|Martha Ann Purky (April 1922 - August 2018)|
My Mother, Martha Ann Purky, died this morning (August 31, 2018) at 4:40 AM from complications with kidney failure. She was an awesome 96 years old today, having been born in April 1922. She was preceded in death by my sister Janet (1948 - 2017) and my father Thomas (1922 - 1995). So I guess that this makes me Uncas, the Last of the Mohicans, in a way. She comes from a family in which all of the women live into their late 90s, which is pretty remarkable.
My Mother was born in Indianapolis, Indiana and was the oldest of the three children of Donald and Lyda Belle Shaw. She graduated from Butler University in 1943 with a degree in Home Economics and Theater Arts. She briefly was a teacher at Indiana University prior to marrying my father, after WW2 was over.
She was an excellent cook and a very skilled seamstress too. She always made her own clothes, the curtains in all of our various homes, and reupholstered furniture too. She volunteered at local theater companies as the costume designer and it seemed that she always had some project going on at her Singer sewing machine. Whenever I would move to a new apartment or house, she would whip out several sets of curtains for me in no time.
Mom loved to travel and she worked part time as a teacher in the early 1960s so that she could earn enough money to take the family on a trip to Europe in 1963. This was my first of many trips to Europe - we traveled for ten weeks through Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, Belgium and The Netherlands. This particular trip, my first time in Europe, shaped me in so many ways that are beyond listing. If you have kids, then take them on a trip to another country and watch how it changes their lives for the better.
Mom and Dad travelled all over the world, visiting countries such as China, Japan, Singapore, India, Russia, South Africa, Kenya, Columbia and Peru in South America, and practically every country in Europe at one time or another. My love of history and travel comes from an obvious source.
Perhaps Mom's favorite place to visit was Estes Park, Colorado. Her great aunt owned a little cabin in the area and to call the cabin a rustic shack would be overstating it by a large margin. It had no running hot water, no potable drinking water (we had to carry it uphill from a store's water well using plastic gallon jugs), an outhouse and an old Franklin stove to provide heat in the morning. We slept in beds on the wrap-around screened in porch, snuggling up in tons of quilts and blankets to keep us warm at night. It was a ramshackle place, but she probably loved visiting that cabin more than any other place on earth. She and I did lots of trail hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park and we always looked forward to our summer trips to Colorado so that we could rack up more miles on our hiking boots.
The best way to characterize my Mom is to quote what so many people told me over the years, "your Mother doesn't have a mean bone in her body." Everyone seemed to be her friend because she could so easily connect with practically anybody. She loved her family and would do anything to help them out.
My wife, Anne, told me a story this evening that kind of sums up what my Mom was all about. Quite a few years ago, my spouse and I were visiting my parents at their winter home in Savannah, Georgia and we had gone sight-seeing and window shopping. Anne was quite taken with a necklace that she had seen in a jewelry store but we did not buy it. A day later, she found a small wrapped package in her bedroom and when she opened it up, there was the very necklace that she had looked at. My Mom bought it for her. Neither of us can figure out how Mom even knew about our looking at the necklace in the store.
Whenever anyone in her family was having any difficulties, she was always there to help and support us in more ways than you could imagine. For all of the wonderful things that she did for me, my wife and my daughter, I could never do enough to repay her for all of her thoughfulness and kindness, but then, she never did anything for anyone with the expectation that she should somehow be repaid in some fashion. If you were family, then you could do no wrong in her eyes.
Her illness was not unexpected for us and she never complained or gave any indication that she was ever in any pain. Yesterday, she was admitted to hospice care. The nurse asked her if she was feeling any pain, and if so, to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the higherst. She answered "ten." I had no idea of the pain that she was dealing with because she never let on that she was hurting. Earlier this week her doctor advised us that the medications were no longer working to keep her kidneys functioning and that he was discontinuing them and that going forward his objective was to make her as comfortable as possible.
I was expecting her death, but not so quickly and not today. She was "Gram" the Energizer Bunny who kept ticking on and on and on, so indestructable. I fortunately spent a lot of time with Mom yesterday afternoon, showing her all of the family pictures that I could find. I could tell that the pictures were bringing a spark back into her eyes, as by this time, she did very little talking anymore. I had planned to visit her this morning and to talk about all of the memories that I had of her, of us all, starting from as far back as I could remember and going forward. Of course, that was all moot by now.
I spent the rest of today working on the funeral arrangements and notifying our family and all of her friends of her passing. I am also gathering up pictures of Mom from her childhood through the present - I'm going to enlarge them and post them on foam core boards for the funeral service so that all of her friends can see the pictures and perhaps stir up some of their own memories that they can share with me.
It goes without saying that I will miss you Mom, but you did such a great job of being a parent that I am well prepared to carry on. You are my role model; you set the bar very high, but I will do my best to live up to your example.