My mom passed away a little over a week ago. I’m writing about it for at least two reasons, first the emotional release, and secondly to let folks know that we Christians have hope – beyond death.
I will insert a brief summary below so you can know a little about my mom. I’ve written about her in the past, and said mainly that a son’s relationship with his mother is a very complex thing. Folks have asked if I was a “Momma’s boy” and I have to answer in all truthfulness that I was. However, it’s not in the sense that you might think. Mom raised me to be a gentleman, and she raised me to be smart and to think and to try to use wisdom and discretion in each and every situation that I came across.
When I went through drugs and alcohol in High School, she was there, providing the right amount of supervision to make sure I didn’t kill myself. As any parent knows, you cannot control your kids, you can only make “Suggestions” for how they might best navigate their way through life, and my mom was full of suggestions and good advice. Mostly, she was just full of love and understanding. She never chastised me or told me I was no good, or that I couldn’t do something. In fact, just the opposite is true: She always believed in me, and told me things like: “You can do anything you want to in this life, if that’s what you decide to do.”
Those kinds of things are very empowering to a young man, especially when the father is somewhat the opposite personality. Don’t get me wrong, I hated my father for a number of years, and blamed him for my troubles, but I eventually grew out of that too, and forgave him – everything – and came to love him as well for who he was.
But this is about my mother. Mom, as I said, was always there. Whether it was from my earliest experiences as a boy growing up and going to swim workouts, and school, and about a thousand different activities, mom was ALWAYS there. She went to every swim meet, even on into High School, when we had meets a couple times a week, and Water Polo games, and all that stuff. She was my biggest fan and always my greatest asset in my corner.
Don’t get me wrong, mom was far from perfect, and she’d be the first person to admit that to you. But, she tried hard to support me (and my sister) in whatever we did, and she never had a harsh word when we failed at something (which we both did alot, me quite a bit more than my sister). I crashed hard after my first attempt at College. I wound up in a drug rehab facility, but mom was there as my “Co-addict”. Can you believe that? She went through all that counseling and group therapy with me, just because she loved me. I’m sure she got something out of it too, you can’t go through that kind of thing and not be changed, but she did it for me, not for herself.
Then, she supported me in my first marriage, and my divorce, and she again supported me in my second (last!) marriage to the woman the Lord picked out for me. She supported me 100% when I became a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, and she came to my Baptism in Washington and bought me my first Bible. After all that, and after losing her father and her third husband on the same day in 1980, she went back to the church and became a regular member of American Martyrs Catholic Church in Manhattan Beach for near 30 years at the end of her life. Attending mass, and praying were parts of who she was.
Her entire life had not been devoted to the Lord, and I found out why some years back. She confessed to Cheryl (my wife) and I that as a little girl growing up in Hollywood, she remembered how, during the depression, the “Men in suits” came to the door (elders from Hollywood Presbyterian) to collect the $0.10 for Sunday School and they scared the heck out of her! Funny how those things that happen to us when we are very small can leave a life-long impression on us. But, she became confirmed in the Catholic Church along about 1976 when she married my step-dad Mike Bates (her third husband). They even had to get a special dispensation from Rome since Mike’s first wife had died in the 1960’s but even still – you had to get that “Permission” from Rome to have a “Holy matrimony” again I guess.
Sorry, I’m not mocking the Catholic Church, though I don’t hold with most of their views. But again, I digress.
Mom was married to Mike for just those few short years from 1976 to 1980, but he made a big impression on me as well. He was big and gentle, and firm all at the same time. He had been a Naval Aviator, back in the 1930’s when Naval Aviation was just getting off the ground so to speak. Mom loved him, and they taught me how to play Cribbage. When I met Cheryl and found out she knew how to play Cribbage as well, that was just icing on the cake pretty much. It’s a fun game, but the number of folks who know how to play are getting fewer and further between it seems.
So mom was always there for me, through the tough times and the good. She was there to welcome both my kids into the world, and she was there to support them in all their endeavors as well. Most recently, she attended my daughter Talya’s wedding in Colorado, at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. We had Talya’s Wedding Celebration at the outdoor Chapel up there, at 8,000 feet elevation if you can believe that! Mom was 80 years old and made it up there for that! I was always proud of my mom, and she has taught me many lessons about perseverance and determination just by the fact of the things she did.
She was a strong and independent woman, she didn’t cry easily, and she wasn’t hurt easily. She managed to take most things in stride, and had that resilient capacity to always be willing to forgive. She did not, however, forget mistakes. My father, after he was divorced from his third wife, came back into my mother’s life and wanted to marry her again, but she refused. She still enjoyed his company, and they were friends until he passed in 2000, but she never gave in to him again, despite the fact they were High School sweethearts.
Life is filled with twists and turns, and mom navigated them with grace and dignity. She very seldom complained, and always had kind words for just about everyone. She got along well with most folks, and operated as a landlord for over 45 years and I never once knew about her being in court trying to settle a dispute with some irate tenant. In fact, to this day, I don’t know she ever had any irate tenants. She had bad ones, those who had to be evicted, but they never sued her or took her to court. She always gave grace to the very last, and absorbed losses rather than trying to be vindictive in order to get money from folks who were clearly not able to pay her.
