Grace and the Unexpected

Jun 27, 2016 | Lifestuff

Last week I returned home after being with my mother at the end of her life. It was, of course, a time of great sadness and reflection. Once home,  I walked though my gardens and the plantings in my “loggery” garden caught my eye. I’d planned this year’s color scheme to be purple, white and pink. The dahlia I’d planted in the grouping at the top was labeled as pink but the pot clearly contained both pink and red plants. There it was, the unexpected red flower, surprising, glaringly different, and not necessarily welcomed.

Like so many things in this time, it reminded me of my mother.


In my mother’s life there was a continued reprise of dealing with the unforeseen. Janice Gray married her high school sweetheart, Jim Albertson, and expected to live into old age with him. They planned to travel after their children left home. This didn’t happen. He died in his early 40’s and she never remarried. Almost fifty years after his death, my mom told my brother, “I just still love your father.”

Janice Gray and Jim Albertson in high school.

Janice Gray and Jim Albertson before they got married.

My mother had five children and expected to leave this world before all of them. This didn’t happen. Two of her sons, Richard and Charles, died before she did.

Janice and Jim at a Purina retreat for professionals. Jan was pregnant with Richard on that trip.

Janice and Jim at a Purina retreat for professionals. Jan was pregnant with Richard on that trip.

My mom expected to live in her beloved cottage on Sunset lake until she died. That didn’t happen and she had to sell the cottage and move into assisted living.  My mother thought she’d always be able to live with the companionship of a dog, but that didn’t happen. Her lovely poodle, Honey, died while she was in a nursing home and once she got better she discovered that in assisted living, you weren’t allowed to have pets.

My mother always loved dogs.

My mother always loved dogs.

My mother was an early proponent of “health foods” and supplements. She believed that “you are what you eat” and, being an organic gardener, expected to be healthy into old age. That didn’t happen. She got cancer, diabetes and associated nerve pain, along with assorted other undiagnosed problems. She lost her hearing and eyesight, which made her connections with the world very limited.

She expected to be financially stable through retirement and old age. That didn’t happen, and in the three months before she died, learned that the assisted living facility where she’d been for over six years was forcing her to move from her long-time apartment, her home, into a smaller room because she was going into Wisconsin community care.

 When I visited her in April she had a morning of clarity. We talked about her life, my kids, and gardens. She had her hair done in the nursing home salon, and I took this photo.

When I visited her in April she had a morning of clarity. We talked about her life, my kids, and gardens. She had her hair done in the nursing home salon, and I took this photo.

In listing all of these trials, I’m not in any way suggesting that my mother’s life was only a series of hardships because it wasn’t. She had many pleasurable days, years and joyful experiences. There were dozens of loving family members, friends and other caring people surrounding her.

But I realize too that faced with so many unanticipated ordeals and difficulties, many people would have become bitter and disillusioned. Many would have become cranky, withdrawn, or constantly apprehensive. My mother never did. She grieved, dealt with what she was given, and moved on. Through it all she found a way to move forward with life-affirming grace.

Grace as a noun is defined as elegance, politeness, a pleasing quality and generosity of spirit. Grace as a verb means to contribute pleasingly to something, or to add elegance.

My mother was a gardener. She would have been annoyed but accepting, and ultimately amused or delighted, by a surprising red flower in a purple, pink and white color scheme, because no matter what flourished, died, or developed unexpectedly, she handled it genially. Whatever she cultivated, Janice Albertson did it with grace.



  1. Karen Levine

    Just beautiful CL. Deeply moving. It is a real gift to be able to wrap words around such complicated feelings. I think your mother would have found comfort in your words. She was lucky to have you,…as are we. Much love Karen

  2. steve albertson

    Absolutely spot-on. Thank you for putting into words what was in my heart.
    Steve Albertson

  3. Terry

    So sorry for your loss. You were sown from good seed, nurtured well and grew strong and true.

  4. Robera Clark

    Oh C.L., such a loving tribute. My heart goes out to you.

  5. Nancy Daniels

    SO sorry for your loss, C.L. Thank you for sharing your mom with all of us!

  6. Ann McCormick

    My hart goes out to you, C.L., in this difficult time. It reminds me of the sorrow mixed with loving thoughts I had when my mother died in 2014. I will pray for you as you go through this grieving.

  7. Barbara Anderson

    A great description of your mom.There was a calm accepting nature about her. I always felt empowered around her

  8. kate copsey

    Lovely post.

