It seems like she should still be here walking out into her gardens in Mount Airy, but she has been gone for six years and five months. If my mother were still alive today she would one hundred years old. She had no desire to reach one hundred.
Her life was all about living and adjusting to a life inside a room was hard for her, but she managed that transition just as she had taken care of many others in her amazing life.
I felt honored to know my mother, much less have her as a mother. She was born around a mill pond in Yadkin County, NC. Her family, the Styers, have been in North Carolina since around the time of the American Revolution.
She grew up fast, having to take over the cooking for the family at the ripe old age of nine when her mother died. She told me that the frying pan she used for the biscuits was so heavy that she had to get her older brother Henry to put it in the oven of the wood stove.
Her formal education ended before she finished school, but she was a student of life. She went on to beauty school and ran a beauty shop on Main St. in Mount Airy, NC. She was an avid reader, cook, and gardener. She was a fierce advocate of her extended family.
She made sure that many of my cousins had what they needed to go to school. My cousins have told me that she provided the only Christmas that they had some years. She even deposited one of my cousins at Oak Ridge Military School. She believed in education, but it was one of her golden rules that you had to want your own education. There was no money for good grades in our house.
Mother always said what was on her mind, often without any filtering as she got older. Still she lived by her word. If she said she was going to do something, she did it, but she also kept score. If you wronged her or another member of the family she would likely remember it.
She would and did give people in need anything that she could. She never expected anything in return except for them to keep their word. Though her standards were high, she did not ask anyone to be perfect. She was well aware that she had her own challenges. She did always expect everyone to give a task their best effort. She did not know how to do anything less.
She worked harder than any human being I have ever known. Her gardens in Mount Airy were her true love. After giving up the beauty and dedicating herself to taking care of my father who had a stroke, she poured her soul into the gardens, and they showed it. Flowers knew better than to not grow under her care.
She loved the mountains and beaches of North Carolina. Fried oysters were her favorite seafood dish. She also loved to throw parties. She was a master at organization, often making a dinner for thirty look like a cake walk. No one has ever duplicated her fried chicken.
As I scroll through my wonderful memories of mother, it is impossible not to miss her. She was the type of person who wove herself into your life. Her support and love brought my wife and I through some tough times. She was always there when we needed her.
Though sometimes she could offend people, her love of her family was as genuine as it gets. Her grandchildren were treasures to her, and she spoiled them as much as she could given her age.
Still she never hung onto the past and was always ready for a new challenge or the next phase of life. She lived life so large, that is impossible for memories of her not to linger especially on what would have been her 100th birthday.
Today is one of those days when I am sure she has been with us. A lot of good things happened when she was around, so I suspect she has been helping us today once again. Too many things went the right way today that needed a guiding hand.
So once again from the heart, I will say, "Thanks mom for the memories and all that you did for us."