My mother, Olivia Wilson Erpenbeck, passed away last month, and fittingly, I find myself writing this remembrance on Mother’s Day. Had she lived until June 3, she would have been 98 years old. She has suffered tragic events in her life; grew up during the Great Depression, watched her father drown in the ocean at age 6, lost her husband to polio meningitis and age 30. And, in spite of, or perhaps because of, these experiences, she developed a stoic philosophy of life built on honesty, integrity, personal responsibility, and acceptance for those events in our lives over which we have no control.
Mom learned generosity from her mother who during the Depression never turned away homeless men in need of food. In return, these men insisted on chopping wood for my grandmother in order to retain their dignity. From this, she learned the value of self-respect. She made friends easily because of her sweet, non-judgmental demeanor and acted as a surrogate for those friends and family members who lost their own mothers. She was an active mind, a marvelous memory, and was an avid reader. She was comfortable spending time alone, but she enjoyed our morning coffees and Sunday dinners. She loved having lunch and a glass of wine and playing bridge with her friends. Mom lived at home with her dog and, until three months before her death, drove, shopped and cooked for herself. And by the way, in case I didn't mention it, Mom made the best apple pie. She passed away in her own home surrounded by loved ones, as tranquility as she had lived, setting a good example for those of us who did follow.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hospice of the Sierra.