Sunday, March 30, 2014

On the Third Anniversary of Mom's Passing

It seems like yesterday. It seems like a hundred years ago. How can both be true? Yet they are. My mother passed away on March 31, 2011 at the Notre Dame du Lac long-term care center in Worcester, MA. My sister, Jessica, was with her. Mom had Alzheimer's - we were aware of it a good 10 years before she died.

My photo albums are all still in storage in Santa Fe, NM, so I don't have any pictures of her later in life. But I do have these very old photos of her on my computer:

This one is my favorite! She is 11 or 12 here. I can tell, because she has the awful haircut required by the Liverpool Blue Coat School for Orphans and Fatherless Children, where my grandmother placed her in October of 1936. I know that the boarding school was like a prison to her, but in this photo she looks so happy. It must have been on a school holiday. I don't know where she was, what she was pointing to, or whose dog that is. Look at the face on the dog!

This is Mom's passport picture taken in 1940. She was 14 and about to come home to the U.S. 

And this one was taken in June 1940. She'd returned to the U.S., where her mother was about to marry a widower with two children for whom Grandma was governess. There's a story there, but we'll never know it! You can see how tentative Mom looks in this picture. That's probably how she felt  - for years she'd been stuck in a boarding school in England, and now that Grandma finally brought her home, she was to be part of a new family - a stepfather, step-brother and step-sister to whom she was the outsider. Fortunately, the step-father, Pop, was a nice man. 

I remain fascinated by this time in Mom's life. You may recall me writing about my efforts to find out about her life as an evacuee with the school in Beaumaris, Wales.

This is the poem I wrote for Mom's memorial service:

I’ll Remember You
(A poem for Mom)
by Melissa Ann Goodwin

I’ll remember you
on the rocks at Gray’s,
knitting needles clacking
and the seagulls flocking.
When sunny days seem to
last forever
and thunder rolls
like a distant drummer,
I’ll remember you,
in summer.

I’ll remember you
at the kitchen door,
as I waved goodbye
‘neath an autumn sky.
When leaves are piled 
and chestnuts fall
with bittersweet vines
and popcorn balls,
I’ll remember you,
in fall.

I’ll remember you
knitting mittens
by a fire warm
in a snowy storm.
When stars shine bright
like cosmic glitter
and snowflakes fly
and winds blow bitter,
I’ll remember you,
in winter.

I’ll remember you
on days in May,
when poppies bloom
and winter’s gloom is
left behind.
When all the world
feels fresh and new
And robins sing,
I’ll remember you,
in spring.

Love and Miss you, Mom! xoxo


  1. This is such a beautiful poem. And the photos tell such a story themselves. It's hard to imagine all that your mom had already been through at just 14 years old. Absolutely love the pic of her with the dog, how precious.

    1. Thanks Julie. She really had been through a great deal already at 14 - much sadness. That's why I love that picture so much!

  2. I too have those moments of time encapsulation - seconds, which are years, which feel like seconds which feel like years...
    And I love your poem. While she is remembered she has not left.

    1. Thanks my friend. Such a weird dynamic - how something can seem long ago yet like it was yesterday.

  3. I'll never forget our trip to England where you followed up on the research you had already done. One of the nicest trips we have ever taken - would love to go back.

    1. It was such a perfect trip in every way. I'm so glad we were able to share that time together - to solve the mysteries together. And we were so cared for by our friends. I would love to go back too -and see more of Wales.

  4. Hi Melissa - I hear what you say about your mother and the hardship she experienced .. so difficult to relate to their lives ... my mother's wasn't as perhaps that bad .. yet in other ways was worse .. so I feel for them .. and you ... I have letters from before the War to go through re my mother's first love and marriage and his premature death .. so much ...

    I'm glad you had some lovely times together, despite those early days .. and then your excursion over here ... it was fun to follow you both around .. and learning more ..

    Cheers and with thoughts - Hilary

    1. Thanks Hilary, I always thought Mom's childhood was particularly hard, but I've learned that most of her generation had sadness - so many kids were evacuated away from their families - some for years. Childhoods disrupted. And the loss of loved ones to war - most often, war the culprit for so much sadness and disrupted lives. Hugs, Melissa

  5. A lovely poem, Melissa. Your mum had an eventful early life - I can understand her apprehension of joining a ready-made family after her boarding school. That first photo is lovely.

    1. Thanks Annalisa. Enjoy your upcoming trip!


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