WyoWomanPhotography.com: Thoughts

3. In Memory of Mom 4/10/26-2/10/10

by Vicki Tillard

Today, we celebrate Mom's life, and what a life it’s been. A real life, filled with love, joy, laughter, heartache, tears and pain. In other words, a life just like any other and yet so uniquely Rhoda…just like God planned it.

I remember until I was in my thirties, the very idea of losing one of my parents brought me to tears. I couldn’t even imagine how I would go on without them to guide me, rescue me and comfort me. Then I had my own children and I thought I understood…the reason God gives us children is so we can more easily let go of our parents when the time came.

Now of course I know better. No matter how long we’ve had them and the gift of their guidance, wisdom, love and support, losing a parent is still like losing part of oneself. The last few days I’ve been hearing this little girl’s voice calling “Mommy” and I realize it’s my own.

Mom lived a long, wonderful life. She was a woman with a mission. In so many ways, she sculpted her life exactly as she wanted it. She had a mind of her own and left little doubt to those around her what was on it.

She will be remembered as a woman of incredible strength, grace, generosity and wit. Always impeccably dressed, her home was a testament to style and organization. She taught us how to laugh, and most importantly, she taught us how to laugh at ourselves. She was incredibly loving and loved and she will be missed by so many.

Mom was a devoted wife. Her nearly lifelong love affair with Dad is legendary. Her first gift from him was a pink scarf delivered from a bicycle by an 11-year-old Eddie to his little red-headed girlfriend in the 5th grade.

He was the love of her life. She and Dad were high school sweethearts and there was never any doubt she wanted to spend her life with him, but it wasn’t always easy. The first little hitch …she DID NOT want to be a ranch wife.

Choosing a wedding that didn’t interfere with docking or haying was the first of many challenges. Moving to the ranch, 65 miles from the nearest town, was a major adjustment. Getting up before the sun to put a full breakfast on the table, dealing with the expectations of a gruff and powerful father-in-law, making a home where the mice outnumbered the people would have sent most new brides packing. Not Rhoda. She made a commitment to Dad and his ranch way of life and she would make the best of it.

I’d be lying if I said there were never any problems in their nearly 62 year-long marriage. Who can forget when Dad was bound and determined to buy a boat and everyone knew Mom wasn’t wild about that idea. When asked how Rhoda felt about the boat, Dad’s pat answer was “Rhoda Who?” We (even Mom) had many hours of fun on that boat christened in her honor…the “Rhoda Who.”

Their relationship was a true partnership and an incredible love story. Their rock-solid dedication to each other, to their family, and to a very deeply held set of values is the foundation that has shaped so many, many lives, yesterday, today and in all the days to come.

By the winter of her first year of marriage, Mom was pregnant with their first child. Only 22 years old, she endured morning sickness every day of the nine-month pregnancy and one of the worst blizzards of the century. In August of 1949, Becky was born and life got just a little easier. Becky was a good baby, a joyful addition to this new family, and Mom was adjusting to life in the country.

Two years later and after another difficult pregnancy, I was born. I was a sick baby and sent me home after six weeks in the hospital with instructions to keep me from crying too much. That should have been their first sign I was going to be a handful!

So here they are, with a precious but precocious toddler, an infant with an attitude, winter bearing down and they decide to try one more time for a boy…have you ever heard the expression, “be careful what you pray for?”

There isn’t a mother among us who isn’t awed by the prospect of what Mom faced now. Bec was 3½, and I was 17 months when the triplets were born. Can you even imagine, five kids under 4 years old? She would tell you she would not have survived without her mother-in-law who became her best friend during those early years.

Mom was fiercely proud and protective of her five children, 17 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren. Within the last month of her life, she saw nearly every one of us. One of her grandchildren described Mom’s connection with her grandchildren best when she said, “I don’t even like to tell people she’s my grandma because she is so much more than that to me.”

Of her children and grandchildren, Mom may have questioned our taste (she would even quibble about whether some of us had any!), our direction, or lack thereof, and even our mindset (can you hear her saying, “I can’t imagine what he/she was thinking”), she never judged us and stood by us in the best and worst of times.

She always went the extra mile for us. On the other hand, she made sure we all knew what our role was in that extra mile. Her expectations were never in doubt. A couple months ago, I stayed the night at their house. In the morning as I wandered into the kitchen in ragged comfies and a serious case of bedhead, I heard Mom say to a visitor, “she doesn’t always look like that.”

She seldom missed the opportunity to comment on a new hairstyle or a particularly unusual outfit. One of her signature shows of control over her children, we all remember her whipping a comb out of her purse, handing it to us and saying, “you might want to use this.” God love her!

A steadfast love of God didn't protect her from doubts and questions. Yet, she was brave enough to admit when she didn't understand and willing enough to persevere on her faith journey to find answers and comfort.

Mom’s commitment to her friends is awesome. She never lost track of anyone. Seriously she was the best friend ever. She knew everyone’s children and grandchildren. She knew names, where they lived, what they did for a living and what particular joys or challenges they were going through…Maybe that was so she would never be without something to worry about!

And, let’s face it, she was the champion worrier. One day some issue she had been fretting about was resolved and she was beside herself. She said, “now what am I going to worry about?” While her faith was a constant source of comfort for her, I’m pretty sure she honestly believed God had all the answers but sometimes needed a gentle reminder!

So Mom, quit worrying. You are in perfect peace now. No one will ever fill the hole you’ve left and while we miss you desperately, we feel your presence. We love you.