Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dear Departed

As we approach Christmas time I've been thinking about my mother and about our times together as I was being raised. My parents moved us from the California metropolitan Bay Area to a 90 acre farm way out in the country near Salkum, Washington in 1947. The last time I lived there was in 1963, but I've returned many times over the years to revisit old haunts. A really big part of my childhood was our church, the Church of the Brethren in Salkum. The people there were our family. Someone sent me this picture of the church, probably not too long after it was built. By the time we started attending there was a covered front porch and an added steeple. There is a cemetery to the right of the building.

This is a picture of my mother at about age 18, when she graduated from high school and began her college years. Eileen was a school teacher for many years in California, a social worker in Chehalis Washington, and then again a teacher in the small town of Mossyrock, at the school I had attended for 12 years. My mother was faithful in taking my sister and me to church every Sunday.  We participated in nearly every service and many potlucks, quilting bees and other gatherings. The folks came from miles around to be part of our "family". Sadly, when I was 12 the old church burned down when the furnace malfunctioned. We met for a year or so in the Silver Creek Grange Hall while a new church was being built. About that same time the congregation needed a pianist, and since no one was available except me, I was drafted, at age 12, to play the Sunday hymns. It was a crash course in accompanying for a student only 3 years along in piano study! The congregation was very patient and encouraging as I learned to plug along, always keeping the beat. I continued to be church pianist till I married and moved away at age 19. My very early experience prepared me well for future years of accompanying and performing.

My mother lived with me in Wenatchee Washington for the last 8 years of her life. She went to her heavenly home just a couple of weeks after her 89th birthday in 2002. Mr. Keith and I held onto her ashes, not sure where to put them, until in 2005 when we began our RVing adventures. Since my mother's very favorite thing to do was to travel — she'd been all over the U.S. and in several foreign countries, including the British Isles, Australia, New Zealand, and other parts of Europe — we decided to take her with us on our journey! As we workamped in different states I always felt she was right there with us, enjoying the trip. Our campground job in 2006-2007 happened to land us near Olympia, so we were able to take several day trips down to Salkum, Mossyrock, and surrounding areas. Of course I had to show Mr. Keith all the places that were important to me in my growing up years! The dirt driveway in the picture above is between the Salkum Cemetery (to the right) and the plot where the old church stood.

This is where I made my decision. My mother's ashes would find a perfect home on the spot where she began and continued to attend church for 50 years. It was winter when we spread her ashes in this grove, hallowed ground where the old church stood. I told no one in the church what we'd done. It was our secret! I knew she would be happy with our choice. I could imagine the trees leafing out in the spring, glad to be in the same ground as one of God's most faithful servants.

Looking back up the road, we faced the "new" church, though it has been there for 50 years. I spent my teenage years there and have many fond memories of the wonderful folks who helped in my growing up. Most of them are also dear departed ones, along with my mother and the old pioneer church at Salkum.

One last good-bye to the horse who watched us throughout our little private ceremony. He can be seen in the photo above this one, too, curiously wondering what we were doing, or if we might have a carrot or a hunk of hay for him. It was a blessed and memorable day for us.


Char said...

Oh, Ann, such lovely memories. Thank you for sharing them with us!

Melonie said...

Such a sweet story, Ann. Thank you for sharing it. And wow, I think Jessi looks a lot like your mom!

Brenda said...

That was an awesome story! I attended the "new" church while growing up in the thriving Metropolis of Salkum :) I knew your mother well both from church and I vaguely remember her as a substitute teacher in my very young years. She was a wonderful person. My oh my, the memories. Thank you for sharing!