be taken to preserve it, and a sigh as another decision was made to dispense of it.

Can I just interject here—that Mom’s attitude throughout was one of grace and courage. Although there were moments of sadness and even questioning of the decision to sell and move, she continued to “get on board” day after day and allowed us the freedom to do our job without hesitation.

Being neck-deep in my parents’ belongings—most of which I’ve seen at one time or another through the years—was a sobering exercise; holding each item in my hands, talking about the memories attached to it, then making the decision to keep and store, give to a family member, donate, box up for the estate sale, or throw away.

At times it felt irreverent to just plow through my parents’ possessions, casting aside whatever I might deem as disposable or of little worth. If it meant something to them, shouldn’t it mean even more to me? If you asked me what I wanted of Dad’s, it wouldn’t have been of much value to anyone on the outside looking in. His straw cowboy hat, tattered and worn, a few relics from his collection of vintage surveying equipment, a T-shirt or two, his 1950 Harmony electric guitar, given to him as a Christmas gift by my mother right before they married that February. Other than that, I have my memories. "Precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul"…

Mom said one day as we were hauling things out to the garage for sale, “I’m so sad. My memories are here and they’re being carried away.” I tried to explain to her that the memories we take with us, regardless of where the actual belongings end up; but I know she found little solace in my words. However, she took great comfort in knowing that her children and grandchildren were going to enjoy a lot of their furniture, musical instruments, hunting and fishing gear and kitchen ware.

The day we moved her out of Port Neches for good, she stood on the porch of her beautiful home, saying little, a look of anguished compliance on her pretty face. I was as proud of her on that day as I’ve ever been. It takes gumption to start over at 86. It takes some serious Scarlett O’Hara determination to go on when everything that makes you feel secure has been swept away like a flash flood.

Rest assured, my mother is in good hands. Yes, there are more days of adjustment ahead; yes, prayers are always appreciated, and visits would be lovely! But we never forget this truth: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

Dad frequently told Mom that she was the prettiest one in the room. He also said she was a tough old bird (in the most complimentary way possible); resilient and unsinkable.What's that old adage? Tough times don't last--tough people do. Dad would be so proud of her right now. I know I am.

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Houston, TX, USA

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