My Mom, the Warrior
(or how I sometimes wish I could just pick up the phone…)
Next month it will be 10 years since her passing and recently it should have been her birthday. My Mom was an amazing woman, wife, mother and grandmother. Sometimes I wish I could just call her and hear her voice one more time. I am dedicating this article to the greatest woman I’ve ever known and was lucky to have in my life for so many years.
My mom was born on the 3rd of May, 1945, in Indonesia, at the end of the war. It took a little longer before it actually ended there, the Japanese suppression was still in full force. I am ‘lucky’ to have a couple of stories from my great-grandmother (!!) from that time. The one that is most touching: she had to flee from an air attack, with my Mom – a little baby – in her arms. Jumping and running to get to safety from the bombs that were dropping from the sky. Her life was saved for us 💖
I don’t know much about that time, safe from what my parents remembered and they were both pretty young when they left – read: fled from – Indonesia, to come and live in The Netherlands. I’ve never known my paternal grandfather, he passed away too young, in Indonesia. I was never close to his wife, my grandmother on that side. My maternal grandmother was married to the a Dutch head of police, stationed there. Unfortunately, I never really knew him too, since my grandmother had to ‘escape’ her marriage because of the abuse she was experiencing. Though I wonder if I would have had a good time getting to know him, knowing what I did. I remember meeting him once, while I was still very young.
[If you’re interested in how the situation in Indonesia was, I recommend you keep an eye out for Steve’s blog, which I will share when the time comes. He is diving into the whole Indonesian/Dutch, history and how this affected people. This history has multiple sides, and he will specifically look into what this meant for his people: the Moluccans].
Safe to say, my grandmother wasn’t very fond of talking about that time either. She did however open up a little when I got closer to adulthood. The bits and pieces she shared were of a a beautiful country, where she basically lived like a queen, with servants and all. You could say she was kind of pampered. My Mom was her firstborn – she got 4 more children after her – and after they came to Holland, she was basically running the household with my grandma, since the latter wasn’t really used to anything. My mom was barely a teenager at that time.
The other things my grandmother shared, were about the war and how it affected them. How the men were captured by the Japanese and sent off to work camps, most often to never return again. How they had to get to safety multiple times, how lucky they were never to have been captured by them as a woman…
It was (and still is, though maybe less nowadays) custom that, families consisting of several generations, lived together in one home. When they moved to The Netherlands, my great- grandmother moved along and she lived with her daughter, until her last day.
My grandmother finally got divorced, which was considered a great sin, because their marriage was blessed in the catholic church, which she was banned from afterwards. My parents were also married in the catholic church, since my Mom wished a blessing, but she and my great-grandmother took it upon their selves to go and find another, better, place – read: church – where they could be free in their faith and follow God. My Mom always seem to have had that drive to search for God and the Bible says, whenever we really search for Him, He Will listen. She found Him for sure.
As with most people from that generation, talking about past experiences and how they felt about it, was not really a thing. Apart from what she may or may not have remembered from Indonesia, talking about her youth in Holland did not happen often. But it was not hard to understand, she was carrying a lot of responsibility from a young age. All this made her the woman she was when she got us, her children and I don’t remember her any other than being a strong, loving person. Never complaining, never sick, except for a common cold now and then.
As soon as she was allowed, she got to work as a hairdresser and one of the most told stories about that time was about her own hair: She had very long hair – so my daughter and I did not get that from any stranger as kids – but since she also had to model for her colleagues, they decided to one day cut it short, as in SHORT. Having seen pictures of that, I thought she looked great, but apparently my grandmother was Not Amused. Hence the repeated storytelling, even years later.
Of course she has been my personal hairdresser – as well as for a lot of other family members – for most of my life. I told you, she would curl my hair ever since I was a little girl, it was just something she loved doing – and doing it well! – and a part of who she was. There’s a saying in Dutch, that goes like this: ‘As long as your hair looks good, everything will be fine’. She certainly felt that way. Every evening, before my dad came home from work, before she put the dinner on the table, she would check her hair and general looks. I cannot really say make-up, since she hardly used anything. She was a Lady. Unfortunately, that might be something I did not inherit…
Now before you think I will paint her a saint, I won’t. Though I am biased, she wasn’t perfect and I acknowledge that fact as the truth. Being the oldest daughter – though with 2 brothers above me – as well as the oldest great/granddaughter, brought its own challenges along. I’ve made it no secret, how I kind of always went my way, which wasn’t always looked upon as wanted. But I loved my great-grandmother and grandmother and stayed with them often on holidays, when I was a kid until I was about 18 years old. That year, my great-grandmother passed away and a lot of things changed.
