Remembering Anna Jane....

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Together, but from afar…

 

In the past weeks, I have been attempting to craft a simple but elegant message that will cut right to the core of how I feel about my mother and the precious time I spent with her at the end of her earthbound journey.  Brevity has never been my strong suit.  But I will venture forth.  To those of you, dear friends, who have told me that you could fill volumes with your memories of Mom, I truly understand.  I find myself simultaneously at a loss for words, yet flooded with all the words I could write at this time.  

 

First, let me say that the embrace that you have gifted me through your calls, your cards, your words have quite literally kept me afloat prior to and since the 14th of February when I began a new chapter in my life, after helping Mom conclude her final one here with all of us.  More importantly, the love and support you showered upon her made her transition the ultimate fulfillment of her life’s purpose.  To give and receive love until her last breath.  

 

The months since her passing have been challenging for one and all, in an amazingly global sense.  I find it incomprehensible each day that I am without the daily presence of my dear mother, her compassion, and her wisdom.  It is equally incomprehensible that I find myself trying to prepare our teenager, her beloved grandson Michael, to be venturing soon into this world on his own.  They were two peas in a pod. 

 

As a teacher, a friend, a wife, a mom, and a grandmother, Mom’s life was dedicated to helping us make sense of the persistent and often-overwhelming question marks… in helping us find our place, find our words, find our purpose.  Through her immense kindness and generosity, she inspired us to believe that we are all, indeed, in this life together, connected forever.  Mom was, and always will be, our very own First Responder. 

 

The words that often arrive at the forefront of my mind as I think about Mom’s life are purpose, perseverance, and connectedness.   As for her proclivity to persevere - to carry on with her signature grace and humor no matter the circumstance -- she set the bar high.  No challenge was too perplexing or too daunting.  Her energy level aside (it still makes me weary to contemplate what she could accomplish in the course of a day… and half the night!), she was innately an eternal optimist and maintained her lovely view of the world through even the darkest of hours.  

 

The way she approached her day-to-day activities with such gusto and determination was to be admired.  Even the most mundane chore could become a “full-blown activity.”  For a young Michael, Lucy, or Nate, digging in the garden or being covered in pizza dough from head to toe was just a typical day with Grandma -- a typical, exquisitely perfect day with Grandma, enjoying the simple pleasures life has to offer.  As Jenn and I often marveled over the years, every day for Mom was simply a fascinating new adventure.  Just ask the wildlife on Turkey Hill.  (I can only imagine the fascinating projects Grandma AJ would have identified for us during the lockdown.) 

 

On the last stroll that Mom and I were able to take together in mid-December, we walked around the lake by our homes here in Pearland.  For a bit, we sat on a swing built for two, a swing that sorely needed a little WD-40.  Through the squeaks, we chatted.  We did not dwell on the inevitable.  Nor did we talk about what was likely to be left undone.  I think, however, deep down inside Mom was grappling with a strange, inner contradiction … that her life was feeling both long and short at the very same time.  

 

She dearly wanted the upcoming Christmas holiday with the family joining together to feel as normal as possible.  As exquisitely normal as possible.  I think her biggest heartache was not necessarily knowing that she was going to be missing out on all the holidays and the special events but that she would be missing out on all the little things, the simple pleasures that life had to offer her.  Enjoying a hearty laugh over a latte with a dear friend… finding a special card in the mailbox… planting her mums at the top of her driveway… designing a new sweater… baking chocolate chip cookies or an apple pie at midnight.  

 

Without having to say a word, she prepared me beautifully for the action-packed adventures, big and small, that most assuredly lie ahead.  She prepared both John and me… she dearly loved him too; he brought so much light in to her life and could always make her chuckle. 

 

I choose to believe that Mom is not missing out on the little things.  With Dad by her side once again, she is overseeing the day-to-day activities with that characteristic twinkle in her eye, of course.  I think we may all feel relieved that she, no doubt, has her hand delicately on the rudder of the big things too.  As we now say in our house when we need a little help or guidance, “Not to worry… Grandma AJ is on duty.”   Little did we all know on February 14th how much we truly need her to be “on duty.” 

 

Finally, I have always admired and emulated her ability to connect.  This amazing quality is attested to by her very first students at Westtown, who were just a bit younger than she when she became a teacher straight out of Elmira.  Her Village became larger each day of her life.  While her final, monumental adventure was not one that any of us would have chosen for her, she felt blessed at the end that the ever-growing Texas arm of her Village gave her the time she needed to take “one last walk around the park.” 

 

So, in tribute to Mom, may we be as bold and tenacious as ever as we carry on, comfort one another, and connect with those we meet and those we love.  That is what she would have expected of us.  

 

I took my “AJ walk” on June 28th and visited our swing by Silverlake.  Thankfully, it still needs a little WD-40 … a touching reminder of all she passed on to me that day we took our last walk.  

 

After Dad left us so suddenly 15 years ago, Mom had a mantra.  It truly speaks to the perseverance that I so admire.  She used it more and more in the past few years after she heard the words no one ever wants to hear, and it resonates in my inner self all the time.  

 

On Mother’s Day in May I woke up very early in the morning with a heavy heart but with the beginnings of a poem stirring in my head.  My simple poem cannot begin to hold a candle to other poetic offerings from AJK’s amazing Village.  But I will venture forth.  Thank you all for your gorgeous tributes and for being a part of Mother’s life.  She is but a breath away…

 

Here is my final poem for my incredible and beautiful mom who will forever live in my heart. 

Two Words She Lived By 

“Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!”

 

When times get tough, nod your head

Never jump back into bed

“Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!”

 

Take that test, ring the bell

Craft a plan, but never tell

“Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!”

 

Bake a pie, (…or some scones)

Come have tea, you’re not alone

“Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!”

 

Feel the breath, not the sting

See the joy in every thing 

 “Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!”

 

Knit a scarf, phone some friends

Wrap a lovely box to send

“Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!” 

 

Do the work, give your best 

Rake those leaves and clean the nest

“Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!” 

 

Choose the path, not the couch

There’s no time to be a slouch

“Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!”

 

Raise a glass, plow some snow

Life is short…you never know

“Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!”

 

Take a walk, nice and brisk 

Tend the garden, pick up sticks 

“Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!”

 

Venture forth, even when…

Rain and clouds tumble in

“Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!”

 

Share a laugh, lend a hand

One day soon we’ll understand 

 “Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!” 

 

Stay up late, scribe a list

Please come visit, I insist

“Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!”

 

Gather facts, state your case

Form your views, but not in haste

“Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!” 

 

Muster patience, do persist

Enjoy each day, please don’t resist  

“Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!” 

 

Choose your words, standing tall

Pledge concern for one and all  

“Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!” 

 

Seek true meaning and be humble      

Never be ashamed to stumble

“Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!” 

 

Light the torch, hold it high

Love your life, you’ll touch the sky 

“Onward ho,” she would say.  “Onward ho!”

 

“With grateful heart and happy tears

Watching down on you, my dears”

“Onward ho,” I’ll ever say.  “Onward ho!”

 

“That’s the way!  Seize the day!  Onward ho!”

 

 

For Mom.  Love always, Laurie 

(Mother’s Day 2020)

 

 

Laurie Krebs Hesse

Pearland, Texas

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