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Memories of Mom

March 9, 2012

The sun is a-rising
To welcome the day.
Come to the fair!

When my brother and I heard those lyrics in crystal clear soprano, we usually pulled the pillow over our heads. It meant that our mother was trying to rustle us out of bed in the morning. She had a way of making you like the day whether you wanted to or not. My younger brother, who clearly landed more in the Thune side of the gene pool and at times seemed to have been weaned on pickles, presented a challenge even for my mom’s considerable skills.

My mom needed that sunny disposition for a life that early on was filled with its share of adversity. Her father was killed in a tragic accident before she was three, and for the next 13 years she was raised by a single mom. Her teenage years were interrupted by a move to a big city. Like many kids of her era, she worked at a drug store to pay her way through college. It was there that she met a shy hoops star from South Dakota. This June 1st would have been their 69th year of marriage.

It was never easy. There was the anxiety of being married to a fighter pilot who was dodging Japanese bullets half a world away. That was followed by a move to a small prairie town where at the time even Main Street was gumbo. But when some rough spots in their marriage and less than desirable lifestyle choices led her to a waiting Savior, she was animated by a deep and consequential faith, the kind of faith to which I can only aspire.

And so, it is fitting that this big city girl, who loved the symphony and the opera, found her voice on the high plains of South Dakota. She raised five kids, all of whom, including this one, were required to take piano, and mentored countless others.

A cheerful warrior to the end, she drew her last breath this past Wednesday with my dad by her side. The last time I saw her a few days earlier, she was already laboring heavily, but when I asked her how she was doing, she said, “Great.” The next time I hear the lyrics to “Come to the Fair,” instead of pulling the pillow over my head, I’ll think of mom and commit anew to bringing as much joy to those around me as my mom did for 90 years.