The Herald Bulletin

November 9, 2013

Don McAllister: Mom had a thing for holidays

The Herald Bulletin

---- — You’ll quickly note this column is different from others because my material deserves more preparation than I’ve had these past weeks, and because a fellow ought to be able to say something nice about his mom now and then.

First, please attend one of the public observances for Veteran’s Day tomorrow.

Before her funeral my son pointed out that his grandmother had a thing for holidays — being born on St. Patrick’s Day and buried on Halloween. It was an awful sight that Wednesday morning when I found her on the floor.

The stroke kept her from pushing her button so she had been there for several hours. If any good can come from this, it’s that I can urge you to get the new device that automatically detects a fall. I didn’t know about them until it was too late.

Thursday looked grim, but she still had her mind. Friday morning this determined lady was trying to speak in sentences and was able to drink thick liquids from a cup. That afternoon she was on a walker taking steps and using her arms to move on the bed. It all changed over the weekend when she went into pneumonia. One more week of intense struggle and she was gone — 12 days of misery against 96 years of being able to live in her own home — remarkable, but still hard to watch.

Marguerite McAllister was no hayseed. Her young photos showed that she could be quite glamorous. Still, at the core of things, she remained a country girl from Willow Hill, Illinois. She often said “was” when she should have said “were.”

I would see people cringe and think, “You go Mom!” for she was staying true to her people. They were the ones who guided her family after her father died in 1918 and her mother lost mom’s sister in 1919. These were the family and friends who helped them survive and formed her character.

Mom was very independent. As she grew older she found new tools and methods of doing tasks she could no longer easily perform. I never wrote a check for her until after she was in the hospital. She loved Scrabble and often knew the news before I did. As the stroke came on her she was working her nightly crossword puzzle.

She wasn’t independent because she was stubborn, but rather because she never wanted to be a burden to anyone. There were times when I didn’t want to scrape the windows and mornings when it would have been easy to sleep in, but Mom, you were NEVER a burden.

Mom gave us the greatest gift a parent can give their child, her faith in Jesus. It’s the only thing that counts when a fellow faces the death of a sainted mother. I walked in one morning while she was saying her daily prayers. In a shaky, childlike voice, she was praying for each of us by name. Oh, Mom, who will pray for us now?

Don McAllister directs the National Veteran’s Historical Archive. His column appears the second Sunday of each month. He can be reached at and