Remembering Mom and the Lessons She Left Behind

©Joy Dunlap

Forgive me, Mom, for this writing as I know you weren’t someone who sought attention, but on this 25th anniversary of your move to heaven, I know you’ve been in the presence of the grandest of glory that can ever be experienced.

Your life deserves remembrance not because of the day of my loss – our loss – but because of the amazing woman you were and the legacy you left. 

That call shocked me speechless and rocketed me into a sorrow deeper than I could ever imagine. Although I was confident you were in heaven with our Lord, my world changed 25 years ago when suddenly, unexpectedly, I was no longer able to talk to you daily, no longer able to laugh with you, no longer able to hug you when we visited.  

You were the one who had known me the longest – other than God. It’s difficult to believe it’s been two and a half decades since you passed away. We were so close – one of God’s special blessings to me. 

Your laughter echoes in my mind; and I feel your love in my heart all these years later.  

So, pardon me today for shouting out to others what a special woman you were. 

You were more about boosting others than benefitting in some way. Loving others and living with kindness were your trademarks. But you were strong – and knew how to combine tough with tenderness.  Even if you weren’t my mom, I’d say you were the most unselfish, giving person with your time, resources and listening that I have ever known.

I’m still learning from the lessons and legacy you left. 

My mom…

She was the mom everyone – including me – wanted as a chaperone for our high school girls’ trips.  Not because she was lenient but because she was loving – and fun!  At home, I sometimes arrived to find a classmate – boy or girl – having a heart to heart with my mom sitting at our kitchen table. Mom was a genuine listener who knew how to slip in a question that caused me and others to contemplate choices (and consequences).

Her smile illuminated a room, lasting longer in hearts than an LED bulb. All who heard Mom’s laugh felt wrapped in gaiety and delight.

My mom didn’t have an easy time as a child or even coming into this world.  Her mother had a difficult delivery and almost didn’t survive so mom was given her mother’s name.  When God restored my grandmother’s health, she gave my mom the first name of Wylodeane, but that was too fancy for Mom who went by Deane throughout her life.

To my knowledge, she never led an organization, invented anything, or had her name plastered in lights (although I do have some nifty bowling trophies of hers!)  Instead, she lived a life devoted to others, but with an overflowing joy that showed in her attitude and her actions.

She mentored and mothered with kindness, integrity, wisdom, strength, and love. As a devoted wife, mother and daughter she executed her roles with excellence.

Daily for decades, Mom visited her mother, who never drove but lived independently, making sure grandmother had what she wanted and needed, and more importantly that she felt loved and not alone.  Quietly, Mom supported ministries that helped others, and she cooked the best Bolognese meat sauce I’ve ever tasted!  Those tasty peanut butter and honey triangles, Rice Krispie treats and Chex Mix she made still make my taste buds tingle thinking about how good they were.

On my Christmas tree hangs some painted wooden ornaments we made together.  (The year we made taffy was actually quite brave of her considering my lack of cooking skill!) Given her heavenly home for all these years, it’s fascinating to note that angels and bells were two small collections she enjoyed.

Mom loved the hunt and the finds of an estate or yard sale, and she taught me to value a good bargain.

She enjoyed Erma Bombeck’s humor, Helen Steiner Rice’s inspirational poems, and Lucille Ball’s I Love Lucy. 

Bonanza with Little Joe Cartwright was one of our favorite TV shows to watch together. Years later I would have the opportunity to meet Michael Landon and tell him that, so he graciously autographed something special for her for Mother’s Day.  I think she enjoyed the picture of me with him more, but then again she always cared more about others than herself.

For decades she helped my dad with his side radio and television repair business, handling calls and billing, and assisting in other ways.  For at least 35 years, she made and packed my dad’s lunch to take to work, plus she made breakfast for him and us in the mornings and dinner in the evenings. I don’t cook great meals like she did, but I learned a lot about supporting your spouse and marriage from her.

Now no one’s perfect, and my mom would have been the first to say she wasn’t, but I never – really never – heard her say a negative word about anyone.

The life lessons she gave me are many, but here are just a few:

Watch Your Tone of Voice

We can say the right thing, but if we say it in a way that is (or seems) insincere, haughty, or without compassion, it won’t be effective. “Watch your tone with me” and “It was how you said it” left their imprint!  I definitely don’t get it right all the time, but whenever I cross the line Mom’s caution flag still rises in remembrance!

Don’t Break Plans with a Girlfriend Because a Boy Asks You Out

Mom’s loyalty to her friends was admirable, and a lifelong guide to me about building and keeping friendships. This advice was less about dating and more about loyalty. And keeping your word. The point: don’t back out on plans with someone because you think there’s a better opportunity. If someone’s counting on you and you made a commitment, keep it.

