By Bruce Stambaugh
My mother was a beautiful woman in so many ways.
Mom was a pretty woman to be sure. Yet her graciousness and her colorful paintings revealed her artistic inner beauty. She also modestly disclosed her creativity through her color-coordinated attire.
Mom died peacefully in her sleep on April 23 after a lengthy trial with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 90.
Though she had lost much of her recall of all things past, Mom still knew who her five children were. She couldn’t always call us by name, but she recognized us. She also lit up when old friends stopped for a visit. Conversation for her, however, was difficult.
My brothers, sisters and I found it intriguing that Mom maintained her pleasant personality throughout her journey with Alzheimer’s. The staff all loved her at both the retirement home, where she lived with Dad before he died in December 2009, and at the nursing home where Mom spent her last year.
Mom was a model resident. She was polite, gracious, kind and asked for little. She didn’t wander, was not a bother to anyone, and maintained her politeness despite her dementia.
In her last days, she had pain, but because of her diminished language skills, was unable to articulate where she hurt. The staff and family could only guess.
At the calling hours and during the funeral, the same descriptive word kept being repeated to define our mother. Beauty. Mom radiated beauty not only in her looks, but in the humble and generous way she lived her life. She was the kind of mother everyone wished for. We were very, very fortunate to have her for so long.
Dad was always very proud of Mom, perhaps even to the point of being a bit overprotective. Early in their marriage, Dad took Mom to a company party. When his male coworkers saw her for the first time, they feigned shock that Dad had such a beautiful wife. They even teased Dad that his wife must have been mad at herself the day they married.
As the preacher at her funeral said, Mom never drew attention to herself. She just drew, and painted. Even when she won awards for her lovely landscapes, Mom would respectfully accept the award, and often declare that some other artist should have won.
Mom also showed her beauty in how she raised her five children in the tumultuous post-World War II era. We had rules to follow, simple household chores to do, and if we didn’t quite respect what should have been done, she judiciously administered a discipline that was appropriate for our age and the offense. She was as fair as she was attractive.
It wasn’t easy to rear five energetic and individualistic children. Since she was a stay-at-home mother, Mom carried the primary responsibility of keeping us clothed, fed, nurtured and behaved. She could have written a book on parenting. Given the beauty of her personality, she probably would have used a pseudonym if she had.
Mom was a wonderful woman, and we will never forget her kindness, gentleness and most of all the exquisiteness she naturally shared in this world through her paintings and her authentic living.
At the funeral, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace about our wonderful mother. It was as if Mom’s gracious, artistic spirit had permeated the service in one last beautiful brush stroke for all to behold.