Remembering My Mom

Right around this time every year, I think of my mom. It was on March 31st, 1998, that the Lord called her to heaven.

This year I thought I would share a bit about her life and some memories that I have of her.

My mom was born in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, in 1947.

She had a brother who was 7 years older than her. He was (and still is) crazy about trains and my grandmother would love to tell us the stories about how my mom would come into his room as a toddler and mess up his track.

My grandpa (her dad) worked for United Airlines and transferred to California when she was 16. They moved to San Carlos and she attended Sequoia High School in Redwood City, where she graduated in 1966.

I remember looking through my mom's high school yearbooks and thinking the hairstyles were hilarious. (She is on the far right below.)

After high school she went to Grand Rapid's School of the Bible and Music. She had a beautiful voice and sang solos and also in the school choir. Then she came home for Christmas break in 1967...and met someone special.

My mom's family attended Grace Bible Church in Redwood City, and the college group had a Christmas outing to look at the lights in San Francisco and to go out to dinner. It was on that night that she met my dad, who had just recently moved to California from Colorado.

They kept in touch after she went back to college, and then began dating that summer. They were engaged sometime in August with a wedding planned for June of 1969.

On June 28, 1969, my grandpa (the same one that years later would married my Sweetie and I) married my dad and mom.

They lived in Redwood City for a couple of years and then moved to the house I know and still love. My mom did have some health problems....when she was nine years old, she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes (type 1). Even though she was insulin dependent her blood sugar levels would wildly fluctuate, so she had been told that her eyesight was diminishing and she probably couldn't have children.

 She did have some retinal problems and 6 months after they were married, she lost complete vision in one eye and most of her sight in the other. She had slight peripheral vision in the one eye and could see light and dark, but she was considered blind.

I am sure they were both surprised then when I came along...

One of my early memories is of her rocking me in her rocking chair (which sits in my bedroom today), with my head on her chest, listening to her heart beat.

From the time I was born my mom sang to me; she actually had a professional recording done before I was born.

Here I am, I think at Great America, with my mom next to me and her ever-present white cane.

...which became very useful when we wanted to cross the street. All we had to do was put my mom in front of everyone with her cane and traffic would immediately come to a stop.

My sister came along almost 4 years later...
(Check out my dad's pants....)

I went off to a small Christian school and my mom quickly became involved...she would come into all the classrooms once a week with her ventriloquist monkey-doll, Samantha, to teach Bible stories. Of course she couldn't drive so she had to depend on my dad and others to take her places.

She was a brave woman: yes, in that picture below we are standing on a glacier in Alaska.

Even though she was blind, there were times when I could swear she could see me. Especially when I would be sneaking around the house or not cleaning my room. It was actually her hearing that was incredible; years later she told me that she could tell by how I was walking if I was guilty or not.

One of my favorite memories is going to Pioneer Girl camp with her. She was always a counselor and had a cabin full of giggly girls.

Of course she taught my sister and I to sing, and we would sing in three part harmony quite often.

One of my favorite family memories was playing hide and seek. We did this in the dark to make it more even, but my mom would always win, because she would sail through the house at top speed, while the rest of us bumped our way around the room, making all sorts of noise.

In 1985 the small school I was at closed, so my parents decide we would be homeschooled. This was when homeschooling was a new thing and not common at all, but my mother charged ahead and ordered our curriculum. Of course all there was to choose from was A Beka, Bob Jones, and Saxon. And to make our learning really fun, my parents started a homeschooling co-op and organized outdoor education camps for homeschoolers in the Bay Area.

Here is my graduation ceremony from 8th grade.

Morning Bible times were very important to my mom. From as long as I can remember, I would wake up to the sound of her, in her room, praying, reading from her Braille Bible, or singing aloud.

She was a talker, and would engage me quite often. Our conversations were about situations, doctrine, food, relationships. And now that I have some teenage kids I see what she was doing. She was keeping the communication lines open, giving me an ear to talk to, and advice when I needed it.

In 1990 I got my driver's license. This was a huge thing for us, because now my mom didn't need to depend on others to drive us around during the day. That first year we drove up to San Francisco a few times, just to have clam chowder for lunch. That was also the year that she lost her peripheral vision, and went completely blind.

My high school graduation in 1991.

A year later someone very special came into my life.

We dated for three years, and during that time my parents got to know My Sweetie pretty well. He was over pretty often for dinner, and loved hanging out with my family.

In 1994 my mom suffered a stroke. She was in the hospital for six weeks, learning how to function again without the use of her left side. She could still walk, but could no longer play the piano or knit. She really started struggling with life; there were very hard days when she didn't understand why all this was happening, but she never abandoned her faith, and was continually relying on Christ for His grace and mercy.

And then in 1996 my Sweetie and I were married.

One of my mom's best friends was with her the entire day, being her eyes and telling her everything that was happening, so she didn't miss a thing.

Then a year later, her first grandson.

My mom loved being a grandma. I remember when Mr. Lego started to crawl, she held her hand on his back so she could feel him creep along.

When he was three months old we had a 50th birthday party for my mom. We got her a shirt with his picture on it that said World's Greatest Grandma. She was thrilled, and wore it everywhere.

We took lots of photos during December, 1997; my grandpa was having surgery and we didn't know if it was the last time we would all be together.

We didn't know it was actually my mom's last Christmas.

In late March of 1998, she got pneumonia. She was susceptible to congestive heart failure and they were monitoring her in the hospital.

