Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Mother's Hands - A Re-Post

My Mother's Hands - May 8, 2010

Some friends and family expressed an interest in reading this post after I told them about my blog at my mother's services.  I discovered that it does not show up in my archive, so I am re-posting it for them.

I've had some problems getting it formatted, so please put up with the odd centering.

For my regular readers, I apologize for having such a one note topic lately.  Tomorrow I promise some fresh air.

I took these photos of my mother's hands over a year ago, planning to write her story. And as yet I haven't done it. I'm not sure why.

But it's Mother's Day. I will be spending it with her and three of my siblings and various assorted offspring of several generations. It will be a house full down in Winlock, WA, and fortunately the weather will allow the young ones to run off their energy outside.

My mother, Violet Hofstetter Norquist, was born December 28th, 1921. Those hands of hers, now wracked with arthritis, have milked cows, planted and picked crops, prepared many thousands of meals, and cradled seven babies of her own. She has outlived two children and her husband, with whom she celebrated more than 50 years of marriage. My father has been gone over 15 years now. Mom still lives alone in the house they moved to after they left the small farm where all of us kids were raised. 

Mom grew up on a farm in the foothills of the Oregon Cascade Mountains, overlooking the Willamette Valley. The oldest child, she became her father's farm hand, and as a result, she has always had a strong feeling for the land. She still tries to garden a bit. She just needs to feel that earth on her hands, and the company of growing things. 

Early in her married life my father and she bought a small farm in the valley, where they lived for most of their 50 years together, and where we kids grew up, also learning to love the earth. We were not well off, and at times she struggled to put food on the table, but she always managed to keep us fed and clothed and safe, not to mention well behaved and motivated to always do our best. 

Life was not easy for Mother, and sometimes it was just plain cruel. I was just a baby and my older sister was three when this happened.

Dad was away at Fort Lewis, in the Army, just before the end of WWII. Mom was chopping wood for the wood stove, our only source of heat, and the ax slipped. She grabbed a towel to wrap around what was left of her hand and made it to a neighbor's house to get help, all the time worrying about us left alone sleeping in the house. She had little use of the finger that was saved, which makes all she accomplished with those hands even more remarkable. I know it caused her pain, but she never complained.

She still doesn't. When we gather together on Mother's day, she will be in the middle of all the commotion, and she will love it, but she will also miss most of it. Just as her hands show the wear and tear of hard work, so do her hearing and eyesight and general mobility. It makes us sad that she is becoming so sensory deprived because she knows what she's missing. Her mind is still strong and her desire to be aware is demonstrated by the hours she pours over the newspaper each day with her hand held magnifying glass.

Our large family owes its existence to my mother. Our lives have literally been in her hands. We do what we can to support her, what she'll allow us to do. And yet her one regret is that she feels useless, that she can no longer give a helping hand to others. But she does still add great value to our lives and to the lives of all who know her. As my sister Laurie said so well, Mom still has a purpose far beyond what she realizes. It's the love she pours out to all of us whether it is when she is with us or the prayers she prays for us when we are not. All of our children and grandchildren love Grandma Violet and see her as a loving example.

We have a lot of good mothers in our family, but it would take a lifetime of effort to try to measure up to her. 

Wishing you all a Happy Mother's Day, whether you are a Mother or are honoring your Mother, or are remembering a Mother in your thoughts, or all of the above.
A year later, in May 2011, we moved Mother into assisted living, where she found herself surrounded by old friends accumulated over a life time.  She lived there for six months and our family members and friends paid her regular visits.  She passed peacefully away November 2, 2011.  We will all miss her, but her spirit lives on in all of us.


  1. God bless you and your family, Linda.

  2. Reading about your mother has been so inspiring. This wonderful post and the previous ones. I would like to offer my deepest respects to your late mom, and condolences to your family. May God grant you the strength and peace to face these difficult days..

  3. This is such a beautiful, treasured post, Linda. As Lin says, it is a very loving tribute to a great lady. How proud you must be to know you are descended from such a strong, kind, and independent woman. I see so much of her in you. She truly is living on in you. I'm giving you a hug over cyber space, Linda.

  4. What an inspiration she was...and is as she lives through all of her children and family.

  5. Your blog mirrors your life, Linda, and this one note is the dominant one right now. Whether it's your beloved sporting events, your amazing grandchildren, I am always pleased to read your posts. This is a very inspiring one; thank you for regifting it to me. :-)

  6. This is a wonderful post, worthy of a revisit.
    The loss of a parent is difficult even though it is expected. My mother moved on several years ago, five days short of 90. I know how it feels to watch a strong, capable woman lose her ability to do the things that gave her life meaning.
    She is still with you, though, and I'm sure you will find yourself sharing the things that you know would be of interest. I know I still do.

  7. Linda, I have just read this blog about your mother. I am so sorry that she has just recently passed away. I know you will all miss her for years to come and wish you all the comfort of her memories. - Regards, Dave

  8. I'm happy you reposted this Linda, you're Mother was an amazing lady and this is an amazing story. My Mum passed away almost 20 years ago and I treasure the memories I have of her, as you will your dear Mother.

  9. This is so makes me teary and my Mom is still here, but I won't have those memories or those wonderful qualities to think back on.. I think I will grieve for the lost opportunities to have a Mom like that in my life...


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