Issue #86  3/19/2005
On a Personal Note

My mom died two weeks ago. I want to thank those of you who learned of this personal tragedy and expressed your kind condolences.

While I know that her passing has little to do with the purpose of this newsletter, I want to share with you a little about my mother.

My Mom was born on May 25, 1926 to Polish immigrants. Her parents named her Helen Hedwig Harsche, sort of the Polish equivalent of Herbert H. Hoover.

The year after she was born, the Great Depression began. On top of providing for her own family, her mother worked hard in other people's homes to help pay the bills, and it took its toll. One cold, frigid day her mother died from a heart attack coming back from work. My mom had to take on the duties of running the household at the tender age of 14. While other girls of her age were enjoying teenage social pleasures, my mom had to cook and clean for her family, after a full day at school. She became a very good cook, and cooking remained an interest of hers for the rest of her life.

She married my dad on a hot July day in 1945, while my dad was home on leave from the Navy. Two and a half years later, I was born. Then my sister Pat, my brother Leonard, and finally my sister Cathy.

In talking with my brother and sisters, it is funny that we all remember some of the same things. My mom was always interested in our educations and making sure each of us had good reading skills. We all remember going to the library with her. Both my sisters remember her teaching them to embroider.

She also tried her hand at business. She became an Avon Lady and although she might not have sold a great deal, we all still do have a lot of soap as a reminder of that time.

My mom loved people, especially children. Even at the end, her thoughts were for her grandchildren.

My mother had a mind like the proverbial "steel trap". She could remember names and events that had long gone out of my own head. I only wish I had a recorder on when she was talking about events that ranged from yesterday to more than 60 years before. When I saw her just a few hours before she passed away, she was still sharp and attentive.

Perhaps her memory was due to her always-curious nature. At the age of 55, she went out and got her first drivers license. She even took up yoga. She was notoriously good at puzzles, which my sister and I would buy for her. And I truly wish that I had inherited her language and these memory skills. Even during her short time at the Bear Creek Assisted Living facility, she managed to learn a few words of Spanish in order to thank and speak to some of the workers who would help her out there. At Bear Creek and in the hospital she would speak in Polish to some of the nursing and support staff, who were recent immigrants from there. She thought it was important to show she cared, but it also kept her mind sharp--continuing to learn right until the very end.

My mom was never in the best health over the last 25 years or so, having had a number of heart attacks and operations, including a quadruple bypass in 1986. After my dad died less than a year and a half ago, my mom seemed to give up a little bit of her spirit, which was understandable for a relationship that had spanned nearly 60 years.

She died just a few months short of her 79th birthday. We will all miss her for her caring and kind soul. Love you, mom.