My mother, Dollie Edith (Nofsker) Smith, known to her family as Mam, died at 10:30 on the morning of 19 March 2011. The previous Monday (the 14th), she had celebrated her eighty-seventh birthday.

     My mother was born into a poor family. She wasn’t born in a mansion, but rather in a log house. But she never wanted to live poorly. And so she and dad worked hard to make their lives better than what they had been born into. They never forgot where they came from; they simply didn’t believe that they had to stay there.

     She took pride in keeping herself looking nice and her house clean and in shape. I remember her saying that even if you were poor and could afford nothing more than water, you could at least clean your clothes in that water. You might not be able to afford soap, but you could at least get the sweat and grime out. As the years passed and dad started to make good money working at the paper mill, he bought mother nice clothes. But despite the nice clothes, she never was ashamed of, nor forgot, her past.

     When she could get around better, mother would get out and clean down the exterior walls of the house. She might do it two or three times a summer. And woe to my dad and us kids if the paint on the house started to peel a bit. One or two spots peeling meant that the entire exterior had to be painted. I sighed a sigh of relief when they finally got vinyl siding. But it still had to be washed down a couple times a summer.

     Mam took pride in ‘fixing up’ the porch with her wicker furniture and flowers. One of Thelma’s daughters told her mother that she could tell that it was finally summer when Dollie had her porch furniture and flowers out. Mam told me that she worried that after she passed on I might not take care of that wicker furniture. But you can be sure, I’ll be sprinkling it off and letting it air dry before placing it on the porch again this year.

     I was always proud to go places with my parents. They might have embarassed me now and then by an action or a statement, but I’m sure they never intended to. I am proud to be able to say that even when I went through my ‘hippie’ stage, they respected my choices. I’m sure they didn’t like them, but they respected them and allowed me to explore my interests.

     I would bet that many children and their parents go through life as just parents and children. In my case, my parents were truly friends to me. When my dad was alive I could sit with him late into the night discussing things that we were both interested in, things like theology, science and history. We didn’t get into arguments, even if we had opposing views. And after dad died, although mother and I wouldn’t necessarily discuss the same subjects as dad and I would, we still had great conversations. And I’m really going to miss that. Mother often told me that her favorite pastime was simply sitting with dad and talking. I tried to take his place – as anyone driving up the road could see. We’d sit and talk about her childhood and I’d tell her about something that I was involved with at the time. I knew that she wasn’t really interested in what I was talking about, but that didn’t matter. We were keeping each other company.

     It makes me happy remembering that I could make my mother laugh as much as I did. Mam understood my sense of humor, and I would hear her telling others that things I said and did kept her feeling young.

     Mother stopped visiting about three years ago. After my brother, Leon died, she just didn’t feel like doing a lot of the things that we used to do. And then there were her health problems. She had about four major problems, each one of which would have driven someone else crazy.

     The worst thing for her was the arthritis pain she felt in her legs, especially her knees. The doctor would give her pain medicine, but most of what he prescribed had some form of narcotic in it, and so she would not take it because it made her drowsy all the time. Then she had the bladder control problem which really worked on her nerves. We had to plan trips to accommodate that problem, and eventually stopped going anywhere because of it. Sometimes people would notice that she had bandaids on each of her fingers. That was because she had some sort of fungal problem that made her nails drop off. And lastly, she had a water retention problem in her legs. They would swell up and then spots all over them would burst open to relieve the pressure. The spots that opened would then burn and itch for her. I tried my best to help her overcome these various problems, such as keeping her legs clean so that she wouldn’t get infections, and cleaning her bedclothes every evening when I came home from work, but complete relief was never found. For at least the last two years, she really wanted to die knowing that she would be going to Heaven and leaving her painful body behind.

     I was selfish in doing it, but every time I prayed I would ask God: “Please let Mam live a little while longer, I don’t want her to die, but please make the aches and pains away.” And then, during this last year she started to fade into Altzheimers. Doctor Maniglia told me that I would know that she was getting that ailment when she would forget who I was. Off and on over the past four or five months, mother would start to tell me what “Larry” had done that day. I would ask her if she knew who I was, and she would think about it, and finally say: “Oh, you’re Larry”. But in the last two weeks that she lived it was harder for her to recognize me. She would say: “You’re not Larry; the other boy is Larry.” We even argued at least one time about who I was. She only accepted that it was me when I got out a picture and showed her that it really was me. I would find myself thinking at work of ways that I could help her to remember me. She didn’t want to go to a ‘home’, but I feared that it would be inevitable if she got to the point that she did not recognize me at all.

     Mother died peacefully, and for that I thank the Lord. She no longer has the aches and pains. And she did not have to die in an “old folks home” that she dreaded. And my fears that she would die painfully while I was away at work were calmed by the Lord choosing to take her when I was there with her. I almost forgot that she told me one evening about three weeks ago, that she dreamt that Jesus came to her and took her by the hand and showed her the land on the other side of the river. I think she was at peace when the time finally came.

      I prepared a small book for my two nieces, Mam's granddaughters, Kim and Amanda, to provide to them some of the recipes of Mam's favorite dishes, along with information on the methods of cooking that Mam used for over fifty years.
     To access the .pdf document, click on this link:
Note: You will need to use the browser's "Back" button to return to this page.