Nan Mustard's Recovery

This blog is a record of Erin (Nan) Mustard's recovery.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Guest message from Jason

Several days have passed now since my mom passed away on December 4. I was overwhelmed by the support shown her at the graveside service and her memorial service. It was very special and meaningful to see so many loving faces. We being her family, know exactly how important and unique mom was, but it is something altogether different to realize how many hundreds of lives my mom touched in her honest, direct way that was totally void of self-serving agendas or grandstanding.
On Saturday evening, I was hoping to have the strength to stand up and tell everyone at the service about my mom. Once there though, I found I had neither the strength or the courage to get through even a few words on my mom's behalf. So, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to take a few words here on my mom's blog to share some memories that I have of her.
I think that it's impossible to describe any person in just a few words, much less someone who involved in every aspect of your life, but I would like to share a few qualities or characteristics I think defined my mom.
First of all, my mom was brave, strong and full of courage. It's never been a secret that my mom is the toughest of any of us in this family. In 1989, I remember hearing the news at my elementary school that mom had been in a serious car accident. She had overcorrected and rolled our minivan. The van flipped three times and slid 300 feet and looked like it'd been hit by a roadside bomb. My mom walked away from the accident with her hair full of glass fragments and a massive bruise from the seatbelt. In truth, the accident barely slowed her down.
When I graduated from college in 2001, mom had just gone through her third surgery three weeks before. Her abdomen had gone through a kind of torture to rid her body of tumors, but she was still in Texas for my graduation (after a quick stop at whataburger, of course). Mom refused to ever let challenges become obstacles if she could help it. Not that she ever made a big deal about anything, she just plowed ahead and only asked that we didn't stop living just because she was sick.
My mom was also intensely loyal and committed. I don't know if you ever had the chance to work on a project with my mom, but if she had committed to something, she become singular in focus until the job was finished. This is probably what made her such a great appraiser and it was definitely part of what made her a great mom. Some of my earliest memories of my mom are of her sitting at my bedside through the night when I had a bad cold or cough. My dad had all kinds of weird home rememdies like soaking a wool sock in warm water and wrapping it around my neck (kinda worked too), but my mom's medicine was just to give 100 percent attention and care until the sickness was resolved. I saw a reflection of this care in my father's caretaking of my mom the last 18 months of her life.
My mom also showed her commitment by supporting my sister and I in any endeavor we took up as kids. I remember that in 1988 the Ahn family introduced me to professional sports, most notably baseball. My parents really aren't into team sports at all and they certainly didn't play them, but my mom and Mrs. Ahn and Mrs. Miller would dutifully caravan a group of us kids to A's or Giants games many Sundays each summer. They put up with the weirdos and drunks in the cheap seats and tried their best to learn the lingo because we loved it. Those Sunday games at the Oakland Coliseum in the bleachers are some of my favorite memories of time spent with my mom.
That brings up something really true about my mom: she loved to have fun. I hear that as a teenager she was something of a wild child in Texas and that's how she ended up in Lodi with my great-uncle Jim and great-aunt Ann. In my life, mom was always fun. Anyone who knows my family knows that my dad, me and even my sister are much louder than my mom ever was. But when our family went out, she was the life of the party. She made vacations fun and always had little surprises up her sleeve. She could turn a trip to the mall or the supermarket into a great day. She loved to go new places and meet new people. Not the way my dad or I meet new people (we'll talk to a stop sign just to have conversation), but mom had a way of connecting with people in a meaningful way very quickly. I think folks knew right away that they could always trust my mom or count on her for anything. She was always very true to her word.
Trust me, I'm winding down soon.
At the memorial service it was mentioned that my mom loved to shop. I think it's more important to note though that my mom truly loved to give. Christmas was her favorite time of year. She made our living room a sea of green and red papered boxes full of gifts. She loved to give gifts so much that she often times would wrap everything up from October through December. Toys, socks, undies or just that new pair of shoes I'd been needing since Halloween. She loved to see a tree that overflowed with gifts. Christmas morning takes hours in the Mustard home and that's how we like it. It's been a family joke for the past 10 years or so that we "really are going to cut back on Christmas this year." Hasn't happened yet. Beyond Christmas Mom loved to give too. One summer I was working at summer camp in eastern Arizona. My Kia Sportage was lemon at best, but I was still planning a big road trip to the rockies after camp ended. My parents decided it was time to get me a new car and suprised me with a phone call to say that a new VW Beetle was sitting at home with my name on it. My mom wasn't satisfied though and decided to deliver the bug to me in person. The next morning, at 6:30am, my mom knocked on my cabin door with the new car right behind her. She had driven 16 hours overnight because she wanted to suprise me. I'll never forget it.
