I still wonder at Mum's courage in leaving her home and family and all that was familiar in 1946 to travel across the Pacific with thirty or so other war brides and fifteen hundred Kiwi servicemen returning from the war. She told me they had a guard at the end of their companion way. No kidding. She told me Dad was the only person she knew at her wedding and that the minister who presided was very off-hand and cool with her because he didn't approve of "Americans." There must have been some steel in that young woman. You couldn't just jump on a plane home if things didn't turn out in those days.
I was her first; weighing in at a full 10 pounds, 4 ounces (we held the record for the heaviest baby born in Lower Hutt Hospital for a time).
My earliest memory of Mum was in the house in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. Not sure how old I was, but we were in the kitchen, my point of view was from below the counter top, I noticed she was eating something, I asked what, she said, "Chewing gum," and gave me some.
My next memory is of the inside of a car door. Brown leatherette, door handle and window crank. Bringing Don home from the hospital after he was born. The last day of my perfect life as the ONLY ONE—THE favourite.
Fast forward to a sunshine and love-filled upstairs bedroom in Greenwood, Nova Scotia. I was in bed with chicken pox. Mum brought me chicken noodle soup and salted crackers. A golden memory.
Then Martinborough, back in New Zealand, with all the glass windows and the glass topped table and having to eat all my stew before I could leave the table. Mean Mum. Likely Dad was involved in this culinary injustice, too. It seemed so unfair when, to me, the stew consisted entirely of gristle and fat.
Also in Martinborough, in the bakery. A photograph of Mum behind the counter laughing, with loaves of bread on the shelves behind her and, was it Betty Waugh?, laughing as she passed behind her.
Fast way, way forward to Kate's wedding in 1997. Once all the dust had settled, somewhere during her stay with us, she looked at me with a smile and said, "I like your face." I felt good.
A few more years on, ten years ago, walking over from Don's and spending the days with her at Clayburn Road for those few weeks. We thought she might have been close to leaving us then. Talking and talking. Drinking coffee. Good times with her and all of you.
And around that time the challenge of two hour—that's one hundred and twenty long minutes—phone calls when not all that much had happened since the last one and I'm a guy for whom twenty minutes is a long chat, but Mum was determined to get her six dollars worth, God bless her.
Then things switched to shorter, more frequent, calls. The themes were: the books she was reading, family doings, my favourite thing is to spend time with the family, I've had a good life, I don't think I want to be ninety.
And, finally, the more distressing recent calls when things got repetitive and she wasn't able to converse. I had to do all the talking when not much had happened since the last call and I'm a guy. But she would still say it was good to hear my voice and her sense of humour and laugh would bubble up every now and then. It was good to hear her voice, too, even when it was slow, sometimes slurred and hard to understand.
So, there she was, a long way geographically her family that was, and from some of us that are, yet very much and contently exactly where she belonged and wanted to be—a Canadian Kiwi, as she called herself—at home with most of the family to which she gave birth and raised with kindness, gentleness, grace and love.
I wonder at the way The LORD arranged things at the end: Mum with her family, part two, all of you, around her in New Zealand, while, and this was a wonderful blessing for me, her family, part one, Don and I, were together again in North America; 11,007 feet up on a mountain peak in Utah of all places.
And now, there she is, beyond our limited horizon, even higher, at home again and finally in one of those rooms in the Father's house Jesus talked about (John 14:2), where what was mortal has been swallowed up and transformed into a life (2 Cor 5:4) everlastingly good and pain free.
Dear, dear mother mine. May you rest in peace and rise in Glory.