This is the text of the tribute my brother Ronald read at Mom's funeral. My brother Myron and I worked together in writing it, with input from my sister Linda. We were all pretty sure it was longer than usual (and maybe longer than it should have been), but we decided to go with it anyway. Thank you for indulging us. Those who were with us at the funeral, either in person or electronically, already heard what is given here. I regret that I can't seem to fix some of the formatting issues.
Tribute—Memories of Mom
to give thanks publicly for the rich legacy our mother left us, by
this means giving glory to God Who created her, directed and
sustained her, and has now received her to Himself. In looking
through old pictures and in remembering, we have retrieved a picture
we’d like to share here, especially for those who learned to know
her only in recent years.
roots grew deep in rich Iowa soil where she spent her growing up
years. She walked or sledded downhill to Evergreen school a half-mile
away and also attended the German school her father taught every
winter. Others tell us that Mom was an excellent student and a fast
runner during her school years. She learned from her mother how to
make things grow, Her mother also showed her where to find
horseradish roots along the roadsides and how to harvest edible
mushrooms on their farm. Mom always kept a bit of Iowa in her
heart. On the day before she entered the hospital for the last time,
she attended the Christmas service and her face registered delight
and recognition when Alta, her age-mate and cousin from Iowa spoke to
her. She was the only person to elicit that kind of response that
World War II, five of Mom’s brothers left home on assignment from
the United States government in Civilian Public Service. It was on a
visit to a CPS camp in Dennison, Iowa with her parents when Dad first
met Mom. His cousin had discouraging news, however, when Dad inquired
about Mom. The competition was stiff, and he was unlikely to succeed
in winning her. Thankfully the cousin had misjudged the situation.
she turned 21, Mom served for a time as cook at Brooklane Farm, a
Mennonite mental health care facility in Hagerstown, Maryland.
During that time Dad was in Virginia as a student at Eastern
Mennonite College, so they were able to get together occasionally.
It’s hard to say which was more unusual for Amish young people
during those days–young women working voluntarily in the mental
health field, or young men attending college.
August of 1950 Mom undertook a major transition by marrying Dad and
moving to Kansas. By October of 1954, life had handed her a number
of significant challenges. Kansas was suffering from devastating
heat and drought. Mom remembered that the dishes she took out of the
cupboards felt hot to the touch. Dad had transitioned from earning a
living as a teacher to working as a farmer. At the age of 27 he had
been ordained as a minister. Mom and Dad had three daughters ages
three and under. More followed in rapid succession. As she adjusted
to life in Kansas and life as a wife and mother, she developed
friendships with the women among her in-laws and age-mates, and
looked up to women like Lydia Yoder and Mary Martha Miller–mothers
just older than Mom.
the next several decades, parenting, homemaking and hospitality
occupied center stage in her daily activities. She did her parenting
alone whenever her husband was away in church and community work, for
three weeks at a time whenever Dad was teaching at Calvary Bible
School. Early on, she taught her daughters to work alongside her in
doing household tasks, gardening, and hosting guests. The older
children helped care for the younger ones. “Marshaling the forces”
is how she often referred to the project of harnessing her
offspring’s energies constructively.
hospitality was one of Mom's most consistent character traits,
whether cooking an impromptu meal for out of state relatives, her
children's peers or college friends, or visiting ministers and
colleagues of Dad. None demonstrates it better than the time she
found several men walking west of Partridge along Trail West Rd who,
having recently crossed our southern border in search of work, were
now very hungry. Mom knew what to do when people were hungry. You
feed them. Though
could barely communicate, Mom had them get into her car, drove them
to the house and cooked them a sumptuous meal. They were strangers
and she took them in.
a strong practical bent and tried her hand at various things. When
the light switch in the bedroom needed to be replaced, she did it
herself. When the screened-in front porch needed an upgrade, she
enclosed it herself. Early summer mornings found her patrolling her
huge vegetable garden, setting up irrigation and planning how to
“marshal the forces” after breakfast. She learned how to make
coverings for the girls as well as suits for the boys and found a way
to learn whatever else she needed to know. Linda remembers Mom often
being very specific in honoring the various people who taught her
what she had learned.
and camping in nearby locations were usually Mom’s idea, as was the
purchase of a large station wagon to carry the whole family to
Colorado for a week of vacationing in a campground lodge. The
Colorado trip happened just before Linda left home for the first
time. It was the only out-of-state family vacation we ever took,
though there were out-of-state trips to visit relatives or to
accompany Dad when he traveled for church or board related work.
the last part of the busy years of raising a family, Mom enjoyed
teaching Sunday School, especially after she and Dad attended a Dale
Carnegie course together, where she had the opportunity to practice
making short speeches. One of her classmates introduced her once as
“one of our best speakers.”
later years, when Mom finally had time for flower gardening, she
often learned the botanical names of flowers and used those names as
easily as the common ones. Her vegetable garden often included a
novel item like broomcorn or cotton or comfrey. Her cooking included
variety and artistry. Pecan pies had one carefully-placed pecan half
topping each piece of pie, and potato salad was sometimes garnished
with geometric designs composed of hardboiled egg whites and yolks mashed
separately, and radish flowers with parsley leaves.
read the Hutchinson News and Time faithfully, at least
in later years, but never developed a Budget reading habit.
