Happy Birthday #94, Mom!

Mom with her newest great-great-grandchild, Jaxon Wade Loeppky

Happy birthday to my dear mom, Opal Ellen Gauger, who was born May 27, 1924. She is 94 today, May 27, 2018.  She was the youngest of four children and is the last surviving member of her immediate family. Her mother, Grandma B, died at 61 years old; Grandpa B died at 66.

She grew up in Dillon, Illinois, a mere wide-spot in the road. There she gathered eggs from the chicken house. There her Christmas gift one year was a single orange. Her mother was a homemaker; her father was a laborer.

My mom was a good mother in so many ways, a hard-working homemaker, who always made our home a pleasant place to be. She cooked good meals, and she wanted us to eat the food in front of us. I remember being made to sit at the table on several occasions until I ate my peas. They seemed so awful then, but she insisted I eat them. Now I really like them. Mom kept me and my sister well dressed in clean clothes and new ones when we needed them. She did the laundry, ironed our clothes and did the grocery shopping so we always had something to eat. She must have been a good money manager because she always made do with whatever dad gave her as her part of their money.

Occasionally, she would go shopping in a nearby city and, when I was young, I would go with her. One of my most fearful childhood memories was when we were shopping in the “Five and Dime” store in Pekin, Illinois, and I couldn’t find my mom. The store seemed so big, and I felt so alone. It was a welcome relief when, at last, I found her.

She was an excellent housekeeper; our home was always neat and clean. I remember her doing major spring and fall cleaning, mowing the yard at times, even painting the house. She wasn’t afraid to tackle a tough job. Today, her mobility is greatly altered by the physical limitations of growing older, and her mind is tangled with dementia, and her low functioning kidneys are a major issue. She does have clearer moments. At times she guesses the puzzles on Wheel of Fortune, and she can be witty in responding to the many times I joke with her. But her short-term memory is shaky, and her body is weak.

Mom lives in the same house where she and my dad lived for most of their married life. My sister, who has cared for her for many years, now lives with our mom. In these latter years my wife, Mary, and I trade off care for mom with my sister, every other three weeks or so.

One day in recent months, while visiting over breakfast, I asked my mom what her favorite subject was in High School. She smiled and said, “Wally.” Wally was my dad. Needless to say, that gave me a warm, wonderful feeling.

Thanks, mom, for being there, for loving and supporting us as we grew up. May God surround you with his love and fill you with his grace, today and always.


A Pause That Refreshed

Driving out of town recently, we discovered another family was using the same road.

While driving out of town recently, we stopped in the middle of a busy road to let a family of geese have the right of way. We were not alone on that road. Several cars were behind us. I don’t know how this cross traffic affected those behind us, but it became a welcome interruption for us.

My initial reaction was, “oh, no,” calculating the anticipated delay, but my impatience quickly changed to fascination, mesmerized by the little family waddling across the road.  Mother goose used her beak to move the stragglers along as if she were conscious that they were holding up traffic. The stately papa goose was ready to do whatever was needed to help his family arrive safely on the other side.  We worried as one gosling struggled dangerously at the edge of the road, and a couple others contended with the curb. Papa goose came to the rescue and gave them the lift they needed with his beak. These parents were not about to leave any family member behind. They waited patiently until everyone made it over the curb and onto the grass on the other side before they moved on.

Why did this feathered family capture our hearts and alter our reactions?

It was a refreshing reminder that embedded in all God’s creation is an inherent need to love and care for others. Living as we do these days, with an overload of personal attacks, counter-attacks, violence, disrespect, even disregard for others, that little family of geese showed us how it should be. We should do everything we can to see that people we know and love get safely to where they need to be. Even a goose knows that!

They also captured our hearts and altered our reactions, because they made us stop and pay attention to what was happening at that moment. We are plagued with distractions that almost constantly divide our attention. Realizing this, a great deal is being written today on the importance of mindfulness – focusing our attention on what is happening in the present moment. Whether talking with our spouse, a daughter, son, friend or grandchild, watching a sunset or taking in the majesty of a thunderstorm, life is enriched when we focus our attention on that moment. Not wanting to run over nine geese on the way out of town, forced me to stop and pay attention to what was happening right in front of me. Not only was I blessed watching that little family swagger across the busy road, I was also reminded to be more mindful at other times.

My dad told me more times that I can remember, “Take time to smell the roses.” Paused on that road that morning, we smelled the roses, we saw something we would have otherwise missed.

I saw this unreferenced quote today in keeping with this theme: “Always find time for the things that make you feel happy and alive.” How many happy, alive feelings have we forfeited because we busily ran over what was right in front of us?

What we do with the readily available opportunities to pause, greatly affects whether we have experiences of inhaling grace and exhaling gratitude. It can deeply impact our experiences with God too.  Ponder these words from Psalm 46:10, “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything” (The Message).

Maybe you’d like to pray Psalm 51:10 with me, “God make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life” (The Message).

By the way, they made it to the other side. . . .