Today, Dec 24, 2010, marks the 1 year anniversary of the passing of my Mom. I was thinking about her this morning as at 5:30am last year on this very day she breathed her last breath. And we said good-bye to her. I thought I would take the next few minutes to share a little of what I shared at her funeral as a memorial to her. I hope you can see how an amazing Mom and woman of God she was from my words.
If you knew my Mom you would know she loved 3 things more than anything…God, her kids and Fair Havens. Oh ya, and Dad, of course!
Mom and Dad gave all of us the greatest gift we could ever receive, our Christian heritage. They believed that knowing and loving God was very important for all of us. They taught us about God as children, took us to church and lived a godly life in front of us. We cherish the fact that Mom and Dad taught us how important it was to have a loving relationship with our Lord. Mom would ask us about it whenever we spoke to her on the phone or when she saw us in person–in a gentle and kind manner, of course.
Church was a big part of our relationship with God and while growing up when the church doors were open the DeGraaf’s were through them, even if we didn’t want to be. The first ones to arrive and last to leave.
Mom showed us a practical faith with all the behind the scenes things she did, like helping in the nursery and helping with Cubbies at Awana. She also gave when we didn’t have much, she helped when no one else would or could help. I found out [the week of my Mom's funeral] that she also helped my youth pastor with whatever task he would ask of her…something I dearly appreciate being a pastor myself. Mom enjoyed being the unsung hero, never flashy but always in the kitchen or back room doing the “grunt” work that no one else would do. She showed us how to truly serve!
During separate times Joy and I went through our fights with cancer, Mom would always pray with us and share verses with us when she would visit. It is because of Mom I chose my life verses: Proverbs 3:5-6.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Mom has always been a great servant at heart and always cared for those in need, those who couldn’t care for themselves…kids! Mom loved kids. Even her email address said that: I luv kidzzz!
Growing up, we had so many kids (adopted, foster and a home daycare full of them) that there were 2 shifts at the dinner table. While the first shift ate dinner, the second shift would do homework. After dinner was done we would clean our dishes and make our lunches for the next day. Mom loved us enough to teach us life skills such as that so that we could live independently and survive. My younger brother Phil, became a great cook because of Mom, and I became a great organizer and cleaner because of Mom. So when we moved out to live together, Phil did the cooking and I kept the apartment clean. A great partnership.
One memory of Mom from the older siblings is how when Dad was very sick, Mom went to college to earn her degree and then worked outside the home and still cared for us. While attending night courses and working on her assignments, she filled the role of both parents. She taught us the importance of responsibility and diligence of completing a task.
Mom always thought about her kids before anything or anyone else, she would go without so that her kids would not. We all remember many times when we came home for a visit because we were either at school or had already moved away and Mom had our favourite treat or a special gift waiting for us when we arrived.
When we were away at school on our own, she would send us care packages, not just food and stuff, but things she knew we loved (that’s probably why I get more joy in giving than receiving).
Mom also wrote us wonderful notes to encourage us, to tell us how much she loved us, to tell us she was proud of us. That she was praying for us. I think many of us still have those notes. Mom, they meant so much!
One memory growing up was “buying” a gift for Dad. All year Mom would be buying gifts for Dad and stock piling them. Just before Christmas Mom would take us in their bedroom one by one and show us the gifts. They all had price tags on them, and they just happened to be the exact amount Mom would hand us, which was our allowance for the year. BTW we never rec’d an allowance except at that time of the year.
As I was talking to my brothers and sisters I realized that we all had a secret moment with Mom. And she always said, “Don’t tell your father.” For me it was the indulgence of a Big Mac at McDonald’s. We would be out doing errands on a Saturday afternoon and you could see the beloved golden arches in the distance. Mom would look at me and say those magic words, “want a Big Mac?” Then we would share our secret moment together as we talked and ate a Big Mac.
Mom was always interested in what we loved, whether it was signing us up for basketball, going to Paul’s basketball games, visiting Linette out West or in Toronto. Spending hours with me to teach me to parallel park. Being overjoyed with us as we got accepted into school, or as a camp counsellor. Also going to church to see us perform in plays and musicals and sitting in the front row as she cheered us on. She was our biggest fan!
…was the place Mom loved. She was in her glory when she was at the trailer, listening to music, going for walks with Dad, going to the chapel services and sitting in the front row with Dad, of course. Mom loved to be away from the hustle and bustle of the city and be in a quiet place like the trailer where she could read, knit, or play chip rummy with one of her kids or a passerby.
In the last few days with Mom we got talking about how much she loved being at Fair Havens, and as she was in her coma we pretended she was actually there in the front row with all her kids sitting with her (we never sat in the front row). Then after a service full of her favourite songs and the speaker would be Chuck Swindoll, of course, we went back to the trailer to play hours of chip rummy, oh ya, and Phil had a nice Christian girl by his side…of course…haha!
Mom we miss you but we know you are in the arms of Jesus! As we say good-bye, I am reminded of something Mom always wanted and Phil has said on a few occasions, “Mom, you did it, the family is all in the same room together!”
Love you Mom!
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