The morning of her death she called me and woke me up, as she did most mornings when I was growing up, by singing her Good Morning song. (Seriously annoying when you want to sleep longer!) We talked for a while, she sounded great and said they were releasing her the next day. We did have an argument, something about the baby and a decision I had made that she didn't agree with. I don't even remember what it was, but it was a silly argument. The conversation ended okay and I said we would be over to see her the next day.

That night my dad called My Sweetie to tell him to come right away to the hospital. It's funny, my mind knew something was wrong, but I didn't try to guess what it could be. By the time we got there they had been doing CPR for 20 minutes and had decided it was enough.

I can still relive every moment, from that second when we stepped from the elevator and my dad saw us and told me that mom's heart had stopped and she had just died.

I remember sobbing, all of us hugging together, then after a while going over to my parent's house and friends coming to comfort us. Then the sad business of planning the funeral, memorial service, finding a grave.

About a week later we had a memorial service at our church. To this day, I am so grateful for the helping hands, people who listened and shared, and the songs that we all sung through our tears.

I am so thankful that God gave me her. I am blessed to have known her for 23 years and I am so thankful that she got to know my son, even if just for a year. I am so grateful for her influence, her raw feelings that showed how human she was, and how she clung to Jesus and His saving grace.

I think of her often. I have so many questions I would love to ask her, things I want to share with her, and I sometimes wish she could be here today, to enjoy all of her grandchildren. But I also know that God's plan is perfect and sovereign. He planned for her life to end at that exact moment. And through that knowledge, I have peace. No regrets, because even though I am a sinner and was not the perfect daughter, my sins have been washed and forgiven.

Yes there are times when I grieve, but I am joyful now, more than I am sad. Joyful in the hope of salvation that I have, and the assurance that she is in perfect peace, with a perfect body, with her Heavenly Savior.

And so I remember, and tell stories to my children about her; show them the pictures and mementos that I have, and with joy and thankfulness live each day.

If you knew my mom in some way, feel free to leave memories of her in the comments section. I would love to hear your thoughts.


  1. I was glued to this post, Charlotte. Such a beautiful tribute to your mother. I have fond memories of Mrs. Garland at church, and love this bigger glimpse into God's story-weaving of her life.
    I love the pictures too.

  2. Thanks for sharing! The pictures and a very nice touch.and actually help w/ jogging the memories better. I remember one time we came to your house when we started homeschooling and your mom gave my mom a lot of help. we jumped on your trampoline and picked some kind of fruit off the trees. Your mom was a very special lady!

  3. This was such a beautiful tribute to a woman that I can see clearly influenced your life. I am over here in tears and I didn't even know her. Your love for your mother is a truly beautiful thing to read about, Charlotte, and I am so glad you shared her with us.

    Love you, friend.

  4. Oh my Charlotte, I wasn't expecting to cry on our way to go camping! That was really beautiful, your mom sounds like a wonderful person!

  5. Thank you for this loving tribute to your mom, Charlotte! I remember we had a copy of a recording she had made, maybe the one you refer to in this post. My mom used to play it a lot when we were kids, and I still remember your mom's voice. I always thought her voice was so beautiful! I used to love it when she sang in church.

  6. Thanks so much everyone for your kind words. This was very hard to write but I am so glad I can share a small part of her with you.

    Rhiannon, I remember jumping on the trampoline too!

    Janet, I think it is probably the same recording. My uncle recently put it onto a CD and every now and then we listen to it. She did have a beautiful voice!

  7. Hi Charlotte, My son sent me this post and didn't tell me what it was about but that I would enjoy it.
    What a marvel to find out it was about your mother. I got to know your mom during my years at Valley Church. At first I only knew her by that amazing voice and then by getting to know Elizabeth in Sunday school. The first time I heard the 3 of you sing together in church I was flabbergasted to see Elizabeth singing so sweetly with her mother and sister. I enjoyed several intimate conversations in your home or on the phone over the years as we lived fairly close. She was very transparent and wouldn't shy away from a difficult topic. Once on the phone as she was sharing about some person or situation I dared to rebuke her saying it was gossip. I guess I felt I could be honest with her because she was such an up front honest person. I learned from her some very subtle mothering techniques as she explained why she did things a certain way that were helpful to me with a couple of my 8 children. I loved coming over with the purpose of helping out but visiting and having tea was more what happened. She was a very courageous lady with an unmistakably strong faith that is a wonderful reminder to me as I remember her thanks to your post. May her memory be eternal! Blessings to you and your family, Gayle Evans

  8. Charlotte, I didn't know her very well, mostly I knew you and Elizabeth when you came to help me with my children, but I knew she was a good mom by the way you girls were so sweet! I also remember her singing at church and being so impressed with her love for the Lord when she obviously had some big trials to bear. Thank you for writing about her so I could get to know her better. Love, Carmon

  9. Thank you so much everyone, for your kind and precious memories.

    Gayle, I am so glad your son sent you the link! I have fond memories of your family and growing up together at church.

    Carmon, I so enjoyed coming over and helping you with your children....when you only had 4! It is a blessing to me to hear how my mom's life touched yours.

  10. This is beautiful, Charlotte. I, of course, remember your mom very well! Lots of memories from church, AWANA, homeschooling, and your house! Thanks for sharing this with all of us.

  11. I loved reading this, Charlotte. It is just lovely that you can share your mom's life and love and faith this way. It helps me understand some of why you are such a special person. Hugs to you!


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