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mom now

Carolyn Ruth Cook was born on January 5th, 1931 and her heart beat for the last time, exactly 85 years later on January 5th, 2016. Our Mother, our Friend, our Nana…our hearts are broken once again by our enemy…Death.

Followers of our blog have noticed our absence as years have gone by with no updates since the year anniversary of my father’s death. I apologize for our lapse and hope you will accept my excuse. It was just too hard to write about another parent slipping away.

You read about my excitement about Mom & Teri moving to Ventura and getting Mom’s home remodeled and ready for her…a place we thought she would enjoy the remainder of her life.  You read about her visits to the doctor and hospital with mini-strokes. Mom had been suffering memory loss a few years before my father’s death.  I know that is why Dad struggled to stay alive…he hated that he would not be around to take care of her and keep her safe.

Initially, there was no diagnosis…but everyone who knew Mom could see the rapid changes in the way that she behaved. Eventually, it was confirmed that she was suffering with Advanced Alzheimer’s, that steadily progressed with more and more disturbing symptoms.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that truly changes a person. It unhooks the wiring in the brain, changes personality and robs one of their identity so that they can’t even remember themselves and sink into their past as a child looking for their parents and feeling lost. So despite my joy at having my mother live so close by; this  was not the Mom that I had known. That woman, my mother began fading away, and then slipped away faster when Dad was diagnosed with cancer and then turned off when he died.

This woman who had moved to Ventura, was not like the mother that had raised me and my siblings. I got another woman. She was sweet and kind, agreeable to any suggestions and smiled most of the time; but I could only see remnants of the Carol Cook that had been my mother. My heart ached as I watched her disease keep snatching pieces of her away, bit by bit, leaving a woman who was constantly confused and bewildered, walking around the room looking for a picture or a clue to help her figure out whose house she was in. You could often see the fear in her eyes as she struggled to remember where she was….and sadly at times, even who was sitting in the same room with her…her daughters.

So now…my mother has closed her eyes and I am left wiping mine as tears keep welling and spilling down my face. I thought I was ready for this since I had basically lost Mom when she shut down before Dad’s death.  I was not ready! I am NOT ready!

So as I sit here typing in the wee hours of the morning…it is January 9th, 2016, the day of my mothers memorial, I hurt and I am mad. I am angry that death has once again snatched away someone that I depend on to be ALIVE in my life. I want my parents back and I don’t care that I am a grown woman with children and grandchildren of my own. I WANT MY MOM!

As one of five children, I know that we each have our own experiences and memories that belong exclusively to each of us. Roger, the oldest, and the only son, got the inexperienced young Carolyn, who was eager to be a mother and absolutely adored him…a feeling that never went away. I saw it in her smile when he visited her during the last month of her life. Marta, the youngest, got the experienced, older, and tired Mom. She had given birth to 4 babies that came year after year…and then received Marta 4 years and 1 day after giving birth to me.  Through the years, we each experienced the same and yet different versions of Carolyn Cook…and we all came away with our own recall of what she means in our life.

So these are just a few of my memories, my story, my version of the Carolyn Cook that I claim as MY mom. Sorry siblings…I mean no disrespect or insult. You are free to write your own memories of Mom. I look forward to reading them…because I know that it is impossible for just one of her children to capture the true essence of her entirely without the stories of her other 4 children. Just as she formed us, loved and cared for all us … each of us helped to define her as MOM.

This is way too long…and just a tiny, tiny snapshot of the multitude of memories that are flooding my mind and then my eyes. I am sorry. Kinda sorry.

I feel sorry for the people in Ventura who only knew the sweet little Grandma, with her quirky smile…they did not get to see all of her, the real Carolyn Cook. So how do I use my words to paint a picture that truly portrays her…and remember, this is my version, because my siblings might paint her differently. Here it goes:

My mother was a beautiful and passionate woman, caring and kind, stubborn and fiercely independent, and she was self-admittedly concerned about appearances. As a woman from the South, she had certain sensibilities and expectations of what she thought life should look like. Look at Moms pictures…Amazing!  She had a handsome husband and five young children and she made sure that we were also dressed well and presentable…at least most of the time. Remember…there were five of us. [Somehow my hair never looks like she finished combing it before pictures were snapped.]

