You know it is never easy, to sum up, a person’s life in a few short sentences or a list of words. I guess because when you lose them to the death your mind is flooded with memories from your very first memory to the last day. And as I think back over the years of my life the memories of a woman I called Mom are the woman who looked much like the woman in the book of Proverbs. While the woman the Lord speaks of is pretty much perfect I know my mother would say she was far from it.
I always described my mother as a pip. By definition, a pip is an excellent or a very attractive person or thing. And she was very attractive to many. “She was beautiful,” many have said to me. She was feisty, witty and could be stubborn when she needed to be. She loved to be with people. She definitely was a social creature. Whether at a party, a holiday gathering, playing cards, floating, camping, motorcycle rides or just sitting around with family doing nothing, she was happy.
She was loyal and loved her family. I saw my whole life how she cared for her mom and
dad. Her sister and brother. Her husband and her children. She was definitely a caretaker. She took care of us all. She always had a plan and she could make it happen. And I am pretty sure I got that from her. She loved, loved, loved having her family around her. I think that brought her the greatest joy. And just today realized I got that from her as well because having all my children and grandchildren surround me fills my heart to overflowing. I know that is what she expressed on her face when we all came home to visit her.
She was also a peacemaker. Always trying to encourage everyone to get along. We come from a loud and boisterous family. There were many years of turmoil and upheaval that were hard on her. But she never quit trying to make things better. I remember just before going into the air force my mom and Bob started attending church. They both surrendered to the Lord and I began to see a change in them, in their lives. That change influenced me to make some changes in my life as well. Those changes for me would lead me to a faith in God deeper than I have ever known. A faith I would need in the years that followed, a faith that would change the course of my family’s life.
She loved being a grandmother. I watched her hold each one of her grandchildren with such pride and tenderness. Other than adoration I never knew what was going through her mind when she was holding them and baby talking to them until of course, I became a grandmother. I remember asking her once how come she never told me how great it was to be a grandmother? She just giggled. So I guess that was her secret.
She loved her children. And losing one nearly took the life right out of her. That was a dark time for our whole family. She did say she told me that she could relate to me because she herself had lost her brother tragically when she was 19. But I could never relate to her losing a daughter. The pain of that ran very deep. The joy in this day is that she is reunited with a brother she has not seen in 55 years and a daughter she has not seen in 11 years.
She was forgiving and kind. Always saw people for how they treated others. She did not see color or status. Make no mistake she could sum a person up in a few minutes, she was good at telling someone’s character. And if they were a bad egg she would warn you. One of the blessings of this day is seeing the number of folks that loved her and hearing them praise her for her kindness and compassion she had for others. So many people respected her. Another word that keeps coming up is fun; she was just a fun person. What a great friend she was to others and how much everyone valued what she said. I think I heard the ladies at the VFW called her the “Mob Boss.” And the picture of my tiny mother as a Mob Boss is precious.
She was so creative. Oh my goodness, she could create anything out of nothing. I love that I got that from her. I remember, as a little girl, her sewing teeny tiny clothes for me and my sister Danielle’s Barbie’s. She made ice candles out of milk cartons, wax, and ice and then would put it on a plate surrounded by leaves she picked up out of the yard. She loved to decorate. And everything had to color coordinate, even what she was wearing. She could put together an outfit and look like a million bucks. Some of the clothes she sewed from her own patterns back in the 70’s were amazing!!!
A few years ago the Lord had put it on my heart to do something for my mother for Mother’s Day. I had not spent Mother’s Day with her since the 90’s. She had been in and out of the hospital and I just knew we needed to create some new memories together. I wanted to treat her like a queen for the day. I planned a weekend away in the city with my mother, my aunt, my sister and our daughters. I made the announcements including the itinerary and sent them off. First, we would have dinner with a very old friend of my moms. A lady she had not seen in many years. Then we would be swept off to the city for Mani/Pedi, a photography session at the Jewel Box in Forrest Park, a stay at an exclusive historic hotel, order room service dinner, catch the Sound of Music at Fox Theater and topped off the weekend with a Mother’s Day Buffet at the top of the Park Plaza Hotel overlooking St. Louis Forrest Park. When it was all said and done she said, “This is the best time I ever had in my whole life.”
And you know today it is one of the best memories I have of my mom in my whole life. The intent was to celebrate each other, as a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister and an Aunt. We each played one or more of those roles, we represented 3 generations connected by blood but more importantly by love. It was priceless.
Yes, my mother would tell you she was far from perfect and I would tell her that in her imperfection she exemplified that woman worth far above rubies. Her husband trusted in her. She worked with her hands to create beautiful things. She worked hard in her life and never quit providing for her family. She knew how to grow things and make life beautiful around her. She would make clothes for herself and her family. She gave to those around her who needed help without a hesitation. Her husband was known in the gates because of her strength and honor. She opened her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue was kindness. She cared for her household always and did not waste her time with idleness. And because of these things
Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
Johanna Lee (Pope) Tomlinson
1943 – 2017
Johanna was the direct descendant of the founding fathers of Farmington Missouri. Through Joel Zolman and Louisa Murphy. See Pope Family Tree Page on Shell’s Space.