A loving mother’s love lasts forever

My brothers and sisters and I, along with other family members, gathered to celebrate Mom’s 90th birthday.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My brothers, sisters and I were extremely fortunate. Our mother cloaked her love in grace and mercy. I wish everyone could say that.

Our late mother loved in so many ways. Compassion was a gift she abundantly shared.

Mom’s calm demeanor didn’t keep her from taking care of business when she had to, however. With five active cherubs on the loose, her hand of justice reached out and touched someone whenever needed. Mom fairly disciplined simply to teach right from wrong.

As was the norm in the post-World War II era, Dad was the family breadwinner. He was an engineer by trade. Mom was an engineer, too, a domestic one, though the proper term back then was housewife. Mom masterfully coordinated all the cooking, cleaning, washing, planning, nursing, and entertaining.

Our mother, three months before she died at age 90, always had a smile.
Mom had an uncanny, almost instinctive ability to adapt to many situations. With her five ornery children and one needy husband, it must have been her survival mechanism. Our hyperactive, always on the go father likely had something to do with that.

Dad was the prototypical Type-A personality, joining sporting, civic and church activities that often took him away from home right after he had finished the supper Mom had prepared. Mom seemed to take it in stride.

However, I remember some rather heated discussions occasionally punctuated the night air when us kids were supposed to be fast asleep. Speaking the truth in love was the thread that stitched Mom’s compassionate mantle.

I always admired that spunkiness. It perfectly balanced her more tender side, which was the one she wore so beautifully most often.

I have fond, vivid memories of us kids exploring boxes full of black and white photos that documented our parents’ early years together. I always chuckled at the one with Mom holding a shotgun. Dad claimed he and Mom did go hunting together, and Mom never denied it. But it was just so unlike the mother I remember. She disliked cooking the game Dad brought home.

Mom was always there for us, especially if we were sick. News of the latest mumps outbreak brought back vivid memories for me. I was miserable lying on the couch, covered in a homemade afghan, Mom trying her best to get me to drink and eat something, anything, instinctively knowing my painful discomfort.

And yet, she soldiered on with the rest of her household chores, making sure supper was ready, and everyone had clean clothes for the next day’s activities.

Despite all she had going on, Mom wouldn’t hesitate to stop what she was doing and play catch with us or dig a flower for a teacher or visit a sick neighbor. Mom lived her love.

One of the many watercolor landscapes done by Marian Stambaugh
Mom was very artistic, and blossomed into an award-winning watercolor painter. She and Dad even went on annual weeklong art junkets to the mountains of the Carolinas.

When Mom accompanied Dad on special archeology digs, she painted while he dug or hunted for artifacts. One of her landscapes graced the cover of a book. Mom was that good.

Mom’s paintings now adorn the walls of friends, family, and extended family members all across the country. They are beautiful testimonies to her artistic abilities and to the passion that she invested into all her efforts.

Mom lived 90 remarkable years. This is the third Mother’s Day without her. We greatly miss her. Mom’s gracious love lasts not only in our memories and her lovely paintings, but also in our hearts.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

Celebrating a creative mother and sporting father

Dick and Marian Stambaugh at their 65th wedding anniversary.

By Bruce Stambaugh

When I was asked to give a talk to volunteers for a local retirement community on April 23, I didn’t hesitate. My mother had died on that day at the nursing home a year ago.

I thought the opportunity more than appropriate to share about how much the volunteers meant to residents like my mother. After all, some in the audience likely delivered needed and appreciated services for my both my mother and father as they finished out their lives.

My assignment was to show some of the many photographs I had taken over the years around Holmes County, Ohio. I offered to include some shots of other places in the world where I had traveled. The organizer said just Holmes County scenes would be fine.
That would be no problem at all. I had thousands of shots from every season from around our bucolic countryside. In some cases, I had photos of the same scene in different seasons, and sometimes from multiple views. I thought that would serve my purpose very well.

An Amish buggy crests a hill amid a rainbow of colors in Holmes Co., Ohio.

