Losses and Doing what one can…

When you lose a parent, there is a hole in life.   I know this myself, since I lost my mom in February.  I am also realizing this as friends recently lost their moms.  My friend who lost her mom over the weekend told me “I feel orphaned”.   We never have a relationship with anyone else like the one we have with our moms.   My mom’s mom died when she was just 2 years old, so she never knew her mom.  I got to know my mom for 40 years, and I still wish I could have had 40 more years with her.  My fiance Celeste lost her mom when she was just 4, so she and my mom sort of had a bond over that fact.   

It takes a while to realize what is lost when mom is gone.  It varies from person to person I guess.  Mom was my resource– my go-to person to know about addresses, recepies, family history, and those kinds of things.  She held the keys to family knowledge and heritage in some ways.  She also was the dependable source of grace and hospitality, love and cheerleading. 

Mom was born in 1926.  She lost her mom in 1928 when she was 2, and then the crash came in 1929.  Then she grew up during the dust bowl years of the 1930s in central Nebraska, living in the country with her sister and dad.  The girls started cooking for the crews who came to help with harvest and other farm tasks when they were under 10.  Mom graduated when she was 16 and then taught school in a one room schoolhouse in the country as the one teacher for all the grades.  She and dad got married a couple years later, and she went on to have 6 kids and to become the matriarch of the family. 

Mom was known for her smile and her hospitality.  She and dad loved to have people over, particularly newcomers to church.  When I spoke for our family at her funeral, I asked who had been at mom and dads table to eat, and vast majority of the 400 people present raised their hand.    Mom had a smile that made you immediately feel welcomed and she had a spirit that sought life in all she did.  She was gracious and also would stand her ground– whether it was a theological discussion or a discussion about which way was North. 

If she had a philosophy of life, I think it could be said as “do what you can.”  Mom started with very little, and with a lot of adversity, and she faithfully did what she could with what she was given, and God blessed her and all of us through her because of that.  She was not someone to think about the negative, about how things might have been better, or what she wished she could have instead of what she got.  But she also was always striving to do the best she could with what she was given.  All of us kids were blessed with a strong work ethic and a lack of expectation of deserving anything. 

She and dad read the Bible at the breakfast table with us every morning, and she would often lead us in prayer.  My mom continues to be a model to me of having a positive attitude and working hard, and being gracious to others.  I put on a conference at Creighton this last weekend, and again and again people said I did a good job hosting.  But I know full well that I learned everything I know and do from my mom.  That spirit of hospitality is ingrained in all her kids, and continues on through us.  We can’t help it. 

But there is a hole, a noticable absence now that mom is gone.  It took a couple months for me to no longer have the inclination to call her.  I feel more alone and less supported now that my mom is gone.  Moms are the unconditional love that you depend on, even when you don’t realize it.  But when I start to feel overwhelmed with tasks I try to remember to just do what I can– that would have been what she would have done.   It would have been great to have her here to help with the final details of the wedding.  I know she was excited that I was FINALLY going to get married (I think she had given up long ago). 

My mom went fast, and for that we are grateful.  I know thats how she would have wanted it, and we got to see her strong until very close to the end of her life.  I now think of what mom would do in different situations, and try to imagine her watching as I do different things.  I know she would have liked to have been here for the wedding in May, but I know she will enjoy it from her own vantage point.  I hope she likes it…

Andy Gustafson


10 responses to “Losses and Doing what one can…

  1. Thank you for your wonderful words of tribute to your mom. I agree with you completely, and I feel like she was a second mom to me. Thank you, Jesus, for Rae, and for her love for you, for family, and friends.

  2. What a GREAT statement by a great statesman! Very moving and utterly true.

  3. Wept my way through your tribute to Mom….wanted to call her today for an address….miss her every day. I agree…never heard her complain about what she wished she had – or what she wished could have happened. She made the most of every day by being grateful and reaching out to others – having them over, planning a party for someone, sending a note…nothing real big just consistently thinking of others – not herself. I miss her so much and am so grateful I got to be her kid. Thanks, Andy! She was so proud of you!
    Love you, Sue

  4. Leah Reed Barnes

    This made me cry too! I know my family was only at Monroe for a short time, but everyone there impacted me, providing an oasis before the desert. Your family is one that has always been on my heart and in ways I can’t articulate, been important to me. Thank you for sharing this tribute to her and capturing that golden, loving spirit!

  5. Andy, I’ve thought alot about your mom over the past months. My sister and I probably wouldn’t be able to play the piano if your mom hadn’t found Mrs. Walbrecht to teach her children, which impressed my parents to follow suit. Just last fall Rae planned two birthday parties (that I know of) for women in the church at local restaurants. She is still just supposed to “be there” for all of us, isn’t she? One more memory is from the years when we had an active White Cross group at church. Without fail, your mom would ask each lady what they were making for supper. She may have been fishing for menu ideas (altho I doubt that!) I think it was her way to involving different generations of women in discussion. Of course, we had plenty to chat about, but this is a memory which stands out about your mom. We haven’t forgotten your family, nor have we forgotten the other families in the church and community who have lost loved ones recently. I have always made a mental note of those with an empty chair at the holiday dinner table which prompts me to pray for those left behind. May God continue to bless you and Celeste as you start a new family! ~Kris Yockey

  6. Leanne Morris

    Your words spoke what’s in my heart and mind as I miss Mom every day. Thanks for so eloquently expressing what many of us feel. Yes, she was so excited about your upcoming wedding, and I know you will feel her presence and love on that special day. Love you, Brother! Lea

  7. Better Lost than False

    I am so sorry. She sounds like an amazing woman, I love the philosophy of “do what you can”. This reminds me of how grateful I am to have my own mother whom also group up without one.


  8. Beautiful Andy. Absolutely beautiful. It’s good to know where so much of your character comes from as you are one of the most hospitable people I know. Much love, Ryan

  9. Rhegan Hyypio

    An amazing woman. May Easter fill your heart and the hearts of all mourning your mom. She is a witness.

  10. simplefreechurch

    thanks Rhegan! 🙂

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