Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Mother's Legacy

Monica J. Getchel
4/17/1929 - 9/27/2010
My mother went to be with the LORD last week. Her agonizing slide into nothingness is now over. What a wonderful surprise it must have been when my little sister Patti greeted her at the gates of heaven. Mom died within a week of Patti's one-year anniversary of passing. They last saw each other in January 2009 when Patti drove five-hours from her home in Oregon to see Mom one more time while she still had the energy. Even then it seemed Mom could not grasp it was her daughter.
Patti's Visit 2009
Born to Leona and Bernard Kelly in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on April 17, 1929, Monica Jean grew up with four siblings. On June 3, 1948, she married Robert Getchel and two years later the first of six children arrived—yours truly. In 1956, the growing family (two girls, one boy and one on the way) moved to Ontario in Southern California. The family eventually grew to six (three girls and three boys).

In 1980, after a divorce, Mom moved to Cameron Park, California. She worked as a cashier for Good Chevrolet in Sacramento and later became one of the first employees at Intel in Folsom. Soon her children and their families began moving to the area. We moved to El Dorado Hills in 1989 when our son, Nur, was seven.
Mom's Children with Spouses and Grandkids
Cameron Park Lake, 1989
When Mom's father died in 1990, she found out her Aunt Connie was actually her older sister born to her mother out of wedlock. Instantly the Kelly siblings grew from five to six and we gained five more first-cousins.

By 1997 the last of Mom's children moved to the area. She proudly declared five of her children and their families now lived in El Dorado County within 12 miles of one another.

As a family we seized any occasion to hold a BBQ or dinner, enjoying lively conversations while the kids played. We enacted our own version of Pictionary, and evening games became legendary among friends who may have experienced a game or two. As soon as the kids could read and draw, they played Pictionary with the adults. Now we play us against our adult children. Guess who usually wins that match?

Meeting for coffee every Saturday became another family tradition that put a few coffee shops in the area "on the map." Unless we are out of town or at some function, we are at coffee on Saturday. In addition to family matters, we often discuss the condition and direction of our country and how it affects our lives. Six of Mom's nine grandchildren are now married—four have children—but all who can, are at Saturday coffee.

Mom occupied the center of all these family gatherings. Following her diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, we sold her car and moved her into assisted living. That action tore at our very beings and broke our hearts. Did we do the right thing? Should we have let her stay in her own place longer? Time assured us we did the right thing. Mom got picked up for coffee every Saturday until she could no longer walk and became confined to a wheelchair.
Family Reunion Cruise
December 2005
That first year in assisted living was 2005 and marked the start of a new family tradition. Family cruises. Eighteen family members spanning three generations from Wisconsin and California embarked on a Family Reunion Cruise of the Western Caribbean with ports of call in Cayman Islands, Balize and Cozumel, Mexico. Since that cruise there have been four more cruises—one cruise topped out at twenty-nine in our group.

Mom's legacy not only includes a happy, close-knit family that loves being together and doing fun things, but friends who wanted to be her child and even called her "Mom." To which she replied, "Greg (or other name inserted here), my favorite son!" No one could resist my mom's infectious love, warmth and wit. Indeed Mom left a legacy that few could duplicate.
Coffee at Gold Country Health Center with Mom
Christmas 2009
When Mom moved into nursing care we brought coffee to her, taking over the dining room at Gold Country Health Center between breakfast and lunch. It afforded a perfect playground for the great-grandkids. Squeals of delight pealed through the dining room as we pushed the kids around on wheeled chairs. Even though Mom seemed distant, the great-grandkids brought a spark to her life. Not able to put two words together to talk to us didn't stop Mom from communicating with her great-grandkids.
Mark and grandson Bean at Great-Grandma's
"Hi, Great-Grandma!" said two-year old Owen, my sister's grandchild. "Hi, sweetheart. What have you got there?" looking at the toy clutched in his hand. From the deepest recesses of the diseased mind come childlike responses that defy the best of science. Perhaps it is only a child that can penetrate the Alzheimer's mind which has faded into years long gone.

Over a month ago a glimpse of genius inspired us to have a BBQ at my brother's and arrange for a wheelchair transport to take Mom out of the nursing home for one last time. The past year Mom endured two trips to emergency and another two illnesses. Noting that her heart showed a marked slowing, her doctor placed her in hospice care. We felt her struggle with the disease that stole her life away would soon be over. That Saturday with Mom—family surrounding her—will remain a sweet remembrance.

Goodbye for now, sweet Mom! You live on in the legacy you left behind.


  1. Chris,

    You have honored your mother beautifully. I look forward to meeting her in Heaven.

  2. Chris, what a lovely tribute to your mother. May the Lord uphold you and your family as you adjust to life without her.

  3. Chris, this is so precious! What a wonderful family you have and a beautiful legacy your mother left. She will be greatly missed. Praying for you and your loved ones as you grieve.

  4. Chris, that was a wonderful history of your family and Mother. Big hugs to all your family, Julia

  5. Awesome tribute to you mom! You are a great story teller!

  6. Thanks, Suzie! This Christmas has been a bit melancholy without Mom. Things are just not the same.



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