My aim was to honor my loving mother and gregarious father, not to hype my photographic abilities. Dad had taught my siblings and me to appreciate our environment, to respect nature, and to understand the careful balance between harvesting her resources and preserving the earth’s beauty. Hunting and fishing, along with conservation, had been priorities in his life, especially in his retirement years while he was still able.

Mom, on the other hand, was more reserved but equally adamant about appreciating and sharing nature. She just chose a different venue. Mom skillfully captured her love for God’s good earth on canvas.

A shocking but typical scene in Holmes Co., Ohio.

Mom painted hundreds of landscapes from all around the country, mostly in vivid watercolors. She skillfully replicated scenery as she saw it, and if you were familiar with the local geography, you could often identify the location of the setting. Mom was that good.

Ironically, none of her five children caught the artist’s gene or desire. Mom once patiently tried to teach me to paint. But given my poor efforts, she wisely encouraged me to “paint” with my camera and through my writing. It was sage advice.

A long, muddy Amish farm lane in Holmes Co., Ohio.

Mom taught me to have her artist’s eye by understanding perspective and composition through the camera’s lens rather than smearing colors on a canvas. Believe me, smearing was the appropriate verb for my practice runs at watercolors.

On April 23, I complied with the organizer’s wishes. Only three of the 170 shots I shared on screen with the volunteers were from outside the county. To set the tone, the first slide was a picture of Dad and Mom at their 65th wedding anniversary gathering.

Though family members were the only humans shown in my photo presentation that day, I asked those in attendance if they had seen themselves in the slides. Not surprisingly, I got looks of bewilderment.

Draft horses on a cold, snowy day in Holmes Co., Ohio.

I told the volunteers gathered that they were the forests and the lilies of the fields, the sparkling brooks and crimson trees in the lives of those at the retirement community. Because of their individual situations, the residents may not be able to express their appreciation for the little things the volunteers did. But speaking from personal experience, they do.

I am certain I am not alone in my gratitude to them for all their good efforts. I also wanted them know how much my folks had blessed me with a rich and rewarding appreciation for the Creation in which we live.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

In memory of a beautiful mother

Mom with painting by Bruce Stambaugh
My mother, Marian Stambaugh, with her award-winning painting with the mauve matting, “River Run.” It was painted from a scene near Burnsville, NC.

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 at 90 by Bruce Stambaugh
Marian Stambaugh just after she turned 90 in June 2011.
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.
Painting 1 by Bruce Stambaugh
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.
Painting 2 by Bruce Stambaugh
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.
Painting 3 by Bruce Stambaugh

Painting 4 by Bruce Stambaugh

Painting 5 by Bruce Stambaugh
© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

My mom, beautiful in so many ways

By Bruce Stambaugh

My four siblings and I were very fortunate to have the mother we did growing up.

The two decades that followed World War II were some of the most eventful yet tumultuous of the 20th century. However, I don’t remember feeling afraid in our modest household. I think Mom helped us stay focused on the positive aspects of life.

Mom, along with Dad, trusted us. Yes, we had rules, but they weren’t suffocating to us energetic, adventuresome youth. They just kept us connected and safe. We were taught to be polite, seek justice fairly, and to always be honest.

Marian Stambaugh by Bruce Stambaugh
Marian Stambaugh

As was the custom in that era, Dad was the breadwinner and Mom the housewife. Right or wrong, few seemed to question that model until my teenage years. It was just the way it was. I think I found a certain comfort in that daily arrangement.

Mom didn’t smother us, but we saw and sensed her love in how she handled every situation. Besides doing all of the housework, and there was a lot of it with five children and a working husband, Mom somehow managed time for each one of us.

She was there to mend both our scrapes and our clothes. We weren’t rich by any stretch of the imagination. Mom somehow made do with the meager salary Dad earned.

Busy as she was, Mom would always take time to interact with us personally as much as she could. Once, when no other kids were around, I asked Mom to play pitch and catch with me. She dropped what she was doing, found a glove and threw the ball back and forth with me for several minutes in the summer sun. And Mom didn’t throw like a girl either.

