A few years ago my aunt and I planned a reunion for the church we both grew up in. It was a small Midwestern church that has long been disbanded, but each of us knew a few people who had attended and we spread the word. We planned a picnic for the same park where we had Sunday School picnics when I was a kid.
We got there early with a couple packs of name tags, figuring fifty would be more than enough for the thirty who said they were coming. There were at least that many there already and everybody had brought food…lots of it! Eventually a hundred people showed up with tons of home cooked food, even though many of us were from out of state.
If you’ve ever attended a small church, you know that one or two families tend to dominate the church and mine was one of those. As I moved from one group to another, people kept saying “You must be Esther…you sound just like your mother.” Finally I asked Aunt Anna, “Do I really sound like Mom?” “Oh yeah, especially when you laugh!” I had long feared that I had inherited absolutely nothing from her and was almost a clone of my father, so it was nice to hear people say I sounded like Mom.
But that was amazing! You see, Mom had been dead more than 35 years already. I was 15 when we moved away and here I was with my husband and grandson. The handsome young pastor I remembered was there with his wife of 50 years. Long before he was pastor, he was the “orneriest youngster” in my mother’s Sunday School class.
Back and forth the stories went…Mom as a teacher, Mom getting married, Mom and Dad singing duets for weddings and funerals. Some stories I’d heard many times and others I’d never heard. Stories I remembered from childhood were told by adults with a different perspective. Each story brought back a piece of her that I’d lost over so many years. My husband knew no one there outside of family and had never known my parents, so they were coming to life for him as well.
Toward the end of the afternoon, an elderly lady came up to me and said, “You must be Melita’s daughter. You sound so much like her.” Her name was not at all familiar to me and she explained that she had grown up in the church but had left about the time I was born. “Your mother was my Sunday School teacher off and on as I was growing up. She impressed me so much. She always seemed so sincere, like whatever she taught us on Sunday was how she really lived. Not everybody was that way. I wondered if she really did ‘practice what she preached.’” I didn’t hesitate to reply that the one thing I most valued about my mother was her utter lack of hypocrisy. This lady told me that all her life she had tried to live as honestly as my mother had. I was amazed at the impact Mom had made on this woman whom I didn’t even know.
After talking to her, I realized that when people give of themselves to other people, those parts they give away live on in those people. For one afternoon, those parts came together and I had an unforgettable visit with my mother.
I’m the mother of a son and daughter, and grandmother of two. My husband and I have been married 40 years. I spent my childhood in the midwest, and lived in California from high school until 2000.
We traveled for a year and visited every state in the lower 48, then settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
Professionally, I was an occupational therapist serving children in special education.
Interests include gardening, cooking, traveling, and amateur radio.
I’ve had a wild collection of volunteer jobs that nobody would have paid me to do but they allowed me to develop skills I would not have gained in the workplace.