Updated: Jun 2, 2021
My mother passed away at 93 on September 18 in 2017. At her memorial service the next week, there was a lot of Proverbs 31 about a good wife and mother, admired and praised...then my daughter got up and told the story about how my father broke up with my mother in college.
Blame the Glee Club at Wheaton College for telling the girls to wear a little powder and lipstick under the performance lights so they would not look so pale. My father's Biblically correct friends, however, persuaded him that my beautiful mother was not Christian enough for him, the soldier recently returned from Europe with the nickname Deacon etched into his leather Air Corps bombardier jacket. He announced that he could not see her anymore. Crushed, my mother threw herself across her bed in tears, alarming her roommates and the dorm house mother. That weekend was for visiting parents and my Grandpa Drake found his usually composed violinist daughter quite distraught. She decided to write this misguided suitor a letter describing just how hurt she was that he would take offense at something so tangential to her core self. God looketh upon the heart after all. When my father read the letter, a deeper awareness of their future love and destiny must have awoken in him, because he rushed over to tell her how sorry he was, how he never meant to hurt her, that from now on she could do whatever she wanted.
My Mom loved to tell her granddaughters this story, reading from her 1946 diary, describing in detail the dresses she sewed for each college banquet and recital. When my daughter got up to pass on this memory to the Roseville Calvary Baptist crowd that day, the sedate congregation transformed with glistening eyes into a gentler set of mourners, remembering a more complex girl and woman who had filled her kitchen and home with nurturing food and art from Portugal to Iowa, who wore Jackie Kennedy suits made of Champs-Élysées-bought pink wool, who blessed her guests with meals and music and stories from a life well lived.
From now on you can do whatever you want? Wow. I confess I never saw this egalitarian and feminist side of my Dad, but it's good to know that love can open one's heart and mind to embrace sentiments not evident in Catechismal training. As for the letter from a broken-hearted girl to her future groom? What can I say...I would not be here otherwise.
6 JULY 2019