In honor of Mother’s Day this is being reposted in memory of my mother – the Amazing Grace in my life.
In 1964, my mother, A. Grace Hogan decided that she did not want her five daughters to grow up thinking that being beaten for not cooking the right food for dinner or being a little late getting home from the grocery store was normal. She had endured her last beating by my father and decided that she would be just fine raising her five daughters alone. I am the oldest of the five and at the time I was nine years old and my baby sister had just turned three. During those years, Mom worked three jobs just to make sure that the rent was paid and there was food on the table. My father never did pay any child support and Mom had to find ways to do odd bookkeeping jobs for businesses around town. There was a point when my mother did ask for a raise since she was only making $500 a month and was having a hard time making ends meet. She was told that since she wasn’t a man who was the main breadwinner in the family, she really didn’t need a raise – what she needed was a new husband. The local feminists were a little incensed by this and asked my mom why she wasn’t more active in the movement – didn’t she want to be considered equal to men? My mother’s response was – Now, why would I want to lower myself to that level?
This was very indicative of how my mother approached life – with a smile, a giggle and outright laughter. Her words of wisdom could be found in her attitude towards life and that nothing, absolutely nothing, should be taken too seriously – and she made sure every one of us girls understood that – even at her own funeral.
One year after my mother’s divorce, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 29. She had been misdiagnosed for a year with her symptoms being attributed to a hysterical reaction to her divorce. She managed to keep her MS at bay by focusing on raising her children and seeing them become independent young women. However, in the end, multiple sclerosis won. Mom died of complications from the disease at the young age of 63. Mom died in my sister’s home in a small town in Utah. The rest of us lived in Colorado, Nebraska and Alabama. However, never one to make things easy for us girls – Mom had asked to be buried in our hometown of Gunnison, Colorado – a mere 7 hours away from my sister’s home. Being good daughters – we arranged for the funeral in Gunnison. My sister arranged to have Mom cremated and picked out a lovely blue urn for her remains – blue was Mom’s favorite color.
The day before the service, my sister went to pick up Mom’s remains and was asked if she wanted to have Mom “Fed-Exed” to the funeral. Now, as much as my mother loved a man in uniform, she could not bear the thought of putting some stamps on Mom and sending her to Gunnison – so she put Mom in the front seat of her car, buckled Mom’s seatbelt and they were off! She said it was the best trip she ever had with Mom – no interruptions, no driving instructions and no nagging from Mom. Mom just listened to her for the full seven hours!
When my sister arrived in Gunnison, the funeral home was closed. Now, in Gunnison, the funeral home is owned by the same people who own the furniture store – don’t ask, no one knows why. So, she went to the furniture store and talked to the owner’s son who indicated that she was welcome to leave Mom at the furniture store on the front counter and he would make sure the remains were taken over to the funeral home later when he had time. My sister was a little concerned because Mom still owed the furniture store quite a bit of money and she was afraid they might sell Mom in that beautiful urn to cover their losses – so she insisted that they head over to the funeral home right now.
The next day dawned and the service began. It was a lovely service with lots of flowers, Mom’s favorite song – You’ll Never Walk Alone (we couldn’t find the song by anyone but Elvis Presley, who had a slightly different take on the song) and many of Mom’s friends. After the service, the owner’s son – who had been in charge of the service, asked us which of the flowers we wanted to have taken to the cemetery on the outskirts of town. We indicated which ones, went to our cars and waited for the procession. Since Mom was not in a casket, the funeral home director decided that the most economical way to get Mom to the cemetery was in a furniture store delivery van. That way, all of the flowers and Mom could be transported in one vehicle. The owner’s son and the priest were riding in the furniture delivery van leading the way, my family was in the second car with others following. About halfway to the cemetery, the hearse/furniture store van peeled off , made a U Turn and headed back towards the funeral home. My husband was getting ready to do the same when I stopped him and said – Let’s just keep going to the cemetery – they probably forgot something – we’ll meet everyone there.
We arrived at the cemetery a little before the delivery van and the owner’s son exited the van with a very embarrassed look on this face. I had a feeling I knew what had happened – so I simply asked, “So, you forgot Mom didn’t you?” He started to stammer and stutter, and finally the priest admitted that they had indeed left Mom on the stand in the funeral home, even though they had remembered all of the flowers. My sisters and I started laughing so hard, people must have thought we were insane. We all knew that our Mother was always the last one to leave a party – especially one given on her behalf!
So, on what could have been one of our darkest days, our mother reached down and made sure we had a good laugh. Mom wanted us to remember that life is about laughter and joy – and she wanted us to remember that the A. in A. Grace Hogan didn’t really stand for “Alice” – it stands for “Amazing.”