Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Mom taught me everything ... except how to live without her.

The "firsts" are the hardest ... the first year of holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and other important occasions and milestones without the loved one who has gone on before you. The past few weeks have been the most mournful I've experienced during this first year, or ever for that matter. It's the first holiday season without my best friend, mentor, cheerleader, role model, my love -- my Mother. I pray for continued comfort and peace that only God the Father can give. Because I can't do this on my own.

My mother taught me everything except how to live without her

Mom lived a long (nearly 82 years), happy life. Her poor body fought so many illnesses -- including cancer, kidney failure, Lupus, heart disease -- until it just couldn't fight any longer. She faced so many struggles yet endured each with such peace and grace, rarely complaining and never with self-pity. In the end, she was ready to go. But it was so difficult for us to let go. When her doctors and Hospice told us she would be leaving this earth, they suggested we "give her permission to leave us," to help ease her passing. So we did ... we told her it was ok, that she didn't have to fight any longer, and assured her that WE would be ok.

Did I lie to my Mother? That I would be ok? Because I'm not. I'm far from ok. I mourn her now more than ever. Will it EVER be "ok"?  Will *I* ever be ok?

Yes, it will. Yes, I will.

I KNOW she is in Heaven looking down on me. I know she is wishing I weren't so sad. I know she wants me to cling to assurance, as believers, that we WILL spend eternity together. I know she's whispering to me, "The time you remain there is so short compared to all eternity with the Lord, with me, your father and brother, and all the loved ones who have gone on before us. Hang in there, my love. You keep doing what the Lord wants you to accomplish down there, and you'll be here before you know it. God feels your pain and wants to bear it for you; surrender your pain to Him."
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. ~ Psalm 56:8 

But this week I feel she is telling me something else, too. "Stop mourning my death, and celebrate my life."  And she doesn't mean celebrating her accomplishments, though they are many, for she was the most modest woman I have ever known. She means celebrate the life we shared with her. Celebrate the good times, even the difficult times for in them we experienced growth. Celebrate the friendships and family who surrounded and loved her so. So, I choose to do that. I will also celebrate her unconditional love, smile, thoughtfulness, generosity, kindness, and gentleness.  I will celebrate the legacy she has left behind to her family, friends, colleagues, church, and community, and in all the ways her students' lives were touched by her. I will try very hard, instead of crying, to smile when I see her face in photos or in my mind's eye; or when I see her favorite color, purple; or when I wear a cherished piece of her jewelry, or an item of clothing I have now adopted as my own. It won't be easy, for I am surrounded by memories of her, everywhere and in everything. But, instead of grieving, I will choose to celebrate. I choose to smile instead of weep. Sometimes emotions aren't felt, they are willed, and are our gifts to give ... like choosing to love, and choosing to forgive, even if you don't feel like loving or forgiving. Before long, the choice becomes a heartfelt emotion. In choosing to celebrate her life rather than grieve her death, I honor her.

mourning Mom

So, Mom, sing your Christmas carols in the angelic choir with other Sweet Adelines. Enjoy your first Christmas feast at the Father's banquet table, with your son on your right and your husband on your left, and your own beautiful mother and sister across the table from you. I love and miss all of you so very much. But I will see you soon ... in the blink of an eye.

Instead of grieving her death I choose to celebrate Mom's life

Feb. 8, 1936 - Jan. 15, 2018

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. ~ Proverbs 31:28-31

Without love, I am nothing, have nothing, gain nothing. I can honestly say my mother exemplified the epitome of love, as defined in 1 Corinthians. I want to be more like Mom, and the greatest gift I can give her, myself, and all others is to do just this.

Love is patient, love is kind

Betty Morton and grandkids

Betty Morton and family

Betty Morton with family

Betty Morton with son-in-law Mark Leonard

Betty Morton with grandson JR

Betty Morton with grandkids

Betty Morton with sister Nina and niece Dianne

Betty Morton

Betty Morton with daughter-in-law Donna

Betty Morton with Susan and Sarah

Nina Stephenson with Betty & family

Betty Morton with Susan and Corey

Betty Morton with daughter Sarah

Betty Morton with daughter Susan

Betty Morton with familyBetty S Morton

Betty S MortonBetty Morton and daughter Susan
Betty S MortonBetty S Morton and daughter Susan Leonard

Betty Morton with granddaughter Chrissy

Betty Morton with grandson Corey Leonard

Betty Morton and daughter-in-law Donna

Betty S Morton and daughter Susan Leonard

Betty S Morton

Betty Morton with daughter Sarah & grandson Daniel

Betty Morton with her son John

Betty Morton with the men in the family

Betty Morton with son John

Betty S Morton and familyBetty S Morton

Betty S Morton with Donna Morton and Susan Leonard

Betty S Morton and Nina Stephenson

Betty S Morton and family

Betty and Johnny Morton with Mark Leonard

Betty S Morton with cousin Bev and sister Nina and daughter Susan

Betty Morton with Sarah & Chrissy

Betty Morton with Mark Leonard

Betty S Morton and daughter Susan Leonard

Betty Morton with Simcoxes

Betty Morton with Mark and Susan Leonard

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Childhood Memories of Summer Nights at the Drive-In

Last night I dreamed that my family went to the Twin-City Drive-In Theater. It was more a collection of memories than a dream, I suppose. Those Saturday night adventures were the best of summer family times. 