World affairs interested her, as did issues related to the
environment, health, and ethics. Mom appreciated nature as
demonstrated by the fact that she ordered both a simple field guide
to Kansas flowers and Kansas birds at a time when money was hard to
come by and our reading was mostly from periodicals, or from the
school or church library.
loved her freedom in the sense that she did not want to be enslaved
by any habits. After having learned to enjoy drinking coffee and
reading the comics, she stopped indulging in either of them after
concluding that she was in danger of needing them too much. In later
years, she started drinking coffee again on Sunday mornings to help
her stay awake in church. We all smiled to ourselves in recent years
when she had trouble keeping track of the days, but frequently
inquired if today was Sunday, hoping that it might be a coffee day.
In recent months she once wondered aloud whether she was giving her
coffee maker too much vacation. The comics habit stayed permanently
Mom didn't neatly
fit into boxes. Most of her life was characterized by simplicity.
Plain was good and
was a clear indication of misplaced values. Yet her flower gardens
characterized by a
riot of extravagant color and Mom surely reveled in their beauty.
believed in discipline but told a daughter-in-law upon the birth of
her firstborn when discussing child rearing that there are plenty of
occasions for “no.” Try to use no sparingly and yes whenever
possible. She allowed her children to pursue learning and service
opportunities with a spirit of optimism and parental blessing.
Mom warned against
living life in reaction to persons, words, circumstances, or
When life is lived
in reaction, whatever you react to controls you. Reflect and
respond instead with
what is best, what
is right, what is true.
liked to say, “they that compare themselves among themselves, are
not wise.” She wanted us to remember that there is a higher, more
reliable standard than peers and others' personal agendas.
no slave to public opinion and she did not lay the public opinion
yoke on her children. We
heard “what will people think?” as a consideration for
determining our own course. Yet Mom
deeply loyal personally to group sensibilities developed over decades
or even centuries of time and really
loved seeing her children embrace those same sensibilities.
prayed without ceasing. It was not uncommon to see her kneeling
beside her bed. Her prayers at family
devotions were seldom petitions for favor from God. Typically, they
were prayers that God
act in the world to set things right. Be they struggles her children
were having, someone
God, someone suffering from illness or accident, or world problems
such as war and
she implored God to intervene. But we heard little of requests for
having things a little easier. We know
that she prayed earnestly for all of us, as we often heard her do so.
liked interesting words, and freely mixed English words into
Pennsylvania German syntax and sentences. As her mind began to
fade, she began to use her advanced vocabulary more freely. A group
of grandsons walking past the window, BB guns in hand, were not just
little boys out hunting, but “a contingent of marauders.”
Thinking about the day ahead did not involve asking “What’s up?”
but “What does the day portend?” She looked out her south
windows at home and was disappointed that she wasn’t seeing
anything “arresting.” A variety of vegetables on her plate made
“a colorful repast.” After she heard a series of emails read
aloud regarding dad’s condition after surgery, she summarized it by
saying “Quite a litany.” During the past year when she was asked
if she could finish her grape juice, she said, “No. I’m
satiated.” When Linda once asked if she was awake, she said, “Just
about.” Recently, after Rhoda tucked her in one night, she prayed
this prayer, “Please keep watch over us tonight and keep tabs on
surgery at the age of 80 allowed Mom to experience several more years
of good health. A gradual decline set in after those years, however,
and Mom and all of us had to adjust to accumulating losses. Dad and
Linda were often the ones to compensate for these losses most
directly, and the rest of us are deeply grateful for the kindness and
respect with which they did this. In the final weeks, her doctors
and the staff at the hospital in Lyons provided excellent care, a
welcoming atmosphere for family involvement, and as good a setting
for her home-going as we could have wished for. We were able to say
farewell individually and privately, to sing and pray and eat meals
freely together in the spacious hospital room (to which Mom was taken
on Sunday at noon). Nurses came and went as needed, serving all of
us unselfishly and wiping tears with us. It was the nurses who
called our Monday evening meal together “The Last Supper.”
time ago Mom announced that she doesn’t like to look in the mirror
at all anymore because all she sees is an old woman. Early in 2013
she asked, “How many days did we live today?” And then she
promptly added, “It just seems like we did so many things.”
Advancing age and busy lives both emphasize our need for the watchful
eye of God to “keep tabs on our situation.” Today, we believe
that Mom is no longer tempted to avoid mirrors or cram several day’s
worth of activity into one, and, in the presence of God, she is
certain that God has tabs on her situation, and on ours.