This post was originally shared on my previous blog ‘Expression Express’. Since Mother’s Day has just come and gone, I share it here again. Enjoy!
My mother was a very vibrant and eccentric individual. She was known for her whimsical ways and inspired a family phrase that perfectly described the way she lived her life. ‘The Doreen Method’ is our way of saying ‘make it up as you go along’. This applied to recipes, sewing, carpentry… just about anything. Mom wasn’t afraid to tackle tasks if she had no previous experience or skill, but the outcome might not be the norm. As an artist she loved to paint on any surface from canvas to rocks to whole buildings. When my sister and her husband moved into Mom’s old house they were faced with a dilemma. There were lots of funny little murals she had painted in obscure nooks and crannies. How could one paint over them?
Mom was also a storyteller, and some of my favourite childhood memories include listening to bedtime stories and songs. We were well acquainted with Thornton W. Burgess’ Adventures of Reddy Fox, for instance. In fact, foxes and mice were the favourite characters in her repertoire of stories and songs. She shared them with her children and nieces and nephews, and the tradition was carried forward to her grandchildren and even her great-grandchildren.
Mom passed away in 2007 at the age of 80. Unfortunately, we lost her seven years earlier to dementia. It was so difficult to see such a formerly vibrant individual reduced to the shell that she became. I had the privilege of sitting with her during the hours before she passed away. Somewhere around four o’clock in the morning on January 17, 2007, she slipped away to be with Jesus, free from the mental constraints that had kept her trapped for those seven years.
While I sat with her, holding her hand, I sang some of those old songs. One particularly special song was an old Haven Gillespie tune written in the 1930s called ‘The Sleepytown Express’. (listen here!) This is the song that ushered her into the presence of the Lord. Strangely, my sisters and my two female cousins all woke at around four o’clock, dreaming about the Sleepytown Express…
I decided soon afterward that I would like to publish a book illustrating the song as a tribute to my mother. It took several years to do the paintings and quite a bit of research to obtain permission to use the lyrics, but finally, in February of 2014, seven years after Mom passed, The Sleepytown Express was published.
For me this project was so much more than another book under my belt. It was about sharing Mom’s legacy with the extended family and passing it on to the next generation. This is not a book to be kept in pristine or precious condition; it is a book to be sung and celebrated as we pass the memorial torch on to the next generation.