Happy Birthday, Mommy

Today my Mother would have been 90.

I never imagined my Mother dying. I thought she would just live and live, until the Lord returned. He had other plans, and I don’t argue with Him. I see His hand in her life, and in her death. I feel His comfort in my loss, though the missing doesn’t stop. As I watch my friends mourn their own mother’s, I know the missing never stops. Moms are just too much a part of us. We enter life listening to their heartbeat. They become the rhythm of our life.  Their absence is always profound.

I have friends who did not have good mothers. Or, lost their mother very young. So, I know I was blessed to have a mother like mine, and to have her as long as I did. I am grateful for every minute we shared. I wish every memory was a good one, and I wish I had no regrets. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that way, when it comes to those loved ones we have “lost.” However, I am so grateful for what was good.

And, there was so much good.

  1. Saturdays when I was a kid, when I go with her on her visitation rounds, checking up on families from the church. We listened to classical radio as we drove up Slauson Boulevard. She made her rounds every week.
  2. When it was time for me to cook for her, I had to learn how to make fried eggs. I was so intimidated by this task, but I got pretty good. Of course, she never complained if they weren’t right.
  3. McDonald’s Filet of Fish. I think the first time I recall her eating them was in Hawaii. Always her favorite item on that menu.  With fries, coffee, and an apple pie.
  4. Pink robes. Pink nightgowns. Pink slippers. Pink flowers. Pink t-shirts. Pink lipstick. She loved pink.
  5.  She loved Christmas. She battled the blues during the holidays, but she never let the blues win.
  6. I started gardening, because she couldn’t do it alone anymore. It was one of the happiest days when we re-potted all the house plants. I will always be thankful for that day, for that gift.
  7. Babies were more than a delight to her: they were a sign of life. Her compassion for children was deep-seated, and only exceeded by her determination that they know Jesus.
  8. She was a leader, and she didn’t apologize for it. God bless her!
  9. She was outspoken with the truth. And, she didn’t apologize for that, either.  She taught me that truth was worth dying for, her life was not more important than its defense.
  10. Her respect for the Holy Spirit’s anointing and His presence, and her desire to never offend Him, is something I am still learning to understand.
  11. Mother’s greeting cards were as reliable as the sun. She always remembered.
  12. Walking with her in Cleveland, when I was five. Talking. Telling stories. She walked me to school for years. She would take afternoon walks. She would walk to the bus to go downtown. I remember hiding from the wind in her coat.
  13. Mother loved hugs and kisses.
  14. She loved the underdogs. She noticed the people no one else paid attention to, and treated them like they were her best friends.
  15. Mother always walked.
  16. She was indomitable. Picture a blizzard. Snow already quite high. She insisted on making her walk to the corner, to mail her letters. I couldn’t believe what she was doing, but she would not be stopped. Seriously. It was a blizzard!
  17. She missed my Father the rest of her life without him. She could not bear to see pictures of him. Said it made her too sad. I understand that a little now.
  18. Sitting in her doctor’s office, when she received news that she likely had kidney cancer, I cried. I couldn’t help myself. She looked at me kindly, then said to the doctor, apologizing for my behavior: “She’s my best friend. We’ve been through a lot together.” I know she did not know I was her daughter in that moment, but I’m glad she thought I was her friend.
  19. We had some fun times in bathrooms. I never enjoyed that particular task (I don’t have her nurse’s matter-of-factness), but I learned how to do it and tried to keep it light-hearted, because I know she felt sorry she needed help. So, there were definitely some laughs. Surprisingly, some good times.
  20. There were moments when I could tell she was remembering a little more than usual. I am glad for those times. I never got tired of hearing her talk about Cuba.
  21. Preparing her trays. She appreciated all the little things. A new mug. A special pitcher for syrup. A pretty bowl.
  22. Her gratitude was abundant. I did not deserve as much as she gave.
  23. My Mother was so friendly. If it were up to her, she’d speak to everyone in a room. She was curious about people, and cared about them sincerely.
  24. She had a way of holding court. It was kind of cute.
  25. Mother made mistakes I want to learn from—mistakes that were just a consequence of life. I wish I had known her better.
  26. She was a lady. Always a lady.
  27. She worked as hard as anyone, and not being able to work hard was the hardest thing for her.
  28. When TV became too stressful, cooking shows became her favorites. Jaques Pepin and Lidia Bastianich were her favorites.
  29. Nothing meant as much to her as a good cup of coffee.
  30. She was devoted to her sons-in-law.
  31. Her many “adopted” children.
  32. She loved life, but she looked forward to eternity. I can’t wait to see her, again.

❤️

P.S. I know 32 is a weird number to stop on, but it’s just where I stopped. No meaning in it.

On A Road That Faith Built

I sent a press release to the Portland Press Herald, when my mother decided to make a trip to Africa in 2000. I thought it might make an interesting story, and they agreed. They sent a photographer and reporter, and this is the resulting article, written by C. Kalimah Redd and published on November 11, 2000. For the record, the writer got a few facts wrong. We’ll ignore those for now.

