One hundred and four years ago, my mother was born as World War I was entering its final stages. She was born in Lebanon, a small county seat smack dab in the middle of Tennessee, far removed from the war in Europe.
She lived in that little town for just shy of 97 years. She pointed out her eventual husband to her mother from a house porch on North Cumberland Street when he was walking down the street from an afternoon job working with his father. He was eighteen, having lost three years of school because he contracted yellow fever when he was seven. They were in the same sophomore class, 1932-33, at Lebanon High School. In 1938, they were married by her grandfather, Bishop Joseph Webster at the First Methodist Church, inside because the plan for an outdoor wedding was abandoned due to the day long rain deluge. It was her father-in-law’s last public appearance. Hiram Culley Jewell died months later of tuberculosis.
The marriage lasted for just over seventy-five years. He died in August 2013, just forty days or so shy of 99. She followed him nine months later about a month shy of 97. They are gone but i think of them every day and both of them continue to teach me how to behave as i reach that part of the path they have already walked.
i have written volumes about her. Today, i walked up my hill to change the hooks on my flagpole, which had deteriorated over the years. i accomplished my tasks. As usual, i scanned the view to the west. Navy ships moored at rest in the Naval Station, the Coronado Bridge, Point Loma, and the skyline of San Diego. Then i turned eastward and checked out Mount Miguel. Finally, i looked down on our backyard and noticed the empty chair outside our kitchen door. i often pull it from the patio set to tend to my grill when i have cooking duties.
It dawned on me that was one of the places she loved to sit. When they would come out for their winter sojourn, they stayed in their fifth wheel in an over-50 RV park at the southern end of the Silver Strand but spent the entire day and evening at our home, doing miraculous projects to make the home better.
When the Southwest corner sun would complete its swing across the southern hills and mesas of Mexico, it beamed its warm rays onto our backyard. Often Mother would stop whatever task she had taken on for the day and walk out to that patio and sit in the chair i had placed there. Unaware anyone was watching, she would sit down with the chair facing the sun, 70 degrees, no clouds. She would lean back, raise her head to the sun, close her eyes. And rest.
She was the picture of some one at peace.
i remembered, standing on that hill looking down this morning. Her smile with her eyes closed spoke volumes about contentment.
i think of her love for her husband, children, grandchildren, relatives, and countless number of friends. i’m sure sitting in that sun on what is now an empty chair, she was contemplating her love for them..
i suspect she is enjoying that sun now, loving the warmth, loving all of us.
Happy Birthday, Mother.