The month of August has always been one of my favorite months. Born and raised in Minnesota, the month of August usually comes in blazing hot and leaves exactly the same way it came. Temperatures often reaching the triple digits even in times of evening slumber, the heat and humidity are often oppressive and unbearable. I am thankful each and every day for refrigerators that have ice makers that provide copious amounts of ice on demand. And for air conditioning and ceiling fans in the living room and each bedroom. I am thankful for cool basements that provide an additional cold haven when needed. And I am unabashedly reliant on our small above ground pool that provides comfort and a much needed cool down each afternoon and again in the evening.
My mother Jo Ann, Jo for short, was born on the 4th of August in 1945. She loved the summer months even at a very young age. I once saw a picture of her, no more than 3 or 4 and she was wearing her winter gear. From head to toe, she was completely covered so that I could only see her eyes and the bridge of her nose. Her arms stuck awkwardly straight out in front of her. I believed if she wanted to move them, she probably would not be able to. If I was able to see her entire face, even at the age of 3 or 4, she would have been gritting her teeth or grimacing. She clearly wasn’t enjoying a Minnesota winter. The other pictures of her are nothing short of amazing. Frolicking in the yard with her brother and sister. Walking down St. Paul city streets with her mother and sister, all three dressed in matching summer sun dresses. Gloved hands holding each other, a pleasant and content look across each face.
My mother was 30 when I was born. Being that she was a little older and already had my sister 19 months prior, she was ready for a summer of fun when I was born. I too should have been born in August. But June must have appealed to me a bit more. I came bursting into this world 6 weeks early. Not quite yet ready to live out of my mother’s womb, it took me another 10 days before I was able to head home. My mom quickly became acclimated to being a mother of two and decided to take full advantage of the rest of the summer. She set the small plastic kid pool up in the front yard, placed a lawn chair next to it so she could hold me and soak her feet in the cool water. My sister Angela enjoyed swimming all afternoon as we slumbered in the heat of the afternoon sun.
My mother was one of those women that was always meant to be a mom. Kind and caring, a natural care giver and so very encouraging. My sister and I were soon very aware of just how special our mom really was. Women sought out mom for advice and direction. When trials overwhelmed neighbors, they could often be found in my mother’s loving arms being hugged and prayed for. When children were abandoned by careless parents, my mother cared for them as if they were her own. When the Pastor at church needed assistance, he would always put my mom in charge knowing that everything was then placed in her very capable hands. When Angie and I entered Elementary School, she was always active. Helping teachers, coordinating fund raisers, and assisting anywhere she could. She helped with band and choir and the dance and theater programs that my sister and I were involved in. She always made the best banana bread and would wrap it in a brown bag and plastic wrap and deliver it with a card and a prayer to any new mom, anyone recovering from surgery or illness or to anyone who needed to know that they were loved, treasured and important. My mom was an amazing example of how to serve and love others well.
When we were still quite young, August was the month we would travel up north, usually to escape the heat, even for a few days, but mostly for mom and to celebrate her special day. My dad did very good job of showing my mom how thankful he was for her by celebrating her special birthday in August. A cabin on the north shore for a long weekend. A rented time share at Breezy Point in the woods. Wherever we went, my mother seemed to always create fun. Collecting rocks by the river or finding drift wood by the side of Lake Superior. Laughing until she cried at the noise of the squirrels in between the walls of the cabin we were staying in. Making new friends every place she went. And often these new friends were friends for a lifetime.
Angela and I missed our mom’s birthday one August when we were sent to Lake Beauty Bible Camp for the week. We were so excited about our time away at camp but soon realized we would be gone on August 4th. My mom continually assured us it would be fine and that we could all celebrate when we returned. And that we did. While at camp, the craft director helped Angela and I create gifts to bring home to our mom. I am sure it involved something like painted macaroni and yarn, but it was a gift made with love nonetheless. My mother oohed and aahed when we gave her the gifts we worked on at camp. “This is fantastic! What great gifts. Thank you! I love my girls so much!”
As adults, Angela and I continued to make a big to do about out mom’s birthday. Lunches and dinners out. Late night movies at home. Walks at the park reserve. Swimming and dinner at the casino. All things she loved. And we participated in all of these things to honor her special day. To celebrate her life as a mother and grandmother. To show her she was loved.
My mom passed away about 5 1/2 years ago. A rare form of liver cancer took her life and the young age of 67. She had so much life left in her and so many things that she wanted to do and accomplish. But do know what she did accomplish? She loved her two daughters and 4 grandchildren. She taught her daughters about how to love others and how to serve others never expecting anything in return. She spent long hours with each of her grandchildren. Holding them, rocking them, reading to them, playing with them. She cheered for each accomplishment and encouraged after each failure. She lived each day to the fullest and never regretted anything. She loved others like her life depended on it.
Now, 5 1/2 years later, I find August approaching quickly. August 4th is a day that I will always pause and honor my mom. I will always remember her, share her life and the stories I remember with my children and anyone that will listen. August is now the month that I will continue to celebrate my mom’s life. I will make banana bread. I will send cards of encouragement. I will hug others and never be the first to let go. I will share books and movies that I love with others who I think will enjoy them too. I might even cut coupons out of the Sunday paper and save them in an envelope for other people to use. I will stop at every child’s lemonade and cookie stand, buy more than I need and encourage them to keep up the hard work. I will pull my kids close and remind them how much grandma loved them. August. I will always love the month of August.