Following the article are a few photos from her trip. On the day before her flight, Stella was hurrying downstairs to give Doug some information he needed to arrange the transportation of the three keyboards she was taking with her for the churches there. As she came downstairs, she missed a step and seriously injured her leg. We really thought she should cancel her trip, but she refused to do so. She even extended her trip, despite the pain and challenges she encountered once she was there. 

My mother was always a role model for me in life, but even in death she continues to remind me how to live.


ON A ROAD THAT FAITH BUILT
Author: C. Kalimah Redd

The Rev. Stella L. Mosqueda lives in pain.

A leg problem forces this 69-year-old Kittery resident to walk with a cane (though she walks an hour every day), and the severe arthritis in her joints has long slowed her down. But these things will not prevent her from stepping on a plane Wednesday for a two-day journey to Webuye, Kenya. There, she will work as a missionary and preach for a month.

“If an opportunity comes up for me to do something , even though other people think I can’t do it, well — I’m Irish, and I can,” she said. “I’m stubborn and independent. I have no interest in doing the same thing every day.”

Mosqueda (pronounced Mos-ke-da), who technically retired from the ministry in the mid-1980s after her husband died, has lived a life reminiscent of a Hollywood script: A farmer’s daughter moves to Cuba as a missionary without knowing a word of Spanish, meets and marries a Cuban evangelical preacher, escapes the county during the 1959 revolution, then travels throughout South America and the United States championing missionary causes while raising three girls.

Steven Spielberg, eat your heart out.

But Mosqueda’s life is no fable, and her journey next week to the east African country represents a lifetime commitment to helping others. Her faith, she says, tells her that she will blend in and love the people there, that everything will be all right.

“God really has been good to me,” she said. “It’s easy for me to love people, so I expect to have the same result in the Kenya.”

Years ago, it was Mosqueda’s faith that led her to the decision that would change her life forever.

Then Stella Cooper, she left her house in Columbus, Ohio, for Miami, against her parents’ wishes and with less than $10 in her pocket. She had a one-way ticket to Cuba.

Until then, at 21, Mosqueda had never left her home state and had never even met a Spanish-speaking person. She grew up on a farm with no electricity, the fourth of 11 children. Her family had gone to the small church closest to her home and only once had she spoken from a pulpit, when she was 9 years old and was called upon to read from the Bible.

One day, Mosqueda briefly met with a Cuban missionary who came to visit her church. They kept in contact and he invited her to join his family in the tiny country to work as a missionary.

“I knew nothing about being a missionary but figured there are things that I could do, and those I didn’t know, I would learn,” Mosqueda recalled.

Getting to Cuba was the first challenge. It was 1952, and no one could enter the country with a one-way ticket, she said. The airport clerk receiving Mosqueda saw the discrepancy after first questioning why “a pretty girl like” her wanted to go to Cuba.
Telling the clerk of her goal to be a missionary produced an unlikely outcome: He paid for her two-way ticket in full.

Upon arriving in Cuba, she could not remember what her Cuban visitor looked like and she could not speak Spanish to ask. Luckily (Mosqueda would say miraculously) she ran into another missionary woman from Ohio who led her to the missionary’s home.

Within six months, Mosqueda had control of Spanish and began working throughout the country teaching children and spreading the gospel of the Pentecostal church.

In 1955, she married Ignacio Mosqueda, and the two canvassed the country preaching and establishing churches. Many of these congregations still operate today.

By 1959, the Cuban revolution was in full swing. Ignacio knew Fidel Castro personally, but that connection did not mean he and his wife had less to fear from an unpredictable government. The Mosquedas escaped the country that year by disguising themselves as tourists, donning colorful clothing, sun glasses and a camera while boarding a government plane. “I was shaking like a leaf,” Mosqueda remembered. “I could hardly get on that plane.”

Safely in America, the couple continued their missionary crusade. They lived in or traveled to Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica, Hawaii and throughout the United States. They settled in California, where they raised their three daughters and Stella Mosqueda received a bachelor’s degree from Latin American Theology Seminary.

Mosqueda’s husband died in 1986 of a heart attack, and she returned to nursing to support her children. In 1997, she moved to Kittery with her eldest daughter, Caroline. There, she has enjoyed helping to raise her two grandchildren and volunteering in the community.

Less than one year ago, she joined the Dover Church of the Assembly of God in New Hampshire, where she occasionally preaches. Her pastor, Glenn Hurley, 32, said he is in no way surprised by Mosqueda’s desire to travel to Africa, and he is confident her journey will be a success.

“It’s years and years of trusting God and years and years of Him supplying the need,” Glenn said. “Once you learn it, you never go back.”

For her part, Mosqueda hopes to go back to Cuba to visit her family still living there soon. After her return in December from Africa, Mosqueda will likely tutor a Latin American family in English. She is considering avoiding the cold Maine winter by visiting one of her other daughters in Florida.

Mosqueda said she has no plans for any more big trips. Her physical limitations and increasing age turn simple tasks like packing into a major chore. “(But) who knows,” Mosqueda said. “My life is open.”

