So many years are passing… so many memories are trying to fade. The older videos need to be watched again, especially for your grandchildren. How will they ever fully know how much you loved them? You loved them before they were ever born and yet your days with them were much too few.
I say your name often, but as Momma.. or Mamaw when re-telling stories of remember when. All of my childhood years, you were Mommy up until the time I moved further South and I adapted their term Momma. Everyone else called you by name, Helen. As far as I know, you never had a nickname, unless it was “Sissy” by your own Daddy and your Brother. You were just Helen.. and often most fondly? Aunt Helen.
Sometimes it is hard for me to write about you in the past tense, mainly because you really should still be here. I will never get used to you being gone.
For today, I will introduce you to those that read my blog, to my friends that would have loved you, and to your grandchildren that weren’t afforded the time to get to know you in the way that I did.
Her name was Helen Marie, born to a Coal Miner and homemaker with one sister five years older, and later a brother who was five years younger. She grew up in the mountains of West Virginia. She skipped Kindergarten because she couldn’t leave her Daddy’s sight, and grew up to despise school so much that she would often be caught drinking Prell shampoo to fake sickness! She said it was a bad kind of sick blowing shampoo bubbles. The sight of a school bus made her nauseated well into her later years. She never graduated, yet she was one of the smartest women I have ever known.
The family moved to California sometime during her teen years. She loved to talk about Long Beach and the summer nights spent there with her cousins. She had a love for the ocean that never changed – even after moving back home to West Virginia.
Her first marriage was to her High School Sweetheart, Cecil. He would do a tour in Vietnam and return home. They eventually divorced and each began another marriage that resulted in two children separately.
She lived most of that married life in Maryland where her two children were born. I was first, then my brother who is four years younger. She enjoyed being by the bay, catching shellfish and family picnics. The marriage would only last until I was five years old. She packed up her children, and once again the mountains would be home for the remainder of my childhood. She would always say, “you can’t take the mountains out of the girl.” and that is where we made our home.
She would marry again for the last time when I was seven, not to a new love, but returned to her High School sweetheart, Cecil, whom had also recently divorced. They were back where they started from, together again, in the same hometown.
She was a homemaker, a common housewife with two children and sometimes blended to four. She loved her children, and also loved many more that were not hers by birth. She struggled as much as any other mother to keep a balance. Although she was not always successful? It was something she always tried hard to manage. She was a mother figure to more than one of our close friends and cousins, claiming them as her own.
Her name was Helen…. but she was always “Mommy” to us and “Baby” to Dad (Cecil). We never went without a hot meal, clean clothes, or kisses goodnight. Ever.
She was an excellent cook and cake decorator. She never missed making a Birthday special for us or anyone that she was close to. She was a giver. She seldom missed the opportunity to invite folks to her table, for a meal or just for a visit. Her front porch swing was a haven for anyone that wanted to just sit for a spell.
She was strong… more than she ever gave herself credit. She had some tough battles throughout her short life. She was stubborn and had often went head to head with the biggest of bullies, but I also came to realize just how tender her feelings were on the inside. She cried more than she thought I ever knew.
She was compassionate and a good neighbor. Countless times did I see her give up her plate just so one of the extra kids that came home with us unexpectedly could eat at our table. She gave more than she ever took from anyone.
We survived some rough teenage years, only because she chose to love us through it instead of killing us. She was our unconditional love, always. She survived us leaving home, and always encouraged us to live our lives. She counted the days until we came to visit and would go back inside so we wouldn’t see her tears when we left. She missed having us at home as any other Mother did.
She was a prayer warrior for her family. She never missed a chance to share the goodness of God in every circumstance. She sometimes witnessed to us when we didn’t appreciate it or wanted to hear the words. We often returned the favor back to her when she didn’t appreciate it at the time either.
She made mistakes too, sometimes in relationships with her spouse, her children, and her friends. She didn’t always get the Mother in Law role right. She apologized often. She was human.
She patiently prayed and asked God to let her live to see her grandchildren.. two out of three that she was there when they were brand new. This, was her joy. She would become my daughters favorite playmate… and adore everything about my first nephew. I watched her eyes light up anytime they were in her presence. They will never know how much she wanted to spend as much time with them as possible. She would have worn a steady path between the Carolinas and Georgia to see them. I think that made her more sad than anything – knowing she was going to miss out on seeing who they would become.
She was hilariously funny without even trying (My brother has the same genes) She was quick to laugh at herself way before she would laugh at anyone else. She was mischievous and could be the life of a party. I can’t even imagine the shenanigans her and my youngest nephew would have gotten into. She loved to have fun with her family and she was a true night owl. She loved anything that sparkled, bling-jewelry and the color red.
She loved animals more than people at times. (hmm.. sounds like Hannah) She always had a dog or two, and would take any and all strays. She would have loved volunteering at an animal hospital.
She fought a hard fight with depression. Sometimes she won, sometimes she didn’t, but she always fought. We learned a lot about empathy and the disease itself. She taught us about grace, when it was not deserved.
The last picture I share, is our last picture together. Although her health was failing rapidly, she had her heart on the outside, surrounded by her treasures… her children and two of her grandchildren. This was her “Happy” always.
She loved until her last moments on earth. She made sure we knew how proud she was of her children, and how much she would miss us and that she would wait patiently for us on the other side.
She was a good Momma.. and we miss her. Every. Day.
If you didn’t know her? Her name was Helen. I hope that you have enjoyed meeting her through my blog today. If you did? I hope you learned something new.
Proverbs 31:17 – She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.