A book treasure from my Mom… One of the special things I brought home with me from my mother’s place. It will always bring a smile to my face.
My reading reflections for July are about my mother, since I spent three weeks of July with her at the end of her life. I am home now, tying up lose ends, returning slowly to routines, and trying to get used to life without her. But despite my sadness, there is also so much to comfort me — loving family and friends, many many happy memories, and an overwhelming pride in her for how she handled her life, especially life after my father passed 24 years ago, and especially again at the end. She showed great courage and dignity throughout it all, and I’m so proud to be her daughter.
The photo above is a list of the books she read in 2018. She read and listened to 10 books (including volumes 1-4 of the Harry Potter series) and was also in the middle of three other books when she fell ill: she was listening to the audiobook of Shanghai Girls, and reading the Kindle version of Dreams of Joy, both books by Lisa See, an author she loved; and she was in the middle of the Whitmore Library Book Club choice for July, a title I don’t remember now. At almost 99 years old, she was an avid reader to the end!
While we spent the last three weeks with my mother, our daughter watered our gardens and kept everything alive despite the 90-100 degree temperatures. It was a huge job, but we were delighted upon our return home to find our butterfly garden in full bloom and full of bees and butterflies!
I want to share with you a poster I saw and just loved at Red Butte Garden, in Salt Lake City, where we have my father’s memorial bench, and where we will soon hold my mother’s Celebration of Life and add a plaque to the bench in memory of her.
What to do with that hour each day that was set aside for wonderful long phones conversations with my Mom? I’ve decided that for the next little while I will take that same hour (mid-afternoon) and call it my reading hour. Seems so right to fill that emptiness with books in memory of my loving Reading Buddy. She’d like that, I’m sure. And so will I!!
When I started this blog in 2007, I dedicated it to my father “who would have loved this new way of communicating,” but wrote my posts with my mother in mind as my primary audience. Both my parents were avid readers, especially of history, and they instilled in me a deep love of reading. They supported my book obsessions from very early on — we made weekly trips to the library; my father would buy me a new book when I finished another book in a series; gifts were almost always books; and there was always book talk happening in our household.
I was living 800 miles away when my father passed away twenty-four years ago, so it was at that time that my mother and I began to talk with each other on the phone every day. Our talks became our afternoon ritual, and over the years and despite the distance, our relationship grew closer and closer. Yes, we talked about the daily happenings of our lives, but we also shared long conversations about the books we were reading or had heard about. I called her my “reading buddy.”
So as my blog became an important part of my life, my mother joined in with me to write posts and share what she was reading. The blog became another way to communicate with each other about our shared love of reading.
Six days ago, my mother passed away. She was three weeks short of her 99th birthday and had lived a full and wonderful life. Her decline was swift and timed almost to perfection — my family had gathered together for our yearly reunion. She was thrilled that we were all together again, and we filled the first few days with our lively conversations and good food. When she became ill suddenly, we all took turns staying with her at night, and we worked together to make her as comfortable as possible during the day. She didn’t linger, and although none of us was with her at the moment of her death, she knew that she was surrounded by loving family.
My husband and I drove back home yesterday, and brought with us some of her books, paintings, and special treasures to remember her. All afternoon, I kept having these habit-urges to pick up the phone and call her to let her know we were home safe, to tell her what book arrived in the mail while we were gone. It’s going to be so different without her.
But, I know that I have been the most fortunate person on the planet to have such a loving mother/friend/reading buddy. And there are so many fun and wonderful memories to keep her alive in my heart, forever.
She loved the book blogging community, visited many of your blogs, and knew many of you by your first name. So as you write your posts and share your love of reading with all of us, please remember for a moment that you touch hearts in ways you might not be aware of…that your passion for reading brings joy to young and old…and that sharing a book is an act of love.
There has been a lot of LIFE happening in the last few months, some of it difficult and some of it absolutely lovely but also time-consuming. As a result I have gone missing from my blog once again! But I have continued with my reading, just not with writing about it, and have quietly visited many of your blogs when time allowed. But after meeting two lovely blogging friends for lunch yesterday, Les @Coastal Horizons, and Kay @Kay’s Reading LIfe, I am inspired again to return to my writing and sharing about books and life. Thank you, Les and Kay! But before I tell you what books I’ve been enjoying (I promise another post devoted to the books I’ve read since April), I must tell you what LIFE has been like around here recently.
The major focus for me in the last few months has been my mother’s health. Those of you who have followed me over the years, know that my mother is a great reader, my mentor and best friend, and my reading buddy. Since we live in different states, this blog was started as another way to communicate with her and share what we are reading. My amazing and resilient mother is turning 99 years old in August! And she continues to be an avid reader. We always talk about books during our daily phone conversations, but recently she has begun to have some more serious health problems, so we fully realize that these days and our daily conversations are precious.