Cheryl and I had started to pray back in 2007, after mom had two surgeries and radiation for Breast Cancer, whether we should move in with her to help take care of her. The Lord answered that prayer in 2010, by taking away our house and most of our stuff, but making us able to move to California (from Colorado) to be with mom, and help take care of her in her “Sunset” years. It was a rare privilege I would say, to get to take care of her and help her when she was in decline. Mom had Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and yes, she was a Cancer survivor too. She had no memory issues prior to those surgeries and the Cancer diagnosis in 2007, so we believe it was either the surgery or the radiation that took away her short term memory.
But mom fought, and she persevered. She gained some use of her short term memory back, and she never forgot who my sister or I were. She made it through Christmas, 2014 and she was very animated and alert and talkative that day. She was “Bubbly” in fact I would say. She chattered away even though most of us couldn’t understand much of what she was saying. You have to listen close I would tell folks, and then you can get the gist of what she’s trying to tell you. With Alzheimer’s, the person knows they know something, but they cannot remember the exact words, so things come out a bit garbled, but if you’re quick, and a good translator, and you know the person, you can usually figure most things out.
After Christmas, the decline, however, accelerated. My sister Toni and I noticed it, and then she crashed hard on Monday, January 12. She went into a distressed state, and the nurse thought we were going to lose her that night. She called us, and Toni and I spent about 3 hours with mom that night. They gave her oxygen for comfort, and that stabilized her for the final week of her life. We knew the end was approaching, as she lost her ability to swallow at that time. Swallowing is not a reflex, you have to consciously swallow stuff, and if you lose control over those muscles, you quickly lose the ability to eat. She did not desire to be “Kept” alive with any sort of machines or tubes, so she bravely stayed in her bed that final week fighting the impulse – of 87 years conditioning – to get up and out of that bed.
The last week was hard, as I’m sure most who’ve lost loved ones can tell you. But, we kept our resolve, as we knew it to be what mom wanted, and we visited and talked with her as much as possible, though she lost the ability to communicate completely in that final week. There was a glorious gift, however, from the Lord during that week. Cheryl and I were visiting the Tuesday after her collapse, and mom was only able to mumble at that point. The Lord opened my ears completely at one point though and enabled me to hear mom’s final confession! She told me: “You know I was mad at God for many years”. Cheryl swears it was gibberish, but I heard it as plain as I’m typing to you now!
I told mom: “I know mom.” You see, The Lord brought to mind instantly that day in 1980 when her father and her husband both passed away on the same day. She had been traveling the country with Mike in their motor home, when her father went into the hospital in Hollywood and died of Pneumonia. She got on a plane that very evening to come home to be at her father’s Memorial Service, when they called her a couple days later and told her that Mike had died of a Heart Attack. We had to fly out to Rapid City, South Dakota with mom and bring back the motor home. Now I didn’t find this out until just this past year, but apparently, Mike had died on the very same day as mom’s dad. He died literally while she was in the air coming home to be at her dad’s grave side. That was very rough!
So as I sat with my mother who could no longer get out of her bed or communicate, I told mom that I knew what she was talking about, and I also said to her: “It’s OK mom, our God is a very big God and He can handle our anger. And besides, He forgave all that on the Cross as well.” She smiled and nodded. It was just a huge gift, almost indescribable that I was able to be there for my mom, at that critical point in her life, to help her have total peace with God before she left this earth and went to be with Him in Heaven!
Her passing was quiet. The Friday night before she passed, Cheryl and I prayed fervently to the Lord that He would be merciful, and graceful, and give her strength for the trial. The kind of strength and resolve we are talking about is not to keep going (on this earth), but rather to sit patiently and wait for the Lord’s voice to call her home. By Sunday, she was barely hanging on. I knew if there was ever a time that I needed to say “Goodbye” to my mom – that was it.
But, I decided I was not going to say it. Instead I told her: “Mom, I’m not going to say ‘Goodbye’ to you. Instead, I’ll say ‘I’ll be seeing ya.'” Not only did I not want to ever say a “Final” Goodbye to my mother, the one person who knew me best on this earth, I instead wanted to convey to her that I really and truly would see her again – in glory. Because of the Lord’s precious gift in her last days, and the fact that I know she had peace with God, I am completely assured that I will see my mother again in Heaven.
I prayed with her that Sunday afternoon, read scripture and sang songs to her, and I told her that she had nothing left undone or unsaid here. There was absolutely no reason for her to try to hang on I told her. I talked with her about listening for the Lord’s voice. “When He calls mom,” I told her “just go, OK?” I assured her there was no reason for her to be worried, she had left an enduring legacy for all of us. She raised her head off the pillow four times that afternoon to let me know she heard me.
I never mentioned to her, nor to anyone else except my wife Cheryl, but it was during the month of December, before Christmas, I had a dream of my step-dad Mike, dancing like crazy! He was so excited that mom was coming home! That was a gift from the Lord as well.
