My mom, Marjorie, passed away on May 15, 2017, at the age of 95. My brother, Mark Hendrickson, wrote this moving remembrance of her and of her generation.
They’re All Gone Now
My mother, Marjorie, passed away today at age 95. This post isn’t to elicit statements of sympathy, as she lived a full life, full of love of family and friends.
For my family, she was the last of a generation—the one that survived the Great Depression, fought and won World War II, built America after the war, raised families, and witnessed technological and social changes that they couldn’t have dreamed of as children.
Mom and Dad were married on Easter Sunday 1940—always her favorite holiday. She told me many times of Easter 1943, when they saved gas ration coupons to be able to drive to St. Augustine from Jacksonville (where my dad was working to build the Naval Air Station) for Easter lunch.
Mom came from a family of four, as did my father, Herschel Hendrickson. My dad, the husbands of his three sisters, my mom’s brother in law and brother all fought, and one died (and my dad seriously wounded with shrapnel from a German 88 in his body until his death), defeating Nazi and Japanese Fascism and Militarism. From France to an airbase in England to Saipan, those citizen soldiers gave everything—not for glory or money or power—but to free the world from a great evil.
My mom and the others held down the fort, raising families, and praying for the return of their loved ones.In 1944, 73 years ago this Mother’s Day, my grandmother wrote a letter saying, “What a day for Mother’s all over the world and let us hope, work and pray before another Mother’s Day comes around you will be back home again”.
They built this nation after the war, working in steel mills, aerospace, offices, farms—with only one with a college education—but all working hard and achieving for their families. My dad came from a family of early feminists, although they probably didn’t even know the word. His mom was strong and smart, and his sister became a doctor in the 1930’s.
My mom was the most open and tolerant person I’ve ever known. Not the easy tolerance that comes after something becomes “acceptable”, but the innate sense of goodness that made her accept everyone for what they are, offering her love and friendship without conditions. It was that spirit that made my mom feel privileged to have been one of the few people who were able to vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt and Barack Obama. It was that spirit that opened her welcoming arms to people of different races, religions, and sexual orientation in her family and when they joined her family.
Mom never whined about how things used to be better, that the “good old days” were lost and everything new bad. For her, the old days were when you lived in fear that your child would contract polio or die from a simple infection because antibiotics didn’t exist. She was optimistic, welcoming change, but holding strong to core values. She was a deeply religious person, who never pushed others to share her beliefs, tolerant of differences—but not the lack of moral compass.
I’ll miss them all, but never forget them. Uncle Bob, the ex-Marine who sneaked a beer to us kids when we were 14. Uncle George with a wry sense of humor, as in “St. Joseph, Missouri is a great town to say you came from”. Aunt Mary Lou who gave me my first haircut (I’ve got the pictures). Aunt Helen and the farm in Kansas (yes Kansas, and I truly hated cutting weeds out of a soy bean field), and all the others.
For my mom, she believed that all of those people—particularly her sister Mary Lou who she loved so much—would be there to welcome her when she crossed the river. For me, I’ll carry all of the memories of their love, courage, optimism, and humor with me.
Mom’s favorite song was from WWII—The White Cliffs of Dover.
There’ll be blue birds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow, just you wait and see
There’ll be love and laughter
And peace ever after
Tomorrow when the world is free