Everyone in our family always mentioned how much I outwardly looked like my Dad. Of course I did not see that myself, though referring to character, I think I did. The older I got, the more I realized I really started to look like my Mom though. Looking at pictures, people are now actually saying, how much I resemble her. Behavior included. Funny thing this. But I can only say I wear it with pride.
My Mom was a Silent Force. She was not one to put much attention on herself in any way. She was just always there, doing what she felt she was called to do: loving us and taking care of us. Through the years her faith had grown strong and fairly unshakeable. I am wholly convinced this is what kept her going all her life, even when she was still young and did not fully understand how it worked, she held on to a Greater Force and she prevailed. She was a Warrior in her own kind, fighting for what she believed was right and righteous. Fighting by means of prayers most of the time. Silent Force.
It wasn’t until we all got older, married and settled, we could hear her voice more often, when things were discussed. It’s not that she did not voice her opinion before, but she just got more fierce about things. At least, that’s how I experienced it. This also caused that there came moments, we clashed so hard, screaming was not unheard of. She never was one to hold a grudge though and she would not allow me to hold one too long either. Though she always gave me time to myself to cool down, or whatever it was I needed. There have been times we did not speak for a couple of months, just because I couldn’t/wouldn’t, deal with my parents. I told them this straight out. I am pretty sure it was because of her, this was respected.
In a way, she always was a mediator – or at least, she tried to be – in our family. Even in tough times and disagreements, she would always try to take the first step towards mending relationships. And I did talk about, how her faith convinced me, to go to her whenever I needed my own little miracles. Her prayers always worked. This eventually convinced me, I had to get that for myself too. I am working on that every day. It’s a Work In Progress that never ends. It’s definitely comforting to know, I will see her again some day.
February 2011. Steve had another job in Ireland, while the kids and I were still in The Netherlands. He was home for the weekend and my parents stayed with us too. My Mom did not look sick at all – not that she would ever give in to that easily- though she said she had been feeling nauseated for a couple of days and she wasn’t even able to keep a couple of sips of water inside. We were surprised, though happy, she said she would make a doctors appointment after the weekend. She wouldn’t visit if she’d thought it was really nothing. To be honest… Those first weeks after that appointment are kind of a blur in my memory…
Though she had received her own miracles too – I told you about one: her restored eyesight – February 2011 she got sick and little did we know, she would be gone only a couple of months later. The woman who fiercely believed in a Healing and Loving God, the woman who had seen healing take place while praying for others, was not healed when a deadly cancer took hold of her body. A woman who was never sick, surely not enough to keep her in bed, always stayed positive and loved her family with her life, placed God above all else, without losing sight of reality, got sick and passed away almost in the blink of an eye.
As much as I often couldn’t get along with my, then, boss – remember the shoe store – he definitely had his good sides. When my Mom was first admitted to the hospital, he decided he would drive me there – I did not ask for anything – to visit her, a 2,5 hour drive away. He just did it, for me. God works in Mysterious ways, it’s true! I worked full time and there wasn’t much opportunity to just go and visit my Mom. At that point they still weren’t sure what she was suffering from, although cancer was getting more and more a possibility.
It took the doctors a couple of weeks to find out what was wrong, but it was too late already. It was not operable and they did anything they could do to lengthen her time, keeping that quality of life and ease any pain as much as possible. She should have been in pain for weeks, most likely months already, but she never felt anything wrong, Thank God. Probably one of the things that had the doctors confused. We later learned, pancreatic cancer is also known as an assassin, sneaking up on a body, without being noticed until it’s too late, though pain is inevitable at one point. The fact my Mom had not experienced any, was a big blessing in a way. The pain indication would not have prevented the illness from taking her away.
Saying she did not suffer is not true of course. The examinations in different hospitals, the treatments… One would only have to look at the amount of hospital equipment she was hooked on, to understand there was no easy way for her. She never complained. I don’t know how else to explain that, but for saying God must have given her Grace to fight through it all. Lots of it. A Warrior, my Mom.
