My Tribute to Mom
Chuck Kraft
Sept. 9, 2006

        I want to organize these remarks around three things about Mom:  loneliness, encouragement and family:

        Loneliness.  I believe Mom was profoundly lonely.  She was brought up in a family of girls but she married a guy who didn't talk much, at least to her.  Then she kept having boys and we were a handful.  And Dad seemed to always be away.  He worked all day, of course, then in his earlier days he played baseball in the spring and summer and basketball in the winter.  This took many evenings and weekends.  Then he joined the Wolcott Fire Department and the Wolcott Police Force.  And these involvements took him away a lot.  So, especially as a young mother with rambunctious boys, she was lonely.

        Among other things, this loneliness pushed her to consider and even plan suicide.  At some point in 1936, then, when I was four and Bob two, she was out the door on her way down to the brook behind our house to finish herself off.  But she turned back and reread a letter from her cousin Enid Forsberg, a missionary in the Sudan, in which Enid outlined the plan of salvation.  Mom accepted Christ at that point and was never the same again.  So, at least partially out of her loneliness and disappointment, she poured herself into us boys and eventually into lots of other young people, followed as she got older by giving herself to older people as well.

        As I got older, she shared a lot of herself with me.  I don't remember her ever complaining about Dad but she welcomed my listening ear even though as a man I probably didn't talk to her as much as she might have liked.  And Dad eventually got better at spending time with her even though I don't think he ever got to meet her expectations when it came to talking.

        Encouragement.  Mom became an encourager.  She encouraged us boys and Sharon when she came along.  She encouraged the young people she worked with and the older ones too.  We always knew that she wanted us to be and do whatever we wanted to be and do with one proviso -- that we come into a relationship with Jesus Christ and in whatever way we chose to serve Him.

        Once she came to Christ, her main objective was to encourage Bob and me to come to Him as well.  But I don't think she was sure how to do this.  Someone told her, however, that the way to bring us to faith was to send us to camp.  So she sent us to a YMCA camp but that didn't work.  Then she sent us to a liberal church camp.  That didn't work either.  But when I was 12 and Bob 10, she got the right camp and we both made decisions for Christ at Camp Pineridge in Rumney, New Hampshire.

        Though, as mentioned, she started to confide in me as I got into my teenage years, she encouraged me to go away to college even though this meant her losing me to talk to.  I remember someone saying to her before I left for college, "I hear you're losing a son."  Her reply was a sharp, "What do you think I want him to do, stay around here and be a pantywaist the rest of his life?"  I knew that though she dearly wanted me to stick around and be a support for her, she wanted more that I go on and become whatever God wanted me to be.

        We knew from high school days that both Mom and Dad felt they had been cheated out of going on to school beyond high school.  For Mom it was a health problem that caused her to scrap her training program to become a nurse.  For Dad, it was a high school grade that kept him from receiving an athletic scholarship.  But because they were denied, we knew that we could go on in school at their expense.  Dad even refused my desire to work summers in the shop to help with expenses, saying, "The shop has been good to me but I don't want you to ever set foot in it."

        Both Dad and Mom wanted us to go on to "higher" things.  And we did, making both of them proud of us even though they seldom understood what our worlds were about.  Mom, however, did her best to listen in on our conversations when we visited to try to figure out what we were into.  And she read some of my books, though I never knew if she understood much from them.  She also attended some of my classes when they came to California to visit.  She sat there smiling, seeming to bask in watching and hearing me teach though, again, I doubt that she understood much.  But I knew she was cheering me on.

        Family.  Mom was devoted to our family, though not in the way many moms are.  She didn't distinguish herself by her cooking or housekeeping.  Her way of raising us was to take us places to do things like hiking and swimming.  She was an "outdoorsy" person and we got in on whatever she was doing outdoors or in swimming pools.  Dad was distant but Mom poured herself into us.

        As we grew up, then, and brought back our wives-to-be, Mom graciously incorporated each into our family.  I'll never forget how nicely she treated Meg when I brought her from the midwest to Connecticut to meet the family.  If Meg was my choice, she was Mom's choice too.

        Then, as our children were born, whenever we were within driving distance (e.g. our years studying at Hartford Seminary), she would set aside a day a week to spend with the grandkids.  While we were in Nigeria, then, she fielded our letters, retyping them and sending them out to family and friends to keep them up on our latest adventures.  And I have no doubt that she was behind the annual trips she and Dad would take to visit us in Michigan and California.  She even got Dad to pull a camping trailer and to camp across the country to California to spend several weeks with us each year.

        Besides these visits, then, she would write her weekly "Famlet" on a typewriter with carbon copies (she never did get onto a computer though we tried to teach her) to keep us up on her doings.  Much of what she wrote didn't concern us or people we knew but these letters let us know that we were important enough to her to share in her world.  It was a sad day when she stopped writing the Famlets.

        Then there are the afghans.  She crocheted an afghan for each of the grandkids and all but two or three of the great-grandkids -- at least 25 in all -- so that the younger family members would remember her.

        Our last memory of her is the afternoon she spent sitting in our livingroom with all our kids and grandkids around her with a big smile on her face, especially when our two-year-old Alyssa jumped up into her lap.  She simply enjoyed being there even though she didn't remember it the next day.

        Mom was a special person.  We, the family, and many others miss her already.