Friday, July 23, 2010

Saying Goodbye

My mom was a gardener, not only of plants but of people. She implanted seeds in her children's souls that have borne fruit in all our lives -- seeds of intellectual curiosity, the love of reading, of the fun of learning new things.

Once when I was complaining,"Why do we have to do all this homework," she replied, "Because it's more fun to know about things than it is to not know about things."

When we moved my parents from Odessa to Fort Worth in 2004, I dug up all my mother's iris and day lilies and transplanted them to my garden so she could still enjoy at least part of her garden after the move.



Mom died Thursday, July 22, just as the last of her day lilies was about to bloom.






Julia Hettie Sayer Sherrod was 92. With the help of Community Hospice she slipped very gently from sleep into heaven.

In addition to the standing ovation I am sure she received from the angels, she was certainly greeted by her beloved Alan, my dad and her husband of nearly 63 years. He died in 2005.



This all happened rather quickly. On the 4th of July, we took her to the hospital with what turned out to be a blood clot in her leg.







Early in that stay she was in pretty good humor. Once when my brother Michael opened the blinds and the light was too bright, she borrowed his sunglasses. We all agreed it was a good look for her.


We got the blood clot and the resultant pneumonia resolved and she was moved to a rehab facility. But on Tuesday she had a stroke. She could not speak, her right side was very compromised and she began having several seizures.


She was barely conscious, but when I placed her rosary in her left hand, she immediately began fingering the beads. So I sat down beside her and began saying the rosary into her ear. As I did so, she began sliding the beads between her fingers.





Mom was born September 15, 1917, in Black River, New York. She graduated from Black River High School at age 16.


In 2007, she and I traveled to upstate New York for the Sayer Family Reunion so she could see all her siblings - Colin, Dot and Bill -- all of whom are still alive and well.


The Official Sayer Reunion T-shirt.

The Fab Four.




Mom with her older brother Colin.


And with her sister Dot (Dorothy).



And her baby brother Bill.


We also visited the graves of her mother, Colice Sayer, and her grandmother, Frances Caulfield.

She showed me the impressive Black River.




It is a beautiful swift running river containing more water than any river she saw for years in Texas.


Mom's life was a rich one. Following graduation from the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing in Albany in 1939, she was awarded a fellowship to St. Louis University where she received her Bachelor of Science Degree in nursing education in June 1942.

Mom and Dad at their graduations from medical and nursing school.

While she was in school, she managed a hospital and taught nursing at St. Louis University as well as at an African American nursing school. She was an excellent surgical nurse. One day in 1941 when a young surgeon named Vincent Alan Sherrod collapsed while preparing to do surgery, Judy rushed over to help him. It was the beginning of a lifelong romance. On September 8, 1942, they married.


The engagement announcement

Mom was the major wage earner while Dad completed a three-year residency in surgery at Missouri Pacific Hospital. He then joined the U.S. Army and was immediately diagnosed with tuberculosis. Unlike today, TB usually was a death sentence. Mom cared for him during his long convalescence and for the rest of his life, Dad often said it was her determination and support that kept him alive.



Helping Alan heal.


In 1949, Judy and Alan moved to Iraan, TX, at the request of his uncle, Frank Bascom, who worked for the Ohio Oil Company, later the Marathon Oil Company. Physicians were desperately needed in West Texas, and the oil company offered to pay for the move and set them up in practice if they would move their young family west.


Mom with her firstborn, Daniel Alan Sherrod.


And with her second son, Peter Stewart Sherrod.


And with me, her only daughter, Colice Kathryn Sherrod.



And finally with her baby, Michael Sayer Sherrod.


West Texas was in the midst of a several-year’s drought when they arrived. One can only imagine Mom’s reaction to the sere landscape after growing up in the lush beauty of upstate New York. She and Dad and the four of us lived through epic dust storms that took the paint off the side of cars and buildings.




Their first clinic in Iraan.

At the time, there were no physicians at all for three huge West Texas counties around Iraan. Mom and Dad worked as a team to deliver health care to the thousands of people in that isolated part of Texas. In 1957, they built a clinic in Iraan.


The clinic they built in 1957

Mom successfully wrote grants to establish a Well-Baby Clinic in Sheffield, TX, where she and Dad immunized the infants and children in these counties and taught young mothers to feed and care for their children. She also founded the Iraan Public Library. She and Dad were instrumental in establishing the Iraan Hospital.

Mom was a moving force in getting Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops established in Iraan. She was a member of the Iraan Garden Club, whose members were the embodiment of the triumph of hope over adversity, given the challenges of growing anything at all during the drought years. When three of us were in Catholic boarding schools in Austin and San Antonio, Mom drove 600 miles round trip to see us every weekend.

Mom, as the only other licensed health care practitioner in the area, often functioned as would a nurse practitioner today because Dad was so often away at the hospital in Fort Stockton or making house calls to remote ranches. While he was away, she ran the clinic and triaged the patients, taking the most seriously ill to Fort Stockton when necessary.

Once she had men secure an oil field worker with a broken back onto her ironing board and carefully load him into the back seat of her big car. Then she loaded us four kids into the car and drove us all to the hospital in Fort Stockton where my dad was doing surgery.

We saw this kind of thing all the time. People instinctively turned to Mom when they needed help. She exuded competence and calm.

