Her children arise and call her blessed. Prov 31:28
My thoughts are with my mother in Finland. I saw her yesterday evening via a video link and spoke to her, telling her what a wonderful mother she has been. She may not have understood my words, but she smiled back to me before drifting off to sleep again. Today, Friday, 2 nd of August, she entered her Heavenly Home, and now this earthly struggle is over. She was 91 and suffered from Alzheimer’s for the last five years.
Yet mum never lost courage and never stopped giving to those around her. Before the onset of her illness, she was always thinking about gifts for people, helping them one way or another. She bought her vacuum cleaner from a salesman who came to the door, asked him in for a cup of coffee and listened to his story about his wife’s death and how he was trying to make ends meet by selling hoovers. Mum did all this naturally, it just happened before you had time to notice. Even after being admitted to the care home, when she was still able to speak, she used to offer chocolates to everyone who visited.
When I was at school, a friend said to me: “You are lucky to have such a mother”. I stopped to think what she meant by that. It was true, mum used to play games with us and chat with my friends. Somehow she always made us feel she was there with us, although she was working full time.
Mum was not a good singer. Her teacher at school asked her not to sing loud in the school choir as she couldn’t really keep in tune. So, after that mum never sang. But she was good at learning things by heart. Even in the care home she one day surprised her carers by reciting with a clear and loud voice a beautiful yet slightly tragic Finnish poem, even though by that time she no longer remembered who I or my brothers were. She read a lot throughout her life; as a schoolgirl she used to take a later train home from school so that she could borrow a book from the library, read it quickly, take it back to the library and get another book to take home.
Mum was not happy when Willie and I left for Africa. But she didn’t stop us from going, and kept sending parcels regularly. Most of her parcels made it with their contents intact and were a huge source of joy to us and our kids. She also regularly sent us magazines in an envelope, and once when we opened one we found what looked like a page-sized piece of brown cloth. This ‘cloth’ turned out to be brown powder in a plastic bag that she had carefully sown into squares with needle and thread, so that the powder would be evenly spread and not all run into one corner. We had to open up the bag to figure out what this hidden drug was, and a wonderful aroma came out: she had sent us decaffeinated coffee!
She knew it was difficult to get it in Cameroon and she also knew that if she had sent us the coffee packet in a parcel it would simply have been stolen in the post! Maybe she should have been a spy. Her dad died when she was only five. At the age of twelve when the war broke out she, her big sister and her mum had to abandon their home and flee from the advancing Russian army. Twice their train was strafed by enemy aeroplanes and they had to jump out and wade into the deep snow for safety. But the train made it. They ended up in the west of Finland, as far from the enemy lines as they could, only to find out that their fellow Finns were not very friendly, treating them as unwelcome foreigners and refusing even to sell them milk. But someone gave my grandmother a sound piece of advice: take your family to the capital, Helsinki, rent out a big apartment and sublet part of it and make food for the lodgers. That’s exactly what my grandmother did, and she managed to make it possible for both of her daughters to have a university education. That’s where mum met my dad, at university: he was one of her teachers.
Mum was an example to me. She lived a simple life, she was always giving to others and had high respect for those who lived God-fearing lives. Her heroes became my heroes. Mum prayed a simple prayer every evening. She prayed for us, her four children. She prayed for those around her. And she always had her home open even when Willie and I and our three kids came to stay for weeks at a time!
I thank God for my mum and pray that I may walk through my life following her example.