My mother lived with us for almost 20 years and was part of our household. The night before she died was the most emotional because it was evident her last breath was coming before daylight of the next morning, October 26th. Any big outpour of emotion was between that midnight and 1 am before I went to sleep. Jan and I visited for a while. Then I got restful and went to bed. The next morning Jan woke first, then told me mom passed in her sleep.
The next day a peculiar but pleasant thought came, because I was the last person to serve mom, holding a glass with a straw so she could take a sip. In 1959, mom was the first person on Earth to moisten my palate after my first breath. And I was the last to quench her's before her last breath. I'm glad I made extra time to sit with her during that last month. Although every day was not a cake-walk the last 20 years mom lived with us, it became evident I loved her even more than realized. I'm glad I learned this, and it has changed me.
Image: British Columbia, 1957, near a western redcedar
My mother could tell this was coming, from about September 20th. I was at the coast redwoods hiking, and that's when mom asked Jan to call and let me know something was changing. Between that day and October 26th, Jan took good care of mother, day and night as needs changed from week to week.
Although I lived with mom through high school and college, I realized I didn't recognize many people in two boxes of photos she gave me. So we spent the first two weeks of her last month, looking at photos, while she shared stories and names.
I was pleased to discover that two photos of my grandmother existed. Mom really loved her own mother a lot. She went to see her mom around summertime for about one full month every single year grandmother lived. Grandma likewise lived to see age 98. She was born Paulina Ochicuska in Warsaw, Poland, 1889. Died 1987 in Kenora, Ontario.
Most photos of mom were taken outdoors. In one photo, she was near a gigantic trunk as wide as a redwood, that looked like a huge western redcedar. I asked her about it. She said it was taken in British Columbia, right after she broke up with my dad when they were dating. I think that was 1957, before they got together again, then married.
Eleanor Mulski (Vaden) was always busy, employed working most of her adult years. She lived and worked in Ontario, Mannitoba and British Columbia.
One photo was particularly interesting. The only color photo of all between 1930 and the late 1950s. It shows my mom working for Red Bear Products, October 14, 1959
Image: Vancouver B. C. working for Red Bear Products & their "Poster Girl"
I think Kiera Hulsey who helped me in the coast redwoods may find it interesting that my mother was a promotional model for a while. Red Bear asked if my mom would regularly work for them, including some travel. But mother wanted to stay in Vancouver to be at home. She did work local, and they produced posters showing her wearing the same outfit seen here at this store display.
It's not evident in any of the pictures she gave me, but I think mom gained her "green thumb" from my grandmother Pauline. I don't recall anything from the Ontario trip when I was two years old. That's the year we took the train ride across Canada to Winnepeg, then a bus to Ontario. Apparently I cried so much that one man on the train dumped milk on my head. Actually ... I recall one thing vaguely ... the sleeper compartments for resting at night.
Anyhow, she took me three more years consecutively around ages 11, 12 and 13. I remember grandmother's garden where she grew vegetables. There were also chickens for fresh eggs.
Even this late, around 1970, grandmother's house had no running water and cooking was done on a wood stove oven. But dang ... the pies were tasty. My mother would go into the nearby forest and pick buckets of blueberries. Then she and grandmother would bake fresh blueberry pies in the woodstove oven.
I would also snack on fresh blueberries when I walked up the road, then down the trail to the Lake of the Woods to swim and play.
The forest species were different there, but there were rocky spots mixed along the trail. One day near Jedediah Smith redwood park, about 2014, I had a "flashback" to the lake trail. I took the path from the parking area down to where the south and middle forks of the Smith River meet at a rocky point.
That path has a feel very much like the trail down the the Lake of the Woods. That's when I understood why so many people around Crescent City seem to speak of the river more than the redwood forest.
That's partly why mom will be "laid her to rest" in several areas of redwood forest, including the spot I showed above near the Cathedral redwood. I already had a 20 x 30 print of that made for sale, plus an extra one already framed in our home office. It seemed like a good location to use since we see that scene daily.
Excuse me for interjecting at this point .. but as I'm writing this page, it's still a little unfathomable that mom is completely gone aside from a few ashes remaining to place in the forest. No breath, no thought, no voice. Aside from a few public records and an archived news article, our love and memory is all that remains. And that seemed to be what she valued above everything her last few weeks. She asked a couple times, "you will remember me won't you?" ... Oh mom, if only you knew how much you will be remembered !!" I replied.
Additionally, we went beyond the redwood park where she visited to include the Giant Forest giant sequoia grove plus the grove where Spartan coast redwood stands as well. Mother will be the first, and maybe only woman to nourish the redwood forests around both of Earth's two greatest tree species.
Image: near Toronto, about 1944
It's likely I'll think of mother every time I hike or explore in the coast redwoods from now on. Not in a sad way. The sadness is wearing-away now. It will be more along the lines of remembering her best qualities and making sure I nuture and share those in the road of life that lays ahead of me.
The image below shows part of the trail in the Giant Forest. This is the general area where some of mom's ashes were left among redwoods. Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP guidelines request some certain distance from trails and developed areas, but this is the vicinity where family or friends can both enjoy nature's finest and pay their respects to Eleanor Vaden.
So there's part of the story about mother. It may mean the most to my few relatives who read this page. But if you are a friend or acquaintence ... there's my mother, and a little bit about her. I will probably add a bit more in the months ahead.
Honoring Eleanor J. Vaden ...
From her son, Mario D. Vaden