You see, for the past 20 years of being married to her wonderful son, I have been honored to be allowed to call Alice Genevieve Case Westbrook "Mom." She knew all about my "scarlet" past, yet loved me unconditionally because I loved her son. She treated my children as her grandchildren, just as if they were her own. My two youngest call her "Grandmama Westbrook."
Mom was born on February 18, 1915. She married my late father-in-law when she was 18 and had eight children, which included one set of unexpected twins. She raised these children, did hard work on the farm and in the house and, when Dad got tired of Michigan winters, moved with him and their 3 youngest daughters to Florida. She also has 21 grandchildren (25 including mine), and I think, 27 great-grandchildren and 5 great-great grandchildren. The family is so large, there could be more or less in the "great-great" category. She lost her husband of 59 years in 1993. A little over 2 years ago, she lost the second man in her life, her gentleman friend, Grandy.
Although severely hampered by arthritis, loss of hearing and macular degeneration, Mom tried to live to the fullest, right up to the end. A defiant red-head, she would remind her daughters when it was time to hide the gray roots. She knew her bank balance to the penny and had every piece of business correspondence read to her and explained if she didn't get a point or two. She lived life on her own terms and died the same way.
Last night, at 11:25PM, one week after falling ill on Mother's Day, Mom passed away, peacefully and painlessly, in her own bed, in her own home with four of her children there. I was honored to participate in her care and be included at the bedside. At 94, Mom had decided she was due a good, long rest.
Mom was known to my hubby and I for what we call "Mom-isms." Our favorite is the one when she was complaining about all the shark attacks on Florida's east coast a few years ago. She grumbled about how no one could go to the beach and have fun, anymore, because it was too dangerous. My husband tried to remind her that, when people entered the surf, they were going into the shark's territory. "But they have the whole ocean!," reasoned Mom. We also will go the rest of our life knowing that Alzheimer's is really "Al Hizer's" and that you must "unthaw" anything that is frozen. She hated turning on the air conditioner, even when it was really hot and we would often have to turn the thermostat down in her house when she wasn't looking because we were sweating.
We will remember Mom's really not-too-good meatloaf, her refusal to buy bananas when they reached 50 cents a pound, how she loved a party, the way she would get pink-cheeked and sparkly-eyed after an eggnog or a glass of wine and her fondness for strawberries in any form. We will remember her generosity to her children that contrasted with her tendency to pinch a penny until it screamed. We will look through her massive collection of DVD's of old musicals and comedies which she would watch and re-watch, even after her sight started failing. We will remember her full and hearty laugh when something was funny.
I lost my mother when I was only 23, but, for the past 20 years, I can honestly say I had a Mom.
Goodbye Mom. Enjoy your rest.