Saturday, May 10, 2014

Verda Mae Christensen - My mother and a treasure in my life

My mother Verda Mae Christensen was always a
Queen of drama (photo courtesy of Ken Miles)
The other day, I finally finished going through some items that we pulled out of our attached garage in order to clean it.  (It only took me about two months to do it!)  One of the last items was a hand purse that my mother was using, shortly before she passed away in 2004.  I thought I should go through it just in case, and came across two twenty dollar bills.  By the look of the age of the bills, they have most likely been in that purse since my mother joined my father, in heaven.  I presented the two bills to each of my daughters, Jessica and Sarah and informed them Grandma had one last gift for them.  It brought some tears to my eyes and then I realized in looking at them, I could see elements that reminded me that more important than those bills, Mom's gift continues to be present in them and each of her children and grandchildren and now great grandchildren.  My mother had a profound impact on me, not only because she gave me the very gift of life, but because she was always there for me in the years that followed.  In the years after my father's death, she played a pivotal role in helping me adapt and even up to her last days, was not only my next door neighbor, but one of my best friends.  It was challenging emotionally to not only move into her home a few weeks after she passed away so we could rent ours and purchase her home, but in closing down and shutting off her physical life and all that goes with it.  I wasn't alone, my family helped a great deal, but I lived it almost every day.  I thought perhaps it was just me, but when the counselor called from the hospice service to see how I was doing, I had her crying by the end of the call.  I at least knew the feelings were real.
Mom with four of her five sisters on the family
farm in Canada.  Her father passed away
when she was six.
Mom was born the third of six girls in an agricultural community called Barnwell in Alberta, Canada.  Her parents had both come from the United States.  Her mother, who was a nurse and her father, who had come from the Chicago area with his brother to start a farming operation, met and fell in love.  These six girls were an outcome of that love and the last one, Fredora was born after her father's death.  My grandfather died unexpectedly at age 39, leaving a widow and six girls.  This could have easily been a Hallmark show, but for them it was real life.  Grandma was the only medical help for miles and it was not uncommon for the girls to be left alone and depend on each other while Grandma helped take care of others.  Education was important and thanks to a strong school principal and parents who cared, Mom received an outstanding education.  She skipped two years in her schooling, graduating at age 15 and went to BYU with her two older sisters to further her education.  Mom graduated at age 19 from BYU and taught for a few years as an English and Drama Teacher in South Summit and Tooele High School.  If she had she taken a job in Richfield, she would have been my father's sophomore English teacher!  She later went on to be a writer and producer for KSL Radio and even wrote their first TV commercial.
My mother outside the Salt Lake Temple on her Wedding Day with my
father Robert M. Christensen, her mother Ruth Fuller and my father's parents
Chester and Emma Christensen and Mom's sister, Dorothy & William Bolander
My father's brother Don Christensen and Mom's friend Iris Corry
Mom married on September 1, 1949 at age 27, having worked through World War II, and was ready to move on with having a family.  Not too unlike me, their dating period was short and they were married four months later.  Cathy and I only dated for six weeks before we were engaged and married after four months ourselves.  Mom and Dad had eight children with their third, Milton passing away at age 11 from a blood disorder.  She was three months pregnant with me at the time,  so we never had a complete family photo.  Mom in one way or the other kept herself busy in church and civic affairs.  She loved her friends and was usually talking to one of them.  She also helped us with our education and at times helped to make ends meet by doing some substitute teaching.  Mom loved projects, and my home is the beneficiary of many of them and she was always trying something new!
My mother thought we needed a Maypole and probably
would not be the subject of good safety procedures!
Robert & Verda Mae Christensen, married just over 26
years, when my Dad died in 1976
Mom and Dad were really perfect partners.  They complemented each other in so many ways with different strengths and weaknesses.  I think it was one of the many challenging things for Mom when she found herself widowed at 53 with more than half of her children to still raise and family to support.  However through it all, she returned back to school, received her Masters Degree in creative Writing, returned to teaching purchased three rental homes, and in 1987 was recognized as Utah Mother of the Year.  Somewhere in there, she served on the Library Board, co-wrote the history for the 25th Anniversary of the Rose Park Stake and also co-wrote the history book for the Salt Lake Temple's 100th anniversary.  The Community Meeting Room at the Day-Riverside Branch is named in her honor.
January 13, 1976 Mom said good bye to her husband and best friend,
Robert Magleby Christensen
I'm hopeful my own life is reflective of the wonderful qualities of my mom.  I miss her a lot.  Mother's Day is always a little hard for me, because I don't have her here still to recognize.  However there are times like Friday night when my daughter Jessica went through the Salt Lake Temple to receive her Endowments that I feel her and my father by my side.  I'm comforted by the fact that I know they live and that one day, I have the opportunity to be with them again.  In the mean time, I love seeing the gifts of my mother in the lives of those she loved.  Happy Mother's Day Mom, I love you.

Rose Park Wedding Reception with my mom, July 1990