Starting a blog is always a hard thing to do. I mean, what does one say? What does one share? How much does one share? How much is too much? Who cares, anyway?
I’m starting this blog at a particularly tough time in my life. May is a hard month for me. It’s “Mother’s Month” in my mind. And I miss my mother with every fibre of my being.
Let me tell you about my mother. She was born Kathleen Stinson on May 12, 1925 in Medicine Hat, Alberta. In her 82 years she was many things to many people: To her parents she was a loving and compassionate daughter; to her two brothers she was a supportive sister, a good friend, and later a trusted confidante; to her sisters-in-law she was a trusted friend and listening ear; to her husband she was devoted wife, a loving helpmate in the truest sense, his best friend, a listening ear and wise counsellor, his strength and steady rock for fifty-two years; to her children she was Mother – the kind spoken of in Proverbs 31 – who led them to love the Lord and taught them how to live, who loved them unconditionally. As we grew older she became the one we came to for advise and prayer. Today, we rise up and call her blessed. To her grandchildren she was an unconditionally loving grandmother, the one who was interested in the smallest details of their lives and who read the same stories over and over just to make them happy; to her friends she was loyal and steady, someone they could count on in good times and bad. When Kay made a friend, they were friends for life. In fact, it’s unlikely she ever made an enemy.
It is impossible to pick one attribute that made Mother so special to her family, friends, and colleagues. She modelled her faith before everyone. Her life was full of the fruit of the Spirit and the love spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13. Perhaps consistent and faithful would describe her best.
Her favourite verses were Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path.” These two small verses and the hymn, “All the Way My Saviour Leads Me” became a theme throughout her life. In Bible School, when the Lord called her to be a missionary, she answered that call with a “Yes, Lord, I’ll go – but please don’t send me to Africa! They have snakes there.”
In preparation for the mission field, Mother went to study nursing at Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, Oregon. While in Portland, she met the oh so handsome Richard Goss. Richard was studying at Multnomah School of the Bible. They courted until on September 2, 1955 they were married in Okotoks, Alberta in the church where Mother grew up.
The Lord did call her and Dad to Ethiopia, East Africa, and being a faithful servant, she placed her fear of snakes in the Hands of the Lord and went. In remote parts of Ethiopia, there were times when only through faith in the Lord answers to dire situations were given.
Bible reading and prayer were essential to my mother. Each morning started with devotions, a habit she learned early and continued through the rest of her life. When faced with a challenge, the well-loved Scriptures were a ready source of comfort to her. She also was able to share the verses with those who came to her with problems or questions. She believed the verses that said “Pray without ceasing” and “Cast all your cares upon Him, for He careth for you.” She spent many hours in prayer for her family, her missionary colleagues on other stations, for the work they were all involved in; for her friends and supporters in the US and Canada, and so many other things. Prayer reenergized Mom and gave her the strength and courage to face each new situation, no matter how tough or harrowing. That dependence on the Lord and the peace that came with casting her cares on the Lord left a lasting impression on her family.
Despite her fear of snakes, Mom had a sense of adventure and fun. Whether it was a trek up a mountain on an almost tame mule, a picnic on a windy beach, a jaunt to see the hippos in a muddy river, or a long bike ride to a small village in South Central Ethiopia, she was always willing and ready for the adventure. In fact, there was only one time she didn’t accompany her family on an exciting expedition. Dad, my brother, Greg, and I joined a group of others on a climb of Mt. Bishoftu. Mom stayed behind at Lake Bishoftu, an SIM R&R resort, with some of the other wives to wait for the signal that everyone had gotten to the top. When everyone returned she was waiting to hear all about the hike and to tend our sore muscles and blistered feet.
Mom was willing to go wherever the adventure took her. Her last one was in July, shortly before she went in the hospital. Dad wanted to see the house in Seattle where a relative had resided in 1910; not about to be left behind, she climbed in the car with Dad and I and reminisced about the Seattle she remembered when she first arrived in 1954. Afterwards, she joined in a lunch of injera and wat, which she enjoyed even though her appetite had waned considerably by that time. It wasn’t so much what the activity was, but the fact that our family was doing it together that made it so special. Her sense of fun was contagious and she made life an adventure for her husband, children and grandchildren.
She was devoted to her family. Her husband and children gave her life everything she wanted and she was our rock, our strength, the one around whom we all revolved. She was a wise settler of disputes, soother of scrapes and bruises, willing listener and prayer partner, and sometimes accomplice in practical jokes. We all knew she loved us unconditionally and we returned that love just as fully. She was always there for her family. No matter how much she had to do, she never let us see her rushed or distracted. She gave ungrudgingly of her love and time.
Greg and I knew that when we returned home from boarding school she would be at the door to greet us with hugs and a hot meal – and often candles on the table because the power was out! During school holidays she made sure that she got the time off work to be with us – even though all we wanted to do was run off and ride our bikes around the compound! When her Dad came home from work she was sure to greet him and find out how his day went. A good day made her smile, while a tough one had her sitting down at the kitchen table to listen until the tale was told. She leant her support, and sometimes her advice, but always her prayers and her love.
Mother celebrated everyday occasions – an A on a report card, or a new verse learned would receive a delighted exclamation. She would praise Greg for finding a cricket or me for successfully making my first apple pie. Dandelion bouquets from her grandchildren were proudly displayed on the dining room table and their childish drawings placed carefully on the refrigerator. She made everyone feel special and loved. Birthdays and holidays were times for big celebrations. The Fourth of July was time with family, watching a parade, often a picnic meal, and watching fireworks at home. Thanksgiving and Christmas were celebrated with family – and usually others who didn’t have family in the area were invited to the Goss household to celebrate. Memorial Day was a picnic and a trip to beautify the relatives’ graves. Memorial Day is nearly here again and now we beautify her grave with flowers. A time to remember family and friends not with us and to hold close those who still are.
When I sat down to write this piece, I didn’t know I would be sharing my mother’s eulogy with you, but she is on my mind and in my heart today. She has been gone 17 months now and it feels like yesterday and forever. As I said at the beginning, May is Mother’s Month for me. Mother’s Day is Sunday the 10th, her birthday is the 12th, and then we have Memorial Day Weekend then next week.
I find I start folding my emotional tent at the beginning of May, somehow becoming quieter, more reserved, trying to find a distance or space for myself. I know it’s not all bad. Mother’s Day is in there and my daughter just sent me a marvelous CD of Anoushka Shankar and a card, and my son and husband are taking my for Ethiopian Dinner on Sunday. My husband’s birthday is coming up on the 16th. I love my hubby more than anything. And I have great friends and family. These are sustaining.
I’m holding on to the sustaining for Mother’s Month.