In between hospital stays, she was at home and there had been some good days. However, there were enough moments, we could see and feel, she wasn’t really with us anymore. Though time indeed heals wounds and lessens pain, writing about this is almost choking me up and I can’t stop tears from falling. We were lucky to all have been able to say goodbye to her, together, knowing she was already in another place at that moment. Her eyes were looking into another, better, world and we felt at peace letting her go.
Until that moment – in a space of about 4 months – we never gave up on believing Divine Healing as a possibility. We’ve seen it happen, it Was and Is a reality for believers. Whatever doctors can’t do, there is Someone Else Who Can. How to deal with the fact it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen for someone who obviously deserved a miracle like that? She would be the first to tell us, she did not ‘Deserve’ anything. The foundation of our faith lies in the knowledge, we live by grace and she held that high till the end. She was also not afraid, because she knew she was ready. I am sure she had always been ready.
She knew. She knew it was her time. It is the only way I can think of why she specifically asked me to be a help to our father afterwards. It was the most unreal moment of my life, sitting at her bedside in the hospital and hearing her ask me, ME, to help my Dad with all financial things he had to take care of. Not my forte at all. Now I don’t wish to take away from all the things my brothers and sister helped with, but this, she asked me. This was the last hospital she was in, she was sent home, to spend her last days in her own environment.
A couple of days after we said our goodbyes, I got the message she had passed away. Another unreal moment for me: I just came home from work and started cooking. After I read the message, I just went on cooking and sat down to eat dinner. Like I said, we had already made peace with it and really, what else was there to do? Of course we went there first thing the next day and we sat down to discuss her funeral. It was decided my brother would lead the service and I immediately said I wanted to share something too, although I really had no idea what precisely. Words will always come when the need arises.
While the rest of my family returned home, awaiting the funeral, my oldest brother and I helped our Dad through the first hectic days, filled with paperwork and other things that needed to be taken care of. We also ‘celebrated’ my Dads birthday together, since my Mom passed away just 2 days prior. I am still very thankful my brother was there too. My other brother and sister were making plans to take my dad along with their families, on their already planned trip to the USA, after the funeral. It was a trip my Dad had always wanted to make with my Mom, to visit his only sister and her husband, who lived there.
The night before the funeral, I got all the words I needed. I Know when God Speaks to me. Because there is no way, I could have come up with all that I wrote down that night on my own, in honor of my Mom and how she would have wanted her funeral to be. She was Home and we needed to make the best of our lives, without her. She would expect nothing less. We were not supposed to hold on to our grief forever. Past our grief, there should always be joy, because of love.
A lot of people came to the funeral and after us kids sang a couple of her favorite songs – how, is a little miracle on its own – and the grandchildren had their say, it was my turn, before my brother took over. We had not discussed what we were going to share individually, but we both knew God would gave us the right words. Afterwards, his first words to me were: ‘You basically stole my sermon’, with a smile on his face. You see, we believe when God leads, it all comes together. Our words were made into one and that was the last blessing we gave our Mom.
A couple of days later, my family, including my Dad, left for their trip and my oldest brother returned home. While my Dad was away, Steve and I – and the kids – stayed at, now, my Dads place, to clean and clear out my Moms stuff. My Dad wanted it all gone, saying he would not be able to look at it. My Mom was visible in every room, but we decided we would only go so far. We would not completely erase every trace of her existence from the house. It took us a couple of days, sleeping in a house that no longer felt like a home – it’s the place where we all grew up. It was mentally exhausting, but we don’t regret it.
I am so thankful my Mom lived long enough to see all her grandchildren into their teen years – she was a fairly young granny – she adored them, though she wasn’t fooled by any of them lol. They all adored her too. Now I am on the verge of becoming a grandma myself and I hope to be just like her. Her love and determination to live her best life, are the best examples to live by. She was no angel, we did not always agree, quite the opposite sometimes, but she was always There. Her faith carried us through a lot of storms and she never gave up on us, on me. She’s in the best place and fully taken care of. She will forever be remembered as the Loving Warrior to me.
10 years later, the grief has surely lessened, but I do still miss her, especially on certain days. Her birthday of course and the day of her passing, which was not long after she turned 66. Yes, the pain has lessened a lot and I do not think about her everyday, but every once in a while, it just hits me hard and if I could only just call her and hear her voice one more time…
Wishing y’all a very Loving Weekend. Cherish the Love ❤