When we were ill, Mom was there to comfort us. When we were bad, she knew how to discipline justly and accordingly. I will confess that I always enjoyed watching my brothers and sisters getting the what for. I never did of course.

As a teenager, I felt my relationship with my mother growing stronger, better, yet different. Mom and I would regularly engage in protracted conversations covering a wide range of topics, including stories from her past that I had never heard before. Those were precious moments indeed.

Mom was as wise as she was talented and beautiful. She was smart enough to give us the space and freedom we each needed to find our own way in the world.

Mom was more than a mother and a wife, however. She had a life, too. She learned to drive at age 40.

Mom bowled with her sisters and mother. She was an accomplished artist. Even though she won awards and sold many of her watercolors, Mom seldom was satisfied with her vibrant renderings. I must have gotten my modesty from Mom.

Watercolor by Bruce Stambaugh
One of the many watercolor landscapes painted by Marian Stambaugh

Those snippets of memories can’t compare though to the love my siblings and I still have for her today. Out of necessity, Mom, who will soon be 90, is now the one receiving kindly care.

She is happy. She is still friendly and polite. And I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard others remark about how beautiful a woman she is. She always was, and still is.

The five of us siblings were fortunate to have such a wonderful mother to guide and nurture us. Today we are fortunate to still be able to thank Mom for the many forms of beauty she modeled for us all.

A Mother’s Day gift from my mother

By Bruce Stambaugh

My mother gave me an early Mother’s Day present this year. I know. It’s supposed to work the other way around.

The gift presented itself in the evening of one of our incredible summer-like spring days we’ve had recently in rural Ohio. I had gone to have supper with Mom at the assisted living facility where she lives.

Marian Stambaugh

After the meal, I pushed Mom’s wheelchair down the hall towards her room. Since it was still nice outside, I asked Mom if she wanted to go out on the porch awhile. I pretty well knew her response would be positive.

We settled on the southwest corner of the wraparound porch. From there, we had a panoramic view of the broad, bucolic valley below. We could see far to the east, south and west. The evening sun was still strong, its breeze just a whisper.

Mom and Dad used to spend as much time together on the porch as they could. From their elevated position high on the hill, they had a lot to take in.

Together they enjoyed watching the progress of the construction of a covered bridge the county erected over a usually gentle stream. They could see Amish farmers mowing hay in the flat, fertile fields on either side of the creek.

They watched the traffic on both the county road that climbed the long hill into the little town of Walnut Creek and on the state route that bypassed both. They preferred the buggies plodding up the step grade to the rumbling trucks on the highway.

With Dad gone now, it was up to us family members and staff to encourage Mom to take advantage of evenings like this. Her Alzheimer’s disease prevented her from even initiating the idea. But if somebody else suggested it, she was all for it as long as the weather cooperated.

This fine evening was downright perfect. Besides the temperature, the earth vividly declared its beauty, much like the many landscapes Mom had painted over the years.

She no longer paints, but her appreciation for both nature and her own natural affinity for appealing colors remain. She still picks out her own clothes to wear each day, and receives many compliments on her color coordination.

Mom hasn’t lost her artistic eye, either. At first, she didn’t say much as she gazed over the vibrant scenery. Eventually, she began to point out the various flowering trees, all at their peek. And she did so in complete, spontaneous sentences, something her disease has greatly diminished in this lovely lady.

Long, comfortable silent spells punctuated our conversing. We listened to bluebirds warble their blissful songs. Cardinals called. Song sparrows sang echoing solos.

Mom asked me what those yellow things were far off in the distance. I asked her if she meant the objects with the silver, pointy tops. She said, “Yes,” as she pointed with her finger. I told her those were corncribs like Uncle Kenny used to have on his farm.

Soon a green four-door sedan, exactly like the car Mom and Dad had before we sold it recently, pulled from the parking lot below us. Mom watched the car travel all the way out the drive.

She turned toward me and instead of saying, “That looks like our car,” Mom surprised me with an even greater upbeat comment. “I wish I could still drive!” she said with a fantastic smile.

For me, Mom’s moment of recognition and effusive expression was an unexpected and unforgettable Mother’s Day gift.