Copyright (c) 2000 Portland Press Herald


If anyone is interested, I would be happy to scan and share the rest of her photos from Africa. These are just the few that included her.

Wearing Heavy Boots

A post about grieving, originally published 2/22/13. 


Life has been different lately.

Seven-and-a-half weeks ago, my mother passed away. Really hard to even say that, much less write it. I hate that this happened. It’s actually been rather debilitating. I am, however, finally beginning to accept that she really is gone.

It’s been hard. She and I lived together almost my entire life. And, we were close. We weren’t the ‘best friends’ kind of Mom and Daughter, so we weren’t close like that. It was more like she was my hero. As I have passed these weeks since she has been gone, I’ve realized how often my decisions were all about pleasing her. Will Mother like this? Her satisfaction, her happiness, her contentment, her needs being met—this was a primary focus of my life.

Now, that she is not here to please, I’ve been pretty unmotivated. It’s been hard. I’ve done better the past week (obviously, because I am blogging), but it’s been a slow process.

Well, maybe not that slow. I mean, it’s not even been two months, you know? Seriously. Should I be expected to recover from that kind of loss in just a few weeks? I don’t know. I do keep wondering, though, how she would be handling this—or, what she would say if she was here, watching me. What if Doug had died first, and she was here watching me mourn his loss by wasting away my life doing nothing? I think she would have gotten pretty irritated at me.

So, I am trying to balance these things. I do wish someone could tell me how long it takes to move on. I am kind of legalistic that way. I follow instructions well. But, there don’t seem to be rules for this kind of thing. I googled it, and just found a lot of nothing. Basically, it can take forever to recover. Do I have forever?

Doug reminded me of something I said after I found out I had cancer. I talked about how much I wanted to be a faithful steward of the time the Lord had given me, and how much it grieved me to think that if I died in surgery and all I’d have to show for myself was what I had done up until then, that I would have been disappointed in what I would have to offer the Lord when I met Him face to face. It’s kind of hard to regain that kind of passion, once you lose it—or lay it down at the alter of self-indulgence.

And, that’s what I am beginning to fear, that I am becoming self-indulgent in my grief, and I hate that thought. Self-indulgence is such a sinful thing.

I do excuse myself a bit, in that caring for my Mother was my occupation for several years, and this past year it was a 24/7 job. So, I have lost more than just my Mother; I have lost a big part of my identity. You know what I mean? I was a caregiver. That became my job description. I woke up everyday with a Mother-centered purpose. I had things I had to do—someone depending on me to do them. Life and death dependence. And, now? Not so much. This is kind of challenging. A lot challenging.

Yet, I think of her and I remember her life, and I know she would be very displeased with some of my choices these past two months. I mean, seven-and-a-half weeks. She would appreciate my missing her, but then she would say, “Stop crying for me! I’m with Jesus. I’m with my friends. I’m having a great time! And, I have no pain. I don’t have to get shots, or take pills. I’m dancing with Jesus, Caroline. I’m OK! You’re the one you should be crying for right now. Look at you, wasting those two good legs and that strong mind and that lovely home. Get busy. Make me proud!”

It’s so hard to let go. To let go of grief. To let go of her. To let go of that life. I had no idea what her death would mean. When she died, I was just so relieved her suffering was over. This is still the hardest memory, remembering the pain in her face, the fear in her eyes. I still can’t bear the thought without so much pain and sadness. I hate how much she suffered. The last month was the very worst. It was so hard to know how hard it was for her—and I didn’t even really know. Just how miserable was she? My heart aches from the thought. I just want to comfort her and relieve that pain—

This is the hardest thing.

I couldn’t relieve her suffering. I couldn’t do anything for her, to make it better. I tried, but who knows if it really helped? And, I can’t stop thinking of all the things I could have done, or maybe, should have done. This is hard. The Lord is good, though. He reminds me each time of all the other times she recovered. She didn’t get better, because I did everything right. Her life was never really in my hands; it was always in His. In the end, her death was more merciful than it might have been any other time. I would have preferred it go differently, but is there a better way to die? Is death ever easy?

So, I am challenged. Very challenged. I need to move on, but these are such heavy boots. The sadness is still so great. Why aren’t I rejoicing in her triumph over sickness and eternal death? I seem to prefer feeling sorry for myself, which I disrespect so much. I don’t want to be that kind of person. I don’t want to be the hostess of my own personal pity party. I want to remember my Mother well. I want to honor her life. I want to celebrate her victory.

I have been reading a book called “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer. I began the book a long time ago, but picked it up in earnest after Mother died. It is the story of a boy whose father dies on 9/11. This author seems to understand grief and sadness very well.

“I didn’t understand why I needed help, because it seemed to me that you should wear heavy boots when your dad dies, and if you aren’t wearing heavy boots, then you need help.”

The sun will be down soon. I am trying to do things I couldn’t do before, and walking each day is one of them. So, I need to go.

You know, when the freezing cold wind hits my face, and I keep walking, I know there is a little bit of the best of my Mother in me. I want to build on that.