Saturday, July 16, 2005

Remembering my mother

My mother, Mary Denney, passed away last Sunday. She died peacefully, in her sleep at home.

One of my earliest childhood memories of mother was when she taught me the Lord's Prayer as I lay in bed.

She was not one who wore her religion on her sleeve, she did not come across as overly religious or sanctimonius. Instead, she lived her faith in her involvement with this church and in her relationships with others. I remember in my youth she told me how much she liked a book by the psychiatrist Eric Fromm, The Art of Love. The theme of this book was that love is where we find the meaning of our existence. God is love, my mother told me.

Mother took pride in whatever modest accomplishments I made in life. Even when I would thank her for dinner, she would comment on how thoughtful it was of me to thank her for having prepared the meal.

She also sought to expand her own horizons. When I was in high school, she began attending part-time the College of San Mateo, and then onto San Francisco State from where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts with honors. She was a better college student than me.

After college she painted many pictures, and received some awards at local shows. We have many of them on the walls of my parents' home, along with paintings by her brother Richard, some of them are local landscapes, some of them are of people, including my mother's father.

Mother also began travelling around the world in the later years of her life. She went with travel groups to Europe, the Mid-East, China. I think she wanted to see as much of the world as she could before her life ended.

Mother worked hard on compiling a family history on both her and my dad's side. She did alot of research, visited the Mormon archives in Salt Lake City and various places in the midwest. The family history is a few hundred pages in a looseleaf binder, with many old photographs, and quite alot of fascinating detail. She managed to trace her ancestry all the way back to an emperor of Britain at the time of the Roman empire.

She took good care of herself, and looked young for her age. I recall in the early 90s she was told a few times that she looked like Hillary Clinton. And that was very pleasing to her, because she really liked Hillary, who was also someone from the midwest who grew up with strong values from the Methodist church.

The last years of my mother's life were very difficult for both her and my father who worked hard to take good care of her. She suffered from Alzheimer's and related problems. But even then she focused her mind on what was most important to her, her love for her family. Often, while visiting, I would be talking to dad about something and she would suddenly say, "I love William Julian Denney with all my heart, and I love my sons David and Stephen." Sometimes she would ask me about her grandchildren. Actually there were no grandchildren, but she wanted very much to believe that she had grandchildren. Sometimes she would just hold onto my hand for awhile, like when I would go out to the sofa to sit down and she would sit next to me. When it came time for me to go back to Berkeley, I would shake hands with dad, and by then mother would usually be laying down in bed or on the reclining chair, so I would lean over so she could kiss me on the head to say goodbye.

There are probably more stories I could tell about her, but the main thing I recall as her son is the strong love she had for her family, along with her sweet disposition and her caring and thoughtful attitude for other relatives and friends, and people she knew in church.

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