  9. Theresa Forte

    Sniff, sniff…such a heartfelt tribute, beautifully written. Your mother reminds me a lot of my own mother, who also wore the mantle of old age with grace. We seldom heard a complaint. My heart goes out to you…Theresa

  10. Becky Heath

    Thank you, CL for introducing us to your mother. You are very fortunate to have had that type of person show you the way she dealt with the good parts of life and others that were disappointing. We could all learn from her and her graceful approach to day-to-day living. It was a lovely tribute. Thanks for sharing. Becky

  11. Joyce Jenks

    A blessing that your garden provided you peace and the ability to wrap your words around your admiration of your mom. Our gardens DO show us the unexpected, but mostly they provide hope that what we plant we will be able to nurture, support and enjoy for a long time… our family members.

  12. Christopher VanCleave

    Grace indeed. What a beautiful tribute to your mom. She leaves a rich legacy.

  13. Stanley Young

    Oh My Dear CL, That tribute was the most beautiful I have ever seen. You did such a magnficient job!!. WONDERFUL !!!. Janice was 9 years older than me. Which means she got married at 18 and went away, when I was only 10.. I still have fond memories of how she took care of us kids, especially when our wonderful Mother was sick with those awful migranes. I never had much of a chance to see Jan for many years, but as we got older we did get together much more.. We even took a Cruise of the Bahamas together. What wonderful times.. She and I always got along wonderfully.. I am sure our Mother clearly taught us how to love each other and to love the life we lived. I do miss her very much. You were a wonderful Daughter to her and I will always admire you for taking such good care of her. We will be looking forward to seeing you and the rest of the family soon at the memorial. With Love,

    Stan, Rose, Ted and MIke

  14. Marietta Nilson

    Beautiful eulogy. Condolences to you and your family.

  15. Mary McComb

    I’ve been thinking of you and your brothers since your mother died. Remembering her, too–she had such a sweet face and smile. She was brave, and wise and strong in taking life as it came. This is a beautiful tribute. C.L.. I will be at the memorial in August.

  16. Alan Gelb

    A beautiful tribute, C.L. Having met your mother on a number of occasions, I saw only her warm self and pleasant nature. It is a miracle and a model to go through life experiencing such hardships and to be able to love and inspire love.

  17. Daniel "cityslipper" Gasteiger

    Very well told. Warm wishes to you and your family.

  18. Sarah "Paulk" Lewis

    Beautiful tribute, touching! The photos and words are good for the aching heart. I have the same blue hydrangea growing in my backyard that was in the room when my mom passed. Similar ties and memories abound. So very sorry that she left this world, but happy for you that you had her for as long as you did.

  19. Pamela Phipps

    You have conveyed so much about your mom. With such grace. My eyes are full.

    With love, Pamela.

  20. Shelley Cramm

    Love this, C.L.!! Lovely in every way, she lives on in you.

  21. Fran Sorin

    Oh C.L. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. What a beautifully crafted tribute to your mother. Continue to share stories about her with friends and family. Doing so has kept both of my parents very much alive in my life. I feel them with me everyday. Sending you blessings and healing prayers. Fondly, Fran

  22. Ruth Rogers Clausen

    This is a beautiful tribute and reminds me of my own mother–strong and loving in the best and worst of times. These are fine lives to emulate. Ruth

  23. Norma

    May her memory be for a blessing!

  24. Cheval Force Opp

    Wishing you many loving memories.
    “People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of
    life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they
    continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It
    is as though they were traveling abroad.”
    ― Marcel Proust

  25. Vera Clifford

    Sincere Sympathy extended to you in the passing of your Mother. Thank you for sharing this glimpse of a beautiful lady that chose the path of grace when faced with the difficulties of life more than once. May the treasured precious memories somehow ease your sadness.

  26. Nancy

    Your mom was truly a resilient women a trait you also poses. So sorry for your loss CL but please continue to share stories about your mom – they are filled with inspiration.

  27. Hilda Morrill

    Your Mother will always and forever be in your heart. Thank you for sharing her with us in this beautifully written remembrance.

  28. Patsy Hicks Riesenweber

    We remember Aunt Janice with great fondness. My mother loved their frequent phone conversations and her visits here. You are all in our prayers.

  29. Renee Perfit

    So beautifully spoken C.L.. so much we learn from our moms and grateful if we’re lucky to have them so long. Hugs and sweet prayers your way!

  30. Sara Bangsberg Raasch

    I finally got around to reading this post. It is so beautifully written..
    I will share it with my mother in a couple of days.
    Sending you love and peace…

  31. Judy Pesce

    So sorry for your loss. What a beautifully written remembrance.

  32. Teresa Byington

    I now feel that I knew her. Grace is a lovely thing and she was very lovely! Thank you for sharing her with us.


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