Wednesday, April 15, 2009
RIP Nov. 12, 1912 -- April 14, 2009
My mother, Naomi Lorene McKinney Gough, died yesterday at about 5:15 pm. She was 96 years old, and for some years now has been unable to see, hear or speak. It has been difficult to communicate with her the past few years and I know was so difficult for her not being able to be in the middle of things. The kind of dementia she experienced did not take away her ability to know us, or her mind; it just took away her ability to share with us.
Mom and I did not always get along. Perhaps we were too much alike but over the past 10 years we have gotten closer. We mostly didn’t see eye to eye about politics. She was of the mind that Nixon got a raw deal We did agree a lot about religion though she never understood why I wanted to become a priest. She was never comfortable going to my services or listening to me preach. Partially because she really didn’t like the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer and partially, she was afraid that I would say something that people wouldn’t like. But for all our disagreement, I never thought she didn’t love me. She just couldn’t SAY it. It just wasn’t her way.
Mom was funny. She wasn’t especially out spoken, but you nearly always knew where she stood. She was a small woman, only 5’2” but she was much like a banty hen. She would stand her ground if she needed to.
My brother is 12 years older than I. He was always the apple of her eye (at least that is what I thought). There is something about your first born, but I resented that when I was young. And boy-children were always held in great esteem in her family. But as she grew older, I realized that she was attracted to young men—what they were doing, what interested them. She made over the husbands of her granddaughters the same way she made over my brother. And she always responded to her male nurses better than the women. It was just her way.
She didn’t have a chance to go to college. She graduated from high school in 1930; no one had money for college in those days. She married young to a young railroader that stayed at her parents’ boarding house. They ran off and got married; no one could afford a wedding then. Dad lost his job soon afterward and they had a hard time until the WWII came along and Dad could get his job back. Both of them worked at various jobs during the Great Depression and taught me that one could make a living even when it wasn’t one to your liking, or in your field.
When I was in 3rd Grade she started back to work. She was an elementary school secretary. She loved the educational world. She would have made a good teacher if she had been given a chance. She made the best of it by helping teachers and principals do their jobs and directing children. She continued in that job for over 30 years.
Some years ago I started doing some genealogy on her family. I found that the McKinneys and the Crowders had both served in the Revolutionary War. The McKinneys had come to Connecticut in the late 17th century from Scotland by way of Ireland. When I told her of what I had found, she said: “Yep, my father said if anyone asked who I was I was supposed to say ‘I am Scots-Irish, Republican and a Cambellite’” (Disciples of Christ) Her family had come across the Appalachian Mountains with the Lincoln family and originally settled in Sangamon Co. IL. Being a Republican was a genetic predisposition, not merely a conservative way of thinking.
Last time I visited her in February I told her that I had to fly back to NY. She took my hand and held it up to her face. She didn’t want to let go. I didn’t want to let go either. We sat there, side by side and just held hands. I knew it would be the last time I would be able to talk with her. She was going and she knew it and I knew it. I had hoped for just one more time to sit and hold hands. My brother called me Easter morning just after my last service and told me that she was fading quickly. When I was finally able to get here on Tuesday morning she had already fallen into an unconscious state. I talked to her, rubbed her arms and face. I am convinced she knew I was there. When I had to leave for dinner, I told her that we were all here and that my eldest niece was coming in the next day. She died about an hour later. She went easily with just a sigh, the nurse told me. She is home, I believe—where ever that home is.
She was a good woman. She cared about others and did what she could for others. She delighted in life and taught me to do the same. I am thankful for that. Go in peace, Mom.