M parents were devout Catholics, driving 30 miles to either McCamey or Rankin to attend Catholic Mass because there was no Catholic Church in Iraan. When they moved from Iraan to Odessa, they donated their clinic building to the Catholic Church, who turned it into St. Francis Catholic Church.

In Odessa, Mom continued to manage Dad's medical practice while also volunteering at Catholic Charities and serving as long-time treasurer at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

Mom and Dad and Mom's beloved Scottie, Ian.



She was a member of the Odessa Garden Club, continuing her interest in gardening – an interest she passed on to me. She read widely and voraciously and was a published poet.


After she and I traveled together to China in the early 1980s, she recorded her impressions of the trip in poetry.




Mom and me at the Registan in Samarkand.


We also traveled to Russia and Uzbekistan, because she had always wanted to go to Samarkand.




Here we are in the spice market in Samarkand.



Mom at the Bibi-Khanym Mausoleum

She and Dad also traveled extensively, making trips to Ireland, Europe, South America, New Zealand and Australia, and the Far East. In 1981, she accompanied Dad when the Odessa College Jazz Band (in which he played saxophone) toured in Mexico. Mom’s purse became famous on that trip. Out of it she produced a needle and thread to repair a band member’s trousers just before the curtain was to go up at the Mexico City concert; a small bottle of pure water for taking pills; a small bottle of Pepto-Bismol; and many tissues when allergies attacked the band. Judy was always prepared.


The clan gathered at their 50th wedding anniversary
Mom was preceded in death by our father, who died in 2005.

Mom is survived by her children, Dan Sherrod of Richardson and his wife Patricia; Dr. Peter Sherrod of Plano; Katie Sherrod of Fort Worth, and her husband, the Rev. Gayland Pool; and Michael Sherrod of Fort Worth and his wife, Dr. Melissa McIntire Sherrod; two brothers, Colin and William Sayer; a sister, Dorothy Sayer Foltz; nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren.


With Gavin Patrick Judge, her third great-grandchild, at Thanksgiving 2004. Her great grandchildren called her G-G Mom, for Great Grandmom.


For her 90th birthday party, her grandson Nicholas made her an amazing three-tiered cake.




Serenading Mom

And now, while we all rejoice that she is at peace, we know we will miss her every day of the rest of our lives.

Well done, Mom.

We love you.

Rest in peace.

13 comments:

Caminante said...

Katie, your loving tribute to your mother brings tears to my eyes. You continue in my prayers... your mother who got that well-earned standing ovation and you, her remarkable and wonderful daughter.

Thomas Squiers said...

I did not know your mother, but I thank you for sharing your memories of her and stories about her life with me. What a full life she had! What a legacy she leaves behind!

ROBERTA said...

what a beautiful tribute for your amazing mother. that picture of her hand holding the rosary is so touching. peace to you.

EHC said...

What a remarkable and delightful lady!
Rest eternal grant her, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon her.

Judy Alter said...

Wonderful tribute, Katie. I had a really good student from Iraan years ago--I'm sure she knew your parents. Who could not? They sound like a remarkable couple, and now I know you get your strength, compassion, and dedication from her (as if I ever doubted it).

Muthah+ said...

Thank you for this wonderful memorial of your mother. We came to TX the same year your parents did. Those were still sort of pioneer days for W. TX. I love hearing about how she did not shield you from the difficult things in life. She taught you how to deal with them. And the faith of your parents shows in you.

Resquiat in pacem

Kelly @ Impowerage said...

For what it means from a stranger, I'm sorry for your loss. She had an incredible life and she helped out so many people. It must come as somewhat of a comfort to know she lived life to the fullest

KelSus said...

What a beautifully crafted homage to your lovely Mom. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

Katherine E. said...

I loved reading this. Thank you for posting it...

AnnBarbie said...

Katie,

So sorry to hear of your loss! What a wonderful memorial to your mom.

Pati said...

I literally have tears rolling down my face and can hardly see the keyboard... I lost my Mother to colon cancer 2 yrs ago and it is still so vivid. Your post was just so beautiful and moving. Thanks, Pati Hennard in Va. Beach, Va. formerly of Fort Worth, Tx.

BU LLS said...

Wow. I felt like I was right there through your mom's hard yet blessed life! I enjoyed the story of her life! I was looking for Dr.Peter Sharrod of Plano,tx and stumbled apon your post. He was our ped. through several of my children and a wanted to write him to say he is missed!!! If this is your brother, please give him my email tracy@wideright.net, I would love to send him a hello and picture of the kids he helped me raise! Lol. I see where he got his calm demeaner dealing will all i thought was emergancies if he grow up with it all as just another day! God Bless, I look forward to reading your other posts! Tracy M.

BU LLS said...

Wow. I felt like I was right there through your mom's hard yet blessed life! I enjoyed the story of her life! I was looking for Dr.Peter Sharrod of Plano,tx and stumbled apon your post. He was our ped. through several of my children and a wanted to write him to say he is missed!!! If this is your brother, please give him my email tracy@wideright.net, I would love to send him a hello and picture of the kids he helped me raise! Lol. I see where he got his calm demeaner dealing will all i thought was emergancies if he grow up with it all as just another day! God Bless, I look forward to reading your other posts! Tracy M.