A Tribute to my Mom, Linda (Powers) Kelly
We have recently lost a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, teacher and friend that touched many lives in our community. She was all of these things and more. I am her son and I don't wish to recount all the events of her life, this isn't a biography. Instead, I would like to illustrate who she was to those of us whose lives she touched.
Where to begin? Well, I guess the first thing that comes to mind when I think of her is her love and compassion. Big hugs and kisses that left marks on your face were a hallmark of her presence. She would say things like, " my darlings" or "my babies", especially when she wanted to comfort or encourage. She did this a lot. She was drawn to those who were hurting and she had a special passion for children.
She loved children so much, that even after her doctor told her to stop hugging them, she refused. Why, you might ask, would a doctor say that? My mom hugged all children, especially the ones that no one else seemed to want. She worked at an elementary school that saw more than it's fair share of impoverished children. These children were not only suffering from the physical signs of poverty, but also the emotional. Many of these children had lice, scabies, ringworm and other unpleasant things. Linda would often have to get treatment from the doctor for these various conditions. But when the doctor advised her to keep her distance, she said, "No way! If I don't hug these babies, who will?" She didn't care where they came from or what they looked like, all the 'babies' needed hugged. Fortunately for me, that carried into my adulthood. Her hugs often comforted me even when I became her grown 'baby'.
Now don't get me wrong, she was also strict. I think she enjoyed supervising detention just as much as hugging. As a child, I never understood this strange paradox. How can you firmly spank my bottom and tell me how much you love me? As a teenager, I ran away and behaved like a fool to show her that you couldn't tell me what to do anymore. Oddly, even though I made her cry, she still loved me. As I grew and became an adult, I understood and apologized to her for my behavior. I discovered that the delicate balance of love and discipline creates structure. This structure creates the foundation for the adult. More than anything, she wanted my sisters and I to be good adults. Like any loving parent, she didn't enjoy punishing, but she enjoyed the concept of the adults we would become.
Much of the life of Linda was spent devoted to her faith in God. I think it is important to state to the reader that I won't convey religion. Instead, I will attempt to convey some of the primary principles that she lived by because of her faith. These are excellent principles that have been of great benefit to us in our lives.
Linda believed that love should be at the beginning and end of all things. The bible states that 'Love never fails', and she firmly believed it. In our family, she taught us that it was important to say 'I love you'. She said," What if one of us left, and there was an accident that took one of us away? Wouldn't you want to know that you said I love you?" The funny thing is, when most people encountered our family, it seemed strange to them that we said 'i love you' so often. As time would go by, they would find that it was second nature because it really does feel good. Even though you know your loved, hearing it is still nice.
Out of love, my mom would take in people to her home to care for them. Often she was taken advantage of. This would make me mad, but she explained that she believed that her reward was greater no matter what others did with her kindness. After we lost her, we have received stories of acts of kindness that she did that my sisters and I never knew about. One person stated that Linda took them peanut butter and honey sandwiches everyday during summer vacation because my mom knew that without school, they probably wouldn't have food. This person stated that they did indeed survive on what she brought them that summer.
"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;..." Isaiah 40:31
Faith is an attribute that Linda firmly exhibited. By firmly, I mean that she always referred back to it. Like anyone else, there are fears and doubts, but we have to learn to overcome those. The best way is by believing that something better will come. This is faith. Mom would pray with us and tell us to believe. I won't lie and say that all our prayers were answered, but we did always make it. Sometimes things did happen that were a miracle, but most importantly, our faith gave us the courage to face whatever would come. I believe that prayers are always heard, we just struggle with why things are the way they are versus what we want them to be. Mom taught us that there is a divine perspective that sees far more than we can understand. She encouraged us to believe that all things have a purpose. That's a hard pill to swallow. Sometimes life can seem so cruel. She said that for the bad things, the people should be the good that helps and heals. Without a fire, there's no need for firemen. If we can help when we see a wrong, but refuse to do so, we become the very injustice we cry about. We are his hands and feet. If you want it to be better, make it better.
Last, but certainly not least, are the things that brought joy to mom's life. Linda loved to laugh. We were a low income family, being a single mom with a school related job. We would bake, swim, ride bikes, play cards and have make-believe tea parties. A favorite game was called, "Hide the Thimble". This game can be played by nearly any number of people at just about any age. The object of the game was to take a thimble or a similar sized item and hide it in plain sight. Whoever finds it, gets to 'hide' it. It's great for laughs because when you finally realize how many times you looked past it, you'll be amazed. It's a great game for kids that is cheap and easy.
Mom loved color and sparkle. It was a common joke that if you were looking for something to buy her, look for bright colors with glitter. The louder the better. One of her favorite shirts was purple with a big glittery butterfly on the front. Purples and blues were a wardrobe theme of hers.
A great place to find beautiful blues, is the lake. Being a school employee gave her summers off. Most of the time, you could find her floating in her inflatable rowboat under a blue sky. She would gaze up at the sky and watch the clouds float by as she prayed and talked to God. It was her favorite place to meet with him. We would take bread, peanut butter, honey and a spoon. It was cheap and easy food that didn't require a cooler. The spoon made it easier to scoop out the peanut butter and slather it on bread quickly so we could hurry back to the water.
I would be completely off if I didn't mention Linda's passion for reading the bible and teaching the stories to children. For a long time, we had once a week bible studies at our house for the neighborhood kids. Sometimes, it was just my sisters and I. Sometimes we had 20 kids in the house. She had her own children read the bible daily and she would pray with us daily. As we got older, we drew away from church and the bible. She continued staunchly in her daily devotions. Eventually, I picked the bible back up again and discovered that regardless of what a person believes, the morals and values as well as the lessons are priceless. Perhaps if I had paid close attention, I could have avoided some of life's pitfalls that I fell into.
As I discussed these things with mom, she began to give me some of her old bibles that she had used. They were full of notes, underlinings, and even little doodles written by her. I have 3 of them and now that she's gone, they are absolutely priceless. Inside each one, she poured out her heart, her hopes and her prayers. All written by a mother that loved us with all her heart. So I know that whenever I miss her, and I just need to feel her love, all I have to do is open one of these bibles and I'm were her heart is.
We were lucky enough to have a wonderful mom teach us about God, love and compassion regardless of the adversities of life. I hope that we can take these lessons and continue to share them with our children and our children's children. Let's help make who she was something that lives far beyond her years!
We love you and you will be greatly missed!
Until we see you again,