I remember a fun-loving mother who made sure to provide good experiences and memories. We lived in a cul-de-sac and it was the early Sixties. We had a carefree life, playing with our friends, running through sprinklers, riding our bikes and just being kids. My mom had a group of friends that would gather at each others houses and play cards. In the summer, we had swimming lessons and trips to the beach. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and our neighbor showing us his Bomb Shelter. A normal life? But I felt secure and happy and loved. I remember her cooking, cleaning, playing, and laughing. We laughed a lot. She was a happy young mother.

As a teenager…things had changed. We had learned the truth about what the Bible taught and our family were now Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mom had found her faith and she became a spiritual woman who had found an anchor for her family. She tried to instill her love for Jehovah into our hearts and Dad had joined her in that endeavor. Now memories were being made of spending time in telling others the Good News of God’s Kingdom, attending meetings, and conventions and a whole new world of friends…lots and lots of friends. Really GOOD friends. Lots of good memories. She was happy to have found hope for the future and enjoyed these new chapters in her life.

Our home was open to all and we always seemed to have extra people at our table eating food, not always cooked by Mom…but usually prepared by Tonja or Teri. It seems to me that as soon as those two got tall enough to look down into the pot… they were the ones cooking dinner. Mom knew how to delegate…and she had a lot to delegate. Five teenagers make for a lot of laundry. Mom was crafty and artistic and she always seemed to have some type of project going…painting, gardening, raising chickens, planning parties….the list goes on and on and I love all of those memories.

And then….the other shoe dropped. She was raising teenagers, full of life and eager to spread our wings and fly. That freedom was not granted eagerly and I watch Mom’s angst as we all went through growing pains. Bad decisions were made by her five inexperienced and foolish children, consequences were paid and the years of joy became infused with some horrible and heartbreaking times for Mom. Some of her children’s lives seemed to be in danger of shipwreck and in the midst of all of that, Mom got the news that she had Breast Cancer. However, she was spunky, determined, resilient and she would rise up to each occasion and try to muster through…after all, this was a Southern Woman…a woman who relied on Jehovah and had a good husband supporting her, and she came through it all! Stronger and tired. Very tired!

I must admit…and I have apologized earnestly and heartfelt to Mom, but I did not like her very much from the age of 15 to 18. You know…the stupid years. The years when parents cannot possibly know what they were talking about and please do not give advice to me because I know better years. Truthfully, I was acting out because Mother’s attention was focused on the woes in front of her. I truly thought she was unfair and showed favoritism and what about ME ME ME.  I am sorry, I was a jerk. When you are one of five and life is spinning out of control, one or two is bound to feel unimportant and overlooked. Remember…I have apologized.

After a while, things settled down and Mom got us all out of the house. She and Dad settled into a comfortable routine and life was good and going pretty smooth. She loved where the two of them settled in Oregon. She swore she would never leave and that she had never lived in a place where she felt happier. They had good friends in their congregation and loved their surroundings. They had a multitude of Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren that they welcomed anytime one would show up at their door. Life was good!

She and Dad would come down from Oregon every summer to attend our annual Conventions and it was a joy and privilege to worship Jehovah with them. Mom and Dad were a constant touchstone, a refuge, a place to turn to for advice and love. My boys loved visiting Oregon and being loved by Nana and Poppy. Those were truly their golden years as they loved each other, their family and their friends and I loved seeing them thrive.

And now…they are gone. Both of them…gone.  I know and I will be reminded again today at Mom’s Memorial Service that her faith and mine…is sure and true. Mom wholeheartedly believed what the Bible said about the condition of the dead and the resurrection. So I will see both Mom and Dad again when those promises are realized. I know I will.

BUT…right now I am mad at DEATH.  I want her back now. I want my MOM! I want my siblings to have Mom! I am dreading today, because the slight scab that has been forming ever so slowly since January 5th will be ripped away and the bleeding will be profuse as I witness the pain in the faces of my brother, my sisters and our children and grandchildren as we gather to honor this beautiful woman we called MOM and NANA.

Until we meet again Mom….I will remember. I promise I will remember. You are loved!





January 2016
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