On Friday, October 11, 2019, Mr. Smith’s mother took her last breath. She leaves behind eight children, 13 grandchildren, 11 greatgrandchildren, and many loving friends. Pat was 91 years old and managed to live on her own until the last week of her life when she moved in with one of her sons and his wife.
She was my mother-in-law for forty-one years. Although Pat could be intimidating and always to the point, I learned a great deal from her through the years. She was great at answering cooking questions, worked on sewing projects with me, and was an inspiring example of choosing your own life. Her passing has left me a bit unsettled and introspective.
While raising her family, she worked tirelessly to take care of her children. My husband remembers waking up to the sound of the sewing machine and falling asleep to its hum. She was a marvelous seamstress, providing her and her children with many remarkable outfits. She baked countless loaves of bread and pies and prepared more family dinners than you could count. She may not have hovered over her children as many parents do today, but she kept them safe, fed and clothed.
And she was an artist. Her first love has been art since the painting class she took at the Detroit Institute of Arts at age 14. While marriage and motherhood consumed her for many years, she was always able to insert creativity into her life. Finally, in her forties she was able to return to college, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Michigan. While some middle-age women may have been intimidated by competing with the younger students Pat found herself surrounded by at University of Michigan, she was quoted as saying “You just have to put your foot out and go. All it takes is a little bit of courage and a little bit of stamina.”
Pat exemplified courage and stamina throughout her life. After losing her husband of 67 years, she bought herself a loom and learned to weave, adding another accomplishment to her long list of talents. For many years she made all her grandchildren Christmas ornaments that she had designed and in the more recent past her greatgrandchildren became the recipients of her creativity. And in her usual pragmatic way, concerned she might not live until Christmas, this year’s ornaments are all completed, wrapped and ready to be sent off in December.
I will remember Pat for many reasons, but foremost in my mind today are the two things I believe were her greatest strengths. She never stopped looking forward and living life, painting until her last week. And she never lost the little girl inside her, the one who loved playing in a patch of brown-eyed susans and who gloried in a new box of crayons. She was a good woman and I will miss her.
C’est la vie.