BlogNot What I Used to Be

Not What I Used to Be

By Gary Stokes
May 5th, 2022

Mother’s Day 2022 is a few days from now. I was recently thinking about my Mom, who passed about four years ago just shy of 91, after a couple of years of suffering from dementia. She passed at home quickly in the night, her huge heart having run out of beats, next to my Dad, her loving husband of over 70 years. Dad, now 97, is still going strong and we’re extraordinarily blessed to have him.

Occasionally I’ll talk about Mom to friends or acquaintances, and I always describe her as a dynamo, but the description doesn’t do her justice. She was full of love and kindness, and had more than enough of both for her extended family of husband, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, cousins, nieces, and siblings as well as tons of good friends. Her love and kindness weren’t merely thoughts. She turned those strong feelings into action, and poured her heart and soul every day into doing things for others. Much of what she did revolved around the preparation of food for others, and it was rare for a day to pass without her preparing delicious meals, or baking up a treat to celebrate a friend or comfort a friend in need. She always found time in her day to think of others, reaching out in her own way, whether by sending a thoughtful card or note, calling on the phone to check in, say hi, and let the person on the other end know they were being thought of, or stopping  by for a visit and to drop off a treat she had made. She adored children, and when she passed, our family commissioned a brick to be laid in her name at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, by far her favorite charity.

She was well-known for waking up early and going to bed late because she was driven to do things for others. She awoke at 5 AM to put on Thanksgiving dinner for 15 at the age of 88, and after stuffing us all silly with appetizers and a great meal with tons of side dishes, I’m sure that she probably bemoaned having forgotten the rolls or something like that. She had endless energy.

She lived a remarkable life. Born in Gibraltar in 1927, she was evacuated to Jamaica for several years during the second world war. She met Dad after the war in Gibraltar  while he was in the Royal Signal Corps. They married in 1947 and moved to England to live in Westgate-on-Sea, the town where Dad grew up. With my two older brothers in tow, they moved to the USA in 1955 where they raised us and made a great life for us, full of family, lots of laughs, and unconditional love. They formed many lasting friendships, and saw much of the world cruising and traveling with their friends, and traveled extensively well into their 80s. She really was a dynamo.

As she receded more and more into her own mind the last year or two of her life, her true colors still shone through. Although she spent many of her waking hours fearful and confused, she always had a smile and always expressed gratitude for small kindnesses done on her behalf. I can see her now looking at me with a smile after maybe, for example, buckling her seat belt for her in the car, smiling and saying lovingly, “Thank you darling.”

At times, she understood clearly what was happening to her.  After requiring help with something that just a year or two earlier she would have done with ease, she would reflect and wistfully say, “I’m not what I used to be.” Those moments tore at my heart, because she was right in some ways, but she wasn’t cognizant nor could I explain to her how she was wrong in other, more important ways. She wasn’t able to see what I saw, which was her in her entirety, and how when I summed her up as a person, she was way, way more than what she used to be at any single moment or at performing any single task. She lived a life full of purpose and love and growth, and the cumulative effect of all those days and all those acts of kindness and all the challenges she took on, even at her weakest near the end, meant she was much more than she used to be.

I take it as an inspiration.  Looked at a little differently, shouldn’t we all aspire to be “not what we used to be”? Shouldn’t we strive to become the best version of ourselves, and in the process be a blessing to all with whom we come into contact? It’s an idea we try to instill in our team at Pendant, that tomorrow we’ll be better than we are today. Commit to that simple idea, and one day we will proudly look back and say, “We’re not what we used to be.”

Thanks, Mom.