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My mom is gone.

Now, when we went to Padre Island, I asked my friend, Kathy, to come stay with my mom. She had been slowly going downhill all year, but when I came back from Padre Island, she seemed especially weak. I thought maybe Kathy had been too soft with her and had not pushed her enough to walk or to do others things. (She, herself, told me that Kathy was much nicer to her and not a big meanie like me…)

However, after having been at home for a while, I realized that she simply did not have the strength anymore to do certain things. I called her doctor and he came to see her. He ordered an EKG which showed her heart was failing and warned me that her body was starting to shut down.

I could see the decline but kept telling myself that I would help her get better and then she would be okay, again. I really thought she would live to be 90 plus. But 83 years were enough for her, I guess. Each day, she was able to do less and I had to do more and more for her. Then she became bedridden and I was exhausted.

It was a Friday night and I was so tired. I decided I would call Hospice on Monday as I knew I could not go on as I had. I would have to turn her on to my father’s bed. Change her bed, then change and clean her, then roll her back. She wouldn’t eat any solids and had problems even keeping down liquids.

When I found her dead Sunday morning, it was truly a bittersweet moment. It was bitter as I had lost my dear sweet mother. I’ve had her my whole life. We have lived next door to her or with her for most of our married life…and yet, it was such a sweet relief and happiness knowing that she was now with her beloved Jerry (my dad) and I could see them in my mind’s eye as two deeply-in-love teenagers stealing kisses and holding hands.

She no longer was bound by her old frail body. What joy! And yet, I was so sad at the same time…a very strange feeling.

I spent the day trying to take care of all the thousand things that you must do when someone dies. Calling family and friends, trying to make decisions, and just trying to cope. 

I had spent the night with her and had had music for her to listen to. I had called everyone the day before because I knew death was close. Around 6:00 AM, I went to my room to try to get at least 2-3 hours of sleep as I knew family was coming.

I awoke about 8:30 AM and went to check on her and that is when I found her gone. I knew since she had died at home, I had to notify the authorities as she was not on Hospice. I called the police, but guess the dispatcher didn’t really believe and she sent the ambulance. I told them it was a mistake and they were not needed. Around then the funeral director came and thankfully, the others left.

He was so great and helped take care of everything. What a shame that you cannot even die at home anymore without government meddling in your life.

The next weeks were a whirlwind of decisions, organizing, sorting, cleaning, and trying to take care of everything. She was to be buried in the family plot in Texas, so we had to take her there. Guess what, a coffin fits in a Ford Flex if the seats are all the way forward.

Now, I have to tell you a story about when we took my father’s body to Texas over 10 years ago. We had a van and we had taken the rear seats out to make room for his coffin. We lived in Kansas at the time so it was about 5-6 hours.

We were in a really rural area in the middle of the night when there was a loud knocking inside the van. Talk about frightening! Adrenaline went rushing through both my husband and I. Our hearts were pounding! Then I remembered that my dad was embalmed (I had also seen him dead)…however, that knocking was so freaky. We finally decided that it was something to do with the speakers, but boy were we startled for a minute or two.

I thought everything was taken care of for mom as she had always told me she had a pre-paid funeral plan. She’d say, “I’ve even picked out my coffin…you don’t have to do a thing.”

My advice is to check, check, check. We had to pay more for a different coffin because the one she had chosen would not accommodate her size. Texas now requires for the coffin to be inside a cement box so we had to pay for that. She had bought a stone, but hadn’t paid for the engraving of the stone. I could go on and on.

The day of the funeral, I showed up at the church and one of the sister’s at the church asked me for the sign in book--oops—forgot that…I had stayed up late just trying to get the program done and the eulogy written.

Oh my, there’s so much to do and so much to remember. Thank goodness, my mom had planned for many things. If she had not done that, it would have been so much more difficult.

The funeral was beautiful. There was lots of music which she wanted and her family came to honor her. I think she would have been pleased. She was buried next to her husband, parents, and other family members in Texas.

Fito and I were the first to arrive at the cemetery and the mosquitoes were insane. We had to go back to the car and then spend a few minutes killing the ones that were inside the car. I called my aunt and had her bring repellent. We had to spray everyone from head to toe and they were still pesky.

I guess that’s what makes for stories and sure makes for appreciation of pesticides that kill bugs…ha…please don’t send me to live in a jungle…

Back home to sort, sort, sort. My mom had boxes and boxes of photos, scrap books, history, records, and so on. I have been going through stuff for over a month now and still am not finished. Then decided I, myself, had too much stuff and threw away 5 large trash bags of my own files.

I don’t want my children to have to go through boxes and boxes of stuff wondering what possessed me to keep that. Ha! I’m sure they still will wonder. I have a house full of fascinating stuff (at least to me it is fascinating) oh my…

Here is the eulogy I wrote for her:

What can one say when one’s mother has passed away? The woman who’s soft caress put you to sleep. The woman who’s nectar of life gave you sustenance? The mother who comforted you, taught you, scolded you, worked with you, guided you and most of all, kept on loving you even when you were unlovable.

Edna Mae Sell Norton was such a mother. She was born April 19, 1931 to Dan and Alnora Sell and grew up in a Christian home. She grew up on a farm and she said one of the reasons she married a city boy was that farms were too much hard work and she would be perfectly happy if she never had to milk a cow the rest of her life.

She could remember only two times when her father was angry with her; one was when she neglected to wash the cream separator and the other was when she wrecked his truck while goofing off with some friends. This not only showed what an even tempered man her father was but also shows what an obedient daughter she was.

