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, October 26th. 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. I'm thankful we had a chance to keep her company near the end.
Although every day was not a cake-walk the last 20 years mom lived with us, it became evident I loved her 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. 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 past high school years and into college, I realized I didn't recognize many people in two boxes of photos she gave me. So we spent 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 traveled to visit her own mom around summertime for about one full month every single year that 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. 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. She was also an artist who painted mostly with oils. I saved a few paintings and drawings for our own home, and gave a few among our family to preserve her work.
One photo was particularly interesting. The only color photo of all between 1930 and the late 1950s. It showed 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. But she 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. 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, mother took me to Ontario three more years consecutively around my 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 wow ... 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 in Ontario, 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 when 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.
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!!" I replied.
We went beyond the coast redwood park where she visited to include the giant sequoia grove. Mother will be the first, and maybe only woman to nourish the redwood forests around both of Earth's two greatest tree species. We chose eight spots total among both forests, including the vicinity of Spartan, General Sherman in addition to several other areas.
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 has finally faded. 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 ahead.
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 that species of 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