I was in second grade, in a small school. I remember that we were just doing our thing in that second grade room, I think broken up into groups of some sort, class was in more of an informal mode. Suddenly, I could hear someone at the door talking to the teacher. Next thing I knew, I was being called to the door, and when I went over there, the principal was standing there, informing me that I needed to grab my stuff, I was leaving for the day. I went back to my coat hook, gathered up my coat, boots, and whatever else I typically took home each day and went over to the door, quite mystified. Why was I leaving?
When I went out into the hallway, I saw my younger brother waiting for me. Then it dawned on me! We had our Sunday School program that following Sunday (this was a Wednesday) and I was sure that we were having an extra practice. I think that maybe we did have a practice planned for that night at the church and somehow I decided that they must have upped the time...this was a very important event, you know!
When we got down the hall to the principal's office, which was only three doors down, I noticed that my uncle was there waiting for us and within a very short time, my brothers and sisters were coming down the hall from the high school. They were crying....what was wrong? Then my uncle told us, "God has decided to take your mom to heaven!" I could feel the waves of absolute confusion and disbelief hit me slowly. What on earth was he saying? There was only one thing, that my mom had died, but he didn't actually say that!
The next thing that I remember is riding to the next town to the hospital, about a 10 mile drive, in our uncle's big, green Suburban.
Next, we were in a small family waiting room full of people. Everyone was crying, some actually wailing. My grandma, my dad's mom, was almost hysterical, wailing and going from person to person, giving hugs. My mom and grandma were very close. My brother and I kind of slunk back and tried to wedge ourselves between one of the adults and a wall near the door. She still found us!
Next, I remember the doctor coming in, still in his green scrubs. He too was sobbing! *He had delivered all 11 of our babies, this was the 12th... he was totally grief-stricken and somehow felt immense guilt, although the condition she passed away from, we later learned, was totally rare and usually fatal...he passed away of a heart attack the next month.*
The next memory I have of that day is coming home and walking up to our farmhouse, looking at the front door and seeing the faces of my two sisters that had stayed home that day to babysit the two who weren't in school peering through the window, looking first happy, then slightly confused. They thought Mom had had the baby but at the same time, I think they also sensed something wasn't right.
Then, the house was full of crying and sobbing people, a group of neighbors came and formed a prayer ring in the kitchen.
Soon, the kitchen was full of food, goodies, people....we girls slipped away upstairs to our bedroom to discuss our future without Mom. Now what? How are we going to keep up with the house, the meals, the laundry..? A plan was quickly formulated...a job chart with rotating weekly jobs (which, amazingly over the years, never wavered; every week we faithfully switched jobs and not one week was missed). The older girls took over meals, laundry was coordinated by my oldest sister.
What a day, what a week, what a Christmas! There is so much more to reminesce....finding gifts in closets, trying to figure out to whom each was intended, then finding Mom's list after Christmas and wondering, do we let everyone have the gift they got or make them switch to whom Mom had intended them to go, to honor her intentions...Christmas carolers suddenly showing up one evening to sing outside our living room window, resulting in my Dad sobbing throughout the singing....trying to stumble through that Christmas without mom! Lots of heartache, confusion, pulling together and circling wagons within our family..Dad grieving for about a week, then pulling himself up, kicking in as both the mom and dad to this family of 11 children, ranging in age from 2 to 19....coming together in this traumatic time and becoming a very close, tight-knit family and staying that way to this day...very, very close friends forever!
*Just a side note, keep in mind, these are the memories from an eight-year-old mind. Some of them may be slightly off but most of them have since been discussed and verified within our family, each of us remembering each event with our own details...when we add the details all together, the whole event becomes more full for each of us. *
*On our mom's birthday (December 1st) and the anniversary of her death (December 13th), we light a white candle in her memory. This year, one of my daughters gave me a Christmas gift early...it is the heart-shaped candle holder with a white tea candle in it in the photos above. I thought it to be a very appropriate candle to light in my mom's memory!