Don’t Miss an Opportunity to Do Good for Someone

After my mother passed away, the female gate guard at my parents’ complex told me my mother often brought her lunch back if she went out, knowing the guard was on a tight budget. Not because it was expected, not because it would be noticed; but Mom did it because she saw the guard, anticipated her need, and took action on it.

Stay Up to Date with Current Events, But…

Don’t let issues create anxiety or cast a shadow over living in the moment. Mom enjoyed watching or listening to CNN and stayed knowledgeable about current affairs, but I never saw her express fear or worry about the future.

She trusted God with that.

Shortly after she passed away, I found a sticky note in her handwriting that read, “The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.” Proverbs 16:9  Even after she was gone, she and God were giving lessons to me.

Make your Bed. 

Again, this lesson was about more than the obvious.  It was about taking pride in what you had, starting the day off being productive, and controlling the chaos and clutter you can – while trusting God to handle that which you can’t.

Laugh Often and Be Willing to Laugh at Yourself  

Mom’s sense of humor and ability to laugh at herself were trademarks of the joy she had in life. Once she mistakenly turned down a one-way alley only to find a police car coming toward her.  When he pulled up alongside her, she told him, “You know – this is a one-way street.”

Keep Confidences

More than one person told me when mom passed that she took a lot of people’s secrets with them, and that they always knew they could trust her.  And, when those high school classmates of mine benefitted from her kitchen table counsel, she never discussed with me what they shared.

Open Your Eyes to the Needs of Others

When I returned from the church’s youth choir tour to Panama, my mom asked about the trip.

“You wouldn’t believe how much poverty there is in Panama,” I told her, explaining what I saw.

“You wouldn’t believe how much poverty there is in Birmingham,” she said. The next day, in what was an eye-opening, life-impacting experience for me, she drove me through the poorest, most under resourced areas in our city.  I have never forgotten that teachable moment and the time she took to impress upon me the needs of our community.  She knew my heart was open to see it at that time, and she took advantage of the opportunity to open my eyes to it as well.

Twenty-five years is a long time, and most of my mom‘s closest friends have since passed away, including my dad. I asked a few friends and my aunt if they had something to share about my mom.  Here’s what they said:

Your mom was a kind and happy person! I remember her infectious laugh!  She happily treated me as one of her own!  I was at your house almost as much as my own! I remember our moms embarrassing us by pushing each other in a shopping cart at 5 Points West parking lot!! While we hid in Krispy Kreme!  I was grateful to her for keeping in touch with me through the years and checking in with me!! Cindy

There were many times my freshman year of college that if Deane Farmer hadn’t stood in the gap on phone bills and other costs, I wouldn’t have made it through the year.  And your mother did it with joy and grace. That is nothing against my mother as she did the best she could. I also remember coming into your house and seeing our moms laughing and talking together at the kitchen table.  Heidi

When I had my tonsils out and they kept me in the hospital overnight, and Rex had to come back home and be with our kids, I was so sick.  She told your dad, “You go on home. I’m not going to leave Loretta here by herself.” She sat in that chair all night. She was always so sweet to me.  Aunt Loretta

Her infectious laughter was distinctive and hearty.  And, she loved and appreciated a good bargain. In fact, she was my go-to for weekly grocery store sales. She was always interested in what was going on in my life and my family’s life.  When I was in her home, it was a happy place to be and to laugh and to feel loved. Pat

Your mom welcomed me into your family with open arms.  I loved her!… I went home with you to Birmingham one time, and we were sleeping in when your mom burst into the room, turned on the lights and said it was time to get up for your doctor’s appointment.  (An appointment you didn’t know about and would have tried to talk your way out of if you did know because you hated going to the doctor.) Brilliantly blindsided and half asleep, you went to the appointment!  Score Deane:1; Joy: 0.  I am grateful for the love of Mom Farmer and her no-nonsense approach to keeping you healthy.  She was a gem! Thinking about your mom makes me happy!  Moira

Thinking about Mom makes me happy too!

My parents were married almost 50 years, but Dad would live on 15 years without her.  Shortly before he died, Dad looked at me and repeated something he’d said several times, “There will never be another like her.”

I know.

But I know of One whose life she emulated. Someone who gave unselfishly, lived devotedly, and whose legacy was love.

She knew – she knows – Him too.

Mom’s legacy always was, and still is, love.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35 NIV

  • What is one lesson your mom or mom role model showed or shows you?
  • Think of one story about your mom that makes you smile.  Why does it make you happy?
  • Which one of these lessons I learned from my mom is one that you’d like to grow  or improve in?
  • What about these recollections from my mom’s life connected with you?
  • What is one word you hope people associate with you?

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed. Proverbs 31: 25-28a

Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. Proverbs 31: 31 NIV


Life is Better When It’s Full – Joy-full, Thank-full, Purpose-full and Friend-full! ™

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