My Mom, Anna Mae Stone, passed away on May 15 after a long, tough battle. She died ultimately of COPD, but also dealt with intestinal infections (C-DIFF) and pneumonia.

I lived the past ten years next to Mom and Dad on land they gave us when we moved back to the Branson area. The small home they lived in was where I grew up. Five kids and two parents in a one-bathroom, 1,000 square foot house. It was cramped, but we knew no different.

Mom was valedictorian of her 1951 class at Branson and went to the University of Missouri. She dropped out after a year, however, to help support my Dad as he finished school.  Raising five kids, she stayed at home until we were old enough and then she took jobs at the Branson Inn and later Rock Lane Lodge, cleaning rooms to help put food on the table.

Mom was always incredibly smart. Whenever we had trivia games she would know the answers none of the rest of us knew. She gave up personal dreams, however, for her family.

Mom could cook. Oh my! I can still smell her homemade rolls!!  And her fried chicken!!  Us kids fought over pieces of chicken like piranhas!!

When I moved back to Branson in 2002, I began a weekly ritual of coming over to see Mom and Dad every Saturday morning, and every Saturday morning Mom would fix me breakfast. That tradition continued for 10 years, which means I had over 500 breakfasts with Mom before she became ill.

It all started with Mom's neck. Back in the summer of 2012 Mom had neck surgery to stabilize her fragile vertebrae from years of battling osteoporosis. Dad a week later had open heart surgery. Later that summer Mom had to have a second neck surgery, as the first didn't go well. I believe the combination of her two surgeries and worrying about Dad's heart surgery took it's toll on Mom. She wasn't the same.

After Christmas of 2012, Mom got sick. From there pneumonia hit, trips to the hospital, nursing home rehab unit, home, and then back to the hospital. The C-Diff infection ravaged her body. It was so hard to see such a strong, independent woman I had known for 49 years become so weak. It was hard on her too.

She had a simple faith. She would tell more than once through it all, "I'm just putting myself in the Lord's hands."  I remember a night staying with her in the same hospital I was born in and had my tonsils out when I was 7. I remember her and Dad staying up all night with me the night after my surgery. I felt honored to be able to return the thanks for her.

On May 15  I along with two of my brothers got to be with her during her last breaths. I got to tell her I loved her and would see her again.

It's been almost 8 months now since that last evening with Mom. I still miss her terribly. I visit Dad now daily. They were married close to 60 years. It's obvious he misses her terribly, but he's doing better than I predicted. He has talked about many nights seeing a light slowly go back and forth across Mom's clothe's rack by the bed. He thinks it is her. Who knows?

My point in writing all this is this: don't take your parents for granted if they are still living. If you have aging parents, love them and give back to them for all they have done for you. Even if they hurt you in the past, forgive them and honor them. It makes God smile, and it will leave you with some special memories after they are gone.

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