I think my mother was the happiest person in Sandpoint the day longtime family friend Skip Pucci took her for a spin in the Fourth of July Parade with his horse and cart. Skip told me at the time that he liked to pick someone special to join him in the parade each year.
The 2006 parade was Mother's turn. We all helped see that she looked like a million dollars in her Western outfit and that she got to Skip's house in time to climb aboard for one of the many memorable "rides of her life."
On this fourth year anniversary since her death, this photo epitomizes how I choose to remember her and more than likely how so many others think of our mom. We remember and we miss her dearly.
I miss the passion, the fire and, at times, wicked but always fun sense of humor. I miss her sophistication, and her tendency always to set the bar for us to what seemed like at least three feet higher than what our peers experienced.
To say she was a spitfire is truly an understatement. Occasionally some of us would incur her wrath. Not fun but that was our mother, and I don't think any of us kids harbors any regrets about her style of mothering. We all knew she loved us and and fiercely so.
I especially miss all that she taught us through example about caring for and loving animals, be they cats, dogs, cows or horses.
I also miss her zest for life. Even in her final days, she exhibited determination and truly believed she was going to get better. In my mind, that's the way to live a life.
Our mother died on a beautiful morning just like this one, and I'm not so sure that she didn't plan it that way.
After all, most of us were involved in horse activities at the time of her passing, and that very week she and her beloved mare Cricket had appeared on the cover of The River Journal.
It was Mother's style to go out that way.
I've thought of Mother a lot in the past few weeks not only because of this anniversary but also because one of her longtime dear friends passed away on my birthday June 25.
Helen Poelstra was a dear family friend who, as long as I can remember, admired our mother just as we did.
Like Mother, Helen was a consummate animal lover. She worked for Doc Eakin, the local veterinarian, during her young adult years.
One of her first horses came from our farm. His name was Darkie, and Helen rode him when she reigned as Bonner County Rodeo Queen in the mid-1950s.
Helen eventually married Rennie Poelstra, and our family members always remember the weekly Helen and Rennie visits to the farm on North Boyer.
Eventually, they had a daughter named Lynn, born the same year as our brother Jim. Lynn went on from high school to the University of Washington where she played volleyball.
During our recent trip to Ireland, I corresponded via Facebook with Lynn and sent her a couple of photos of her mom. One, ironically, was taken at our mother's celebration of life four years ago. Lynn used that photo of her mom when she wrote the announcement of her passing.
And, when my oldest brother read about Helen, he penned a beautiful remembrance:
I'm saddened to read of this. Although I've not seen Helen in recent years, I've always regarded her as a kind, thoughtful person. She's one of a very few people that I've encountered who, as far as I know, never harbored even the slightest of ill will toward anyone.
She was a reliable, continuing friend to Mother from the time that I can remember. I don't remember a time when she wasn't a part of our family's life.
I'm sure that she has passed quietly from this earth, but she will have done so with the greatest accolade that one person can offer another: She was a good person. Her husband Rennie and her daughter Lynn are in my prayers.
All so true of Helen Poelstra. I have no doubt that by now she and Mother and Harold have probably gotten together to renew their longtime friendship where horse talk and animals reigned supreme for all.
We lost another close family friend in June. Carol Mundell lived on Selle Road. She loved horses and passed along that passion to her granddaughter Melissa who spent a lot of time at the Tibbs farm while growing up.
Carol was a quiet person but outwardly very giving and generous with her time. I also knew her through the Selle Club and, of course, through the many horse activities she attended.
The last time I saw Carol she stood as a proud grandmother, happily hosting the wedding of Melissa at their beautiful farm. It was a very rainy day, but that did not dampen the happiness that abounded at that family event.
The Mundell family had another tie with our family. As our mother progressed to the point where living alone in her home was presenting some rather insurmountable challenges, Carol's very caring daughter-in-law Rose stepped in and "saved the day." Her warm and loving nature provided great help to Mother.
And so, the wonderful matriarch of the Mundell family has also passed, but her good works and her positive influence will not be forgotten.
Finally, this morning, as I think of Mother, I must mention another loss. Helen Whittaker, also a beloved matriarch, passed away a few days ago.
Helen and her husband Dick were instrumental in my early relationship with Bill, providing their beautiful home on the Pend Oreille River for a gathering when I had first met my husband-to-be at the 1973 Boy Scout Jamboree.
The bonfire on Whittaker's beach, Helen singing to us on a moonlit summer night, Bill playing "Shenandoah" on his harmonica-----what more could one ask for in a storybook romance?
Later, Helen and Dick would join us for dinner the night we were engaged. Afterward, we went to the Senior Ball where their daughter Holly had organized the decorations. Our engagement was announced at the ball.
Good memories and always wonderful memories later on as Helen and I would together or talk on the phone, enjoying long and provocative conversations. She was a brilliant, beautiful and very private person.
So, what does her story have to do with remembering Mother? Helen's daughter Glory and I talked on the phone the other day. In that conversation, Glory told me she had written a note after our mother died but never sent it.
She also told me that she still had the note.
"Well, send it," I said. "I'll reciprocate."
This morning note has been sent to my siblings as a gift of sorts as we remember our mother today.
Glory offered a bit different perspective on our mother from any I've ever read.
Even though she never saw Mother very often, her first meeting left a lasting impression:
I was just a kid and, I admit, I was actually a little scared of her. She wasn’t mean, but she talked to me! She spoke directly at me; up close. Adults (other than my parents) usually didn’t talk to me that way, especially when other adults were around.
Not only did she talk to me, she made jokes and poked fun (at you I think) and her dry wit was unexpected and made me laugh. I can still see her in my mind’s eye: short and funny with bright lips and very different from my mom. She was a little person with a big personality.
What a treasure that observation of Mother is on this morning! And what a treasure the other women mentioned in this morning's post have been in my life and in the lives of so many others.
As I told my siblings, we can never understimate the impact we have on others, even with what appear to be fleeting moments.
All these ladies in their own ways had tremendous impact on others, leaving behind cherished legacies of respect, admiration and daily inspiration.
They will be missed but never forgotten.