She got her first pair of glasses when around eight years old. She remembered her whole life, the wonder of finally- and for the first time in her life- of being able to see clearly. To see the sky, the clouds, a blade of grass, and details on flowers, the world she had not been able to see; was so amazing.

She grew up in Booker, TX where she graduated from high school, was married, and will be buried. While we were growing up, many a summer was spent in Booker: riding horses or motorcycles with cousins, playing Pitch, reading comic books during Grandpa’s afternoon nap, playing croquet on the lawn, and so on.

Mom, or Eddie as she was known in Booker, was a smart, fun, and loving classmate. She kept in contact with her classmates her whole life and was always loved and respected. The pastor who married her wrote an article in the paper about her.

He said “In the year that Edna Mae, or Eddie, as she became known, was a junior in high school, or it may have been in the year she was a senior, I saw something in that little home town paper from the school department that has stayed with me. The school editor was describing the members of the class. I was happy to read the account of this girl. One statement in it was all I remember; this is what I read, “Eddie is a very popular girl in school. She makes good grades and gets along with everyone. She goes to church regular, and is not ashamed that she is a Christian, and wants everyone to know that she is a Christian. Everyone here at the school believes that Eddie will go places.”

Edna was a disciple of Christ her whole life. She continued on in a pattern of service, selflessness, and charity all her days. Several years after Jerry and Edna were married they joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They both made many changes in their lives and never looked back.

They had family scripture study, Family Home Evening, took us to church, taught us the doctrines of the church, paid tithing, and did everything the Prophet asked us to do. Mom did each and every calling just as completely and perfectly as she could. If she was librarian; the library was updated, kept in perfect order, and she was there every Sunday to hand out supplies. When she was a teacher; the lesson would be prepared ahead of time, pictures or activities set up in advanced, and missing students called.

When she was Relief Society President, she set a goal to visit every sister in the ward. After about one year she had met this goal and then shortly afterward our Tulsa home sold which had been on the market a long time. She remarked that the house couldn’t sell until she had reached her goal. She also had a sister in this ward that had Bell’s Palsy and mom would visit her almost weekly to care for her needs.

Mom said many times that the reason she married dad was because he was the only man who was smarter than her, and mom was smart. She was a whiz at using a slide rule, and we would always throw a series of big numbers at her and she could always do in her head what we were doing on a calculator. She always received excellent grades and was the first person in her family to graduate from college. She earned a bachelor’s in Chemistry from McMurry College in Abilene, TX.

Right after, she and dad were married they moved to Columbus, Ohio where she was pursuing a Master’s degree in Chemistry. But she abandoned that dream to pursue her life’s one main dream and goal: to be a mother. And a mother she was. In fact, very few women come close to being the type of mother she was; for she truly was a Proverb’s Woman.

She sewed and made us girls matching dresses and Dennis a matching shirt. I remember a Mary Poppin’s dress, a Chitty bang bang Dress, and many more. Getting our hair curled on Saturday night while we watched The Lawrence Welk Show, and of mom at the sewing machine or cooking dinner, when we came home from school.

Family trips, holidays with special treats, and many many decorations. Mom absolutely loved decorating for each and every holiday, birthday, or event. She had three Christmas trees and two Christmas Villages and had seasonal decorations for every occasion.

 Coming to her house was always a welcoming experience with candy in a gumball machine, really good popsicles and ice cream bars, yummy treats and plenty of movies to watch.

When mom and dad moved to Caney, KS they bought a home that had a craft store behind the home. Mom was in heaven. She ran the store for years and taught classes. She could do just about any type of craft you can think of: crocheting, wheat weaving, paper curled art, stained glass, tole painting, embroidery of different types, cross stitch, needle point, quilting, applique, rug making, flower arranging, sewing, and so on. 

She canned and had her food storage. She baked and ground her wheat. She cooked from scratch and delighted in loving her family through special meals.

She belonged to Tulsa Town Tolers, a decorative painting club, and was so proud of the fact that she had a hand- painted Christmas ornament shown in the Smithsonian. She was always busy and organized and did all she could to teach and pass these skill on to others.

She supported Dad in all of his church callings and in his professional life. I never heard her complain when he was called away to do something for the church.

In later years, she became an avid genealogist and many trips that she and dad took- were to areas of the US where they could get genealogical info. She compiled history books of several family lines, was the secretary for the reunion committee for years, and had many Family History books published. She will be praised by both her ancestors and posterity for the many names found, for all the histories she compiled, and for her journals, and children’s and family scrapbooks she made.

Edna Mae Norton truly was a righteous woman of God. Her first love was God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Her second love was Jerry, her beloved. She has missed him so dearly these past 11 years. She would talk to him at night and sing to him. What a joyful reunion Sunday morning must have been; the two holding hands and stealing kisses and catching up on missed events.

Her third love and greatest concern: her children and posterity. She would worry about them, pray for them, ask about their welfare, and hope for their prosperity.

A few weeks ago, family gathered in her room and she bore her testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To all present, a powerful spirit came down and shone on her. Each person in the room knew and felt a powerful and true witness that the gospel of Jesus Christ is on the Earth today. She bore witness to the power the gospel has to change lives and that it was the best decision that she and Jerry ever made in their lives.

We will miss her and she will be in our hearts and watch over us throughout our lives. May we never forget the amazing example she was to us all and the great service she did for us all. May we honor her by living as she did and as true Disciples of Christ is our prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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