In the last six months, I have made a number of special trips to see her. On one trip, I took my daughter, and then a few months later, I took my son and grandson to see her. Each trip was wonderful and full of special memories. My husband and I visited her in May, and we are heading out next week for another, longer, visit with her. My brothers and their wives will all be there as well, so it will truly be a celebration of family and an early birthday celebration for her. She and I will definitely be talking about books during that visit and I will treasure those moments.
The other focus in the last few months has been on my garden! Yes, gardening is definitely therapy for anxiety and anticipated loss, but it is also my new passion. My husband, my daughter, and I all share in the work on these garden projects, and it’s been a delightful way to spend our time!
The garden project we’ve been working on (started last Fall) is my “Butterfly Garden,” a project inspired by the butterfly garden built by the 2nd graders in my school before I retired. We have turned a narrow piece of our property, on the south side of the garage and along the alley way, into a beautiful garden! We can’t see it from the house, so we’ve put chairs out there so we can sit and watch the flowers grow, the bees do their thing, and a few butterflies that are finding their way to a place designed specifically for them. I hope you enjoy this slideshow of the butterfly garden as it has progressed!
My book blogging friend, Andi, at Estella’s Revenge, recently listened to the audiobook of Dreams From my Father, by Barack Obama (narrated by the author). She rated it 5 stars on Goodreads, and talked about how much she enjoyed listening to it. She inspired me to follow suit, so I downloaded the audiobook from Audible and am just starting it. My mother (age 98) is also going to listen to it so that we can share our thoughts about it on the phone in our daily conversations. We both miss the Obamas greatly and thought that listening to Barack Obama tell stories about his life and family would be very enjoyable. Thanks, Andi, for the idea! This little shared project is going to brighten our days!
When my grandmother died, we found that she had prepared well for the distribution of her belongings. On the bottom or on the back of her most important items, we found a small strip of masking tape with a family member’s name on it. We’ve remembered that over the years with humor and affection, and appreciation. Many years after her death, I turned over one of two kitchen chairs she had given me, and felt a rush of warmth and remembering when I saw the slightly curled piece of masking tape with my name on it.
Much like the planning ahead my grandmother did at the end of her life, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, by Margareta Magnusson, is a book chock full of ideas on getting rid of the clutter in our lives. It is a book that would be helpful to read at any age! Her ideas are very practical and encouraging, and she addresses many of the roadblocks we run into when we are trying find the courage to let things go that we have spent a lifetime collecting.
“Sometimes you just have to give cherished things away with the hope that they end up with someone who will create new memories of their own.”
I will be putting many of her suggestions into gear immediately because I’m already in the purging mode this January. When I spend more time indoors, out of the cold weather, I realize how much stuff we have that we really don’t need anymore. And we are getting on in years, as well, and I definitely don’t want my children to have to deal with all our stuff. It’s really an act of kindness and love to go through the process of letting go of the clutter now instead of leaving it for them to deal with after we are gone.
My Mom, who is 98 years old, is also reading this book and we are talking about the ideas and the process from both our perspectives. It’s a wonderful ongoing conversation right now, and an important one.
I had a wonderful August this year! August is usually one of my least favorite months because of the intense and constant heat. But despite record-breaking heat in our area, I loved the month! It was full of family — extended time with our grandson, and a family reunion in celebration of my mother’s 98th birthday. We enjoyed travel, gardening projects, 5K races, and watching the awesome total eclipse of the sun! And when it wasn’t too smoky in our area (due to the many wildfires!), I loved the daily views on my walks and drives through this gorgeous part of Oregon.
My reading time was limited, but I did enjoy 4 different books during the month. My favorite book of the month was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I am rereading the series just for fun and as an antidote to the misery of the daily news. I also reread Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, which is my least favorite of her books…still. A refreshing and delightful read was of Philippa Pearce’s The Way to Sattin Shore. And a fascinating library book was The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures. It was a fun book and brought back many memories, including a memory of volunteering in the school library at my junior high school –typing cards for the catalog!
So, I just have to say that August turned out to be a delightful month for me overall. I am now 5 books “behind schedule” with my Goodreads goal for the year, but that’s totally okay. The special memories from this delightful month of August will warm me through many cold winter months ahead.
Hubby and I are enjoying watching the new Masterpiece Theater series, Victoria. I gave my mother the book for Christmas, and she liked it a lot. After watching the first episode of the series, I decided I needed to read the book, also. Daisy Goodwin‘s story of the young Queen Victoria is a lot of fun. Definitely recommended! If you are enjoying the series, you will also find this book to be a very enjoyable read!