I felt the excitement of "getting ready to go to the drive-in". Ok, just shoot us -- we were too cheap to buy from the concession stand; Dad owned Morton's Grocery Store (112 Pennsylvania Ave., across the street from Kay's Ice Cream and Oakley-Cook Funeral Home near downtown; anyone from "home" remember it?), so he always
gauged the price of food in wholesale dollars and thought it was highway robbery what they charged for snacks. Mom boiled Valleydale weenies and steamed Kern's buns (both were local businesses) in that old stove-top bread steamer with a brass lid. I'd help her top each with ketchup and wrap them in aluminum foil, then put them all in a large paper bag with lots of napkins. Dad popped the popcorn -- kernels in hot oil, on the stove, not in the microwave (nope, no microwave ovens back then, but there WAS Jiffy Pop, which I'd sometimes be treated to at Mamaw's house). He'd constantly keep that large pan rapidly moving back and forth over the hot eye and knew it was ready when the lid slowly rose above the now-white, fluffy morsels. He'd pour melted butter on top and salt it, and put it in 4 individual grocery store paper bags - one for each of us. (Sarah was just a baby and usually she would stay with one of our grandmothers on drive-in nights but I remember sometimes they brought a small portable playpen for her and Mom would sit outside the car next to it in a folding aluminum chair with colorful webbing.) Anyway, the movie food-prep sometimes included John filling up the cooler with ice and putting in individual glass bottles of soda (2-liter bottles and cans hadn't been introduced yet), and slip a small bottle opener in his pocket. (He was the official bottle-popper ... a very important job!) We usually took our own Kool-Aid or lemonade or sweet tea in a large Tupperware pitcher with Tupperware tumblers, but Dad (getting the drinks wholesale) would sometimes splurge on bottled soda.

John and I would grab our pillows and Mom would gather some blankets. Ok, ready to go! We'd travel the few miles down Volunteer Parkway to the drive-in. We'd always get there an hour early, and Dad made sure to find the BEST spot -- right in the middle, and not too close and not too far back -- and park and re-park the car so all of us had the best angle on the sloped hill, no matter which seat we were in. 

John and I would race (literally) down to the little playground at the very front of the theater, just under the huge white screen. We would laugh and play, usually with other Avoca Elementary School friends who were there with their families, and enjoyed the swings and a slide, a "go-'round" carousel, a couple of see-saws and painted animals on huge spring coils.

As dusk settled around us, the cartoons began! We'd race back to the car and crawl in the back door -- the one without the speaker. (Yes, for you youngins' who have never been to a drive-in, you would take the speaker off the stand, roll down one window half-way and hang the speaker on it.) 

We'd enjoy our hot dogs and popcorn while watching the black and white cartoons and corny commercials. There was always a double feature, and the first movie would be family-oriented, "G-rated" (did they even have ratings back then?). We'd all watch it together, laughing and enjoying our time in those close quarters.

During the break between movies, we were taken to the bathroom in the concession stand building, and if we had behaved very well, we'd sometimes be treated to a candy bar from the concession stand. Then we'd all pile back in the station wagon. John and I were expected to snuggle with our pillows and blankets and sleep in the back while Mom and Dad watched "the adult movie". Probably a "PG-13" type, but I do remember one time when we were a little older (turns out it was 1974; I just Googled it) they showed a more "risqué" movie -- "Blazing Saddles" and Mom and Dad kept us awake with their laughter and John and I peeked above the back seat and secretly watched the entire thing. I smile as I still hear their laughter during this irreverent satirical Western comedy. My brother and I couldn't hold back our own laughter during the farting scene and were busted! John and I felt so sneaky (and proud) that we got to watch that movie.

We'd get home very late and Mom and Dad would wake up two sleepy children, but sometimes I would feign slumber just so Dad would carry me in. :)

Those hot summer nights in Tennessee were among the best growing up, and they also included catching lightnin' bugs, flying June bugs on strings, cranking homemade ice cream, swimming at my Aunt Ruby's house, camping at the lake in our pop-up camper, annual vacations at the beach, eating vegetables from Dad's little garden (and from Ree-Ree's BIG garden) and picking strawberries, grapes and cherries at Mamaw's, ice-cold watermelon, church camp in Unicoi, and running through the sprinkler in the backyard. Thanks to my wonderful parents for the memories. Good times. I miss them. And Dad and John ... I miss you, too.