So, mom left this earth behind that Sunday night. It was actually a little after midnight the Hospice care-giver said. Mom was peaceful and she passed gently into the arms of our Savior Jesus Christ.
I am saying to you now, dear reader, that you too can have peace with God, as my mother did. We may not all have the opportunity to live out such a long and experience filled life as my mother did. We may not all be surrounded by loved ones at the end, and we may not all, in fact, pass gently from this life. But we can all still share in that peace with God that my mother had. She didn’t just have it at the end either, what I call her “Final Confession” was really just that, it didn’t cause her to get “Right with God” then and there, no, she knew God most of her life (by her own admission) and she believed in Jesus Christ and that He had the power to forgive sin. Her final confession with me was just about the one unresolved incident in her life that she felt might be getting in the way of her relationship with our Savior, so she let it go and found total peace and assurance. That is indeed something rare in this life, but much to be desired!
I hope and I pray for you all that you can have that same peace today and know Jesus as my mother and I do. In the end, I chose not to say “Goodbye” to my mom for a number of reasons. I’m very fortunate that I know I will see her again, and that she taught me about unconditional love that is very much like our Savior Jesus’ love for us. May His love become real for you today and may it bring peace. In Jesus’ name.
Obituary – Beverly E. Bates – 1927 – 2015 – Manhattan Beach Resident
Beverly Evone Bates, “Bev”, born Beverly Evone Henshey, September 3, 1927 in Hollywood, California, passed from this life on January 19, 2015. She is now with our Lord forever. Beverly was a near lifetime resident of the Los Angeles area. Born and raised in Hollywood, she grew up on Hollywood Blvd., back in the magical days of the film industry. She related how one of her fondest memories was roller-skating down Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards under the glittering lights of the big theaters.
Her maternal grandmother owned a beach flat in Hermosa Beach, and as a little girl she came down on weekends to live at the beach. She would ride the Big Red cars and the Yellow Cars that ran down along the beach. She eventually moved down here to live at the beach where she attended Redondo Union High School and graduated in 1945. Her High School sweetheart went off to fight in WWII in 1943, so she worked at various jobs during the war including at a bomber factory qualifying her for the honorable title “Rosie the Riveter”.
Following the war, she married her first husband, but that marriage did not last. Later, in 1951, her High School sweetheart showed up, after also losing his first marriage, and Beverly became Mrs. Antoine deBeaubien (his nickname was “Beau”) for a period of about 25 years. During that time, she shuttled her two children to all kinds of activities including Swimming, Water Polo, Ballet, Music Lessons, and so on. She also served as PTA President at Opal B. Robinson Elementary School in Manhattan Beach. She was always active and involved in many activities and was a very organized and helpful person.
Being a home-maker was hardly her only occupation, she acquired business skills and financial savvy from her grandmother and took the inheritance from her grandmother’s estate and bought an apartment building that she owned for over 45 years on Highland Ave. near Marine St. in Manhattan Beach. She owned a couple of other apartment buildings for a time, one of which is still part of her estate in Redondo Beach. Her tenants liked her, and there were never any she had problems with. Honest and fair, she stuck to her principles which were grounded in salt of the earth pragmatism that you would expect from a child who grew up in the Great Depression.
Her later years were filled with a third, albeit short, marriage to Mike Bates, another local beach resident who also brought her to a strong faith at American Martyrs Catholic Church in Manhattan Beach. Confirmed in 1976, and with a special dispensation from Rome, Bev and Mike were married in Hawaii and later traveled the lower 48 states in their motorhome for a couple years. Tragedy, however, struck in 1980 when Bev’s father and husband both passed away on the same day. It was a very difficult time she would always say.
But she persisted in her faith, attending regularly Saturday afternoon Mass, and faithfully contributing to the growth of the church in her community. She maintained her active lifestyle with time serving with the Neptunian Women’s Club (one of the oldest clubs in Manhattan Beach) and was a President there during the 1980’s. Bev loved the arts and attended many local performances of both small theater and music. She bowled and maintained her health also by walking every day for over 45 years. She loved her dogs, spending much of her later years with just her friends, dogs and neighbors.
In 2007, she was diagnosed with Alzeheimer’s / Dementia, following surgeries and treatment for arthritis and Breast Cancer. She persevered and stayed in her home with the help of her children until 2013 when she went to live at Silverado Senior Community in Redondo Beach. She enjoyed her time there and was greatly loved by all the staff, who will fondly remember her “Tweety bird” whistle as well as her abundant personality.
She passed just after midnight, at Silverado, on January 19, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday holiday, so it is appropriate to quote the Reverend and say “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty – free at last!” Bev is survived by her two adult children, “Toni” (Antoinette Crichton, Manhattan Beach), and Scott (Scott deBeaubien, Manhattan Beach) and their spouses Rod Raynovich and Cheryl deBeaubien, and four Grandchildren, George, Stewart, Alex and Talya.