By SUE FINK
This year, Mother's Day was a bittersweet occasion for me.
This is the first year that I celebrated Mother's Day without my mother, Madge Ridler.
Last year on Mother's Day, I went to visit my mother at a hospice. She was dying from pancreatic cancer. It was a large group of children and grandchildren that came together to share that day with her one last time. We were happy to have her there with us, but hoping that she would not have to struggle with the cancer much longer.
She was a strong person. We often marveled at the way she kept busy. She was a mainstay at her church. She spent countless hours doing volunteer work there. Over the years she served as church receptionist, Sunday school teacher, Stephen's minister, server at Loaves and Fishes, and rummage sale worker extraordinaire.
She also enjoyed volunteering at the Tamarack Senior Center in Long Lake. She helped at and attended many of the events they held there.
Mother was gone so much we often joked that we needed to make an appointment to see her. We were happy for her because she genuinely enjoyed being with people.
One of the things she took up in her later years was line dancing. She was a member of a group called the Fleet Foot Fogies. When she told me that she practiced line dancing for an hour with her group, I couldn't believe it. I told her if I had to line dance for an hour they would have to scrape me up off the floor afterward.
Mother was the one who could show you how to do the Macarena. She enjoyed swimming laps at the Long Lake High School pool to stay in shape. She thought she was doing everything right to stay healthy.
Mother was the kind of person that we thought would go on forever. Seventy-seven years were not enough. She was too strong, too capable. It just couldn't be that our Mother could have terminal cancer.
Her cancer was diagnosed just after the first of the year in 1997. After her surgery on Jan. 20, we knew that we would lose her.
On that last Mother's Day, seven children gathered around her with their own families. We were children. We were moms. We were dads. Some of us were even grandparents. We knew that we were losing the person that held our family together.
Mother's Day 1998 held many conflicting emotions for me. Happiness at the gifts of love I received from my children and grandchildren. Thankfulness that I am here to spend this time with my family. Sadness that my mother was not here to share the day with us.
There are already three more little great grandchildren that she would have loved to meet. It is true that presence means more than presents. They would have loved to know her, too.