VIRG FOSS: One sweet SwedeIf we live long enough, it's a given that at some point, we will bury our parents. A week ago today, my mother, Maebel Foss Otteson, passed away in Northfield, Mn., with my sister and I by her side. Suddenly, my whole world turned inside out.
By: Virg Foss, Grand Forks Herald
If we live long enough, it's a given that at some point, we will bury our parents.
Until this week, I thought I might be the exception. With my mother less than three months away from her 104th birthday, it's been easy to fool myself into believing she would live forever.
A week ago today, my mother, Maebel Foss Otteson, passed away in Northfield, Mn., with my sister and I by her side. Suddenly, my whole world turned inside out.
My father died 38 years ago. With my mother's death, I no longer have any parents, aunts or uncles living. Her passing marks a changing of the guard with my sister and I moving into the elder status in the Foss family.
I am not ready for this. I was not ready to say goodbye to my mother, my biggest fan, and a huge fan of Fighting Sioux hockey. She loved Sioux hockey because I did. I've always felt honored by that.
I wrote to her often. As we cleaned out drawers in a hutch she used, we found neatly-bound stacks of every letter I have ever written to her. Even in death, she made me feel that I mattered.
I've written so much in this newspaper about her and her delightful views and life over the years. I've told others she's better known in Grand Forks than I am, and I've lived here for 42 years.
But as I've gone about town over the years, hardly a time has gone by without someone asking me how my mother was doing.
Someone told me I was lucky to have had my mother around for 71 years of my life. I know I am, but it hardly eases the sting of her loss. I am moved to tears quite easily these days by thoughts of her.
She was a lady of grace and beauty who had the ability to empower others. The young and the old, with a kind word, a touch of the hand, or a check in the mail with words of encouragement, she lifted up equally.
In her declining years, I always said it took far longer to wheel her in and out of the dining room at the retirement center than it did to eat a meal with her.
As I pushed her chair through the room, she'd apply the brakes to stop at one table after another. She'd reach out her hand, grasp the wrinkled hand of another resident, and say a few words. Sometimes, they'd just smile at each other, not a word spoken.
What she did was acknowledge the other resident, in some cases their only contact that day with someone there who wasn't a nurse. She made them feel important, feel loved.
Everyone there knew my Mom. It wasn't because she was their oldest resident, though she was. It was because she was the one who gave back the most of anyone, sometimes by simply reaching out her hand.
She dressed in her finest clothes every day. She had her hair done weekly. She put on her best perfume. She filled her room with soft, classical music. She loved Swedish fish from Widman's Candy and insisted that I buy her Vademecum, the Swedish toothpaste. She was one sweet Swede.
She was loved. On the day before she died, everyone from the newest of the nursing staff to the veteran workers came by her apartment to say goodbye, though she could not respond to them outwardly. Their final visits spoke loudly of how my Mom impacted their lives.
I've spent the last 20 Christmas Eves with my mother. Now she's gone, her death coming a week before Christmas Eve.
In September, my mother was hospitalized for a brief spell. She was confused the day I came to take her home from the hospital, back to her apartment.
"Did you come to take me to heaven?," she asked.
She didn't need a guide. The life's path she chose to walk down took her directly there now, just in time for Christmas.
Foss is a Hall of Fame journalist who reported on sports for 36 years for the Herald until his retirement. He writes a weekly column from October through April. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (701) 772-9272.