Most of all, I remember my mom because she was so good at loving. She loved her family completely and not just dad, Nikki and myself. She loved my brother-in-law Steve and my wife Jovinia as though they had always been her children. She loved every sibling, cousin or distant relation she every knew in Texas. When I went to college in Texas, she visited often and it seems like each time I met some new relative. Mom could recite the family tree by memory too and she hated to miss a wedding or special event. If you knew her, chances were she love you too. I really can't think of any times when she bad-mouthed anyone or rode someone into the ground behind their back. I don't think my mom had time to dislike folks. She just didn't do it. Not that she was some kind of pushover. She was ruthless on waiters. If there was ever a line my mom found a way to get to the front of it. I can remember so many times when Dad and I were embarrassed because mom and Nikki had fought their way to the front of a line. My mom just knew how to love people though. She made people comfortable and she made life fun.
It's hard to grasp the idea that my mom has left us. She fought so hard for so long that sometimes it feels like she's just in another hospital somewhere and she'll be home soon. But I know that just isn't true anymore and I can honestly say that that's okay for me now, because the pain and suffering were just so bad the last few months. I want everyone to understand though that my mom never gave up. She never gave up her life, the cancer had to take it from her. I often think of the great Dylan Thomas poem "Do not go gentle into that good night." He writes of his father's last days and wishes that his father had fought harder to live. My mom fought for every breath. She fought to meet my son, Timothy. She fought to hold my aunt Dana and Sharon's hands one last time. She fought every second she had cancer and most of the time she won. I love that about her.
I want to thank so many people for what they've meant to my family. Truly, the doctors, scientists and institutions that cared for my mom gave her another decade to be with us. Her insurance company was amazingly good to her and saw her through several experimental therapies. I kept waiting to hear that they wouldn't do anymore, but that never happened that I know of.
The Tracy SDA Church family, who I often refer to as our extended family in California, has come through in so many ways so many times. To me, Tracy SDA is the standard for a church family and I only wish that more people were able to be a part of it.
Dr. and Sylvia Ahn have been a kind of lifeline for our family. I remember once that Dr. Ahn arranged for my mom to have an airline seat that fully reclined so that she could travel to Boston for treatment. She would not have made it without that special seat. This is only one instance of many generous gifts the Ahns have given us.
The fellow GISTers and people at Liferaft who have been there with us as mom struggled with her sickness. Many times mom was the support for so many who passed before her, but there were also so many who encouraged her too. I do not know a more acute form of evil in this world than cancer. Though it has dealt a crushing blow to my family I cannot still imagine the kind of bravery it takes for someone with cancer to fight and hope. Yet, so many do. Like my mother, these people are heroes to me. So many of us fight for things that don't truly matter. We spend our lives on things or status. These people fight for another sunrise and to watch their children grow up and to eat one more whataburger. I hope that I can live in a way that honors their struggle.
My mom's many friends deserve more thanks than I can say. Marilyn has devoted months of her life to help my mom's life pass into rest with dignity and friendship. Pam has been at my mom's bedside so many times. With her family in Texas, Pam was mom's west coast sister and she always knew that she could count on her. Roxanne moved away a few years ago to the east coast, but was always there for my mom and they even got to reconnect when mom started getting treated in Boston. Mary and mom worked together at the travel agency and were great friends. Mary took such good care of us those last couple of weeks. Without her we may have never eaten. So many more too. I cannot think of everyone, but could not say enough anyway.
Wow, if you made it this far I'm impressed. I'm guessing that most who knew my mom could write a similar story of how she touched their lives. I really just wanted to say that my mom was a great lady, a terrific mom and the coolest, bravest person I have known. I already miss spending time with her, and I can't wait to see her again in Heaven. I am so glad that the suffering is over, but I don't imagine that I'll ever get used to her being gone.
Thank you for loving my mom and putting up with a super long post. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season. Mom would've wanted you to.

jason and jo and tim and timothy and clayton


  • At 10:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow! What a wonderful tribute. It brought tears to my eyes. Your Mom was very special. One time I shared a problem with her and she suggested a solution. I thought, why didn't I think of that? Anyway it was a good solution. Your Mom was not the 'typical' pastor's wife but she always managed to find someone in need. No tooting about it, just went ahead and helped. Housekeeping was not her thing but she was great with people. She was a great friend. Yvonne

  • At 11:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The second best gift Nan ever gave.

    That positive happy spirit that we see in her children. Nan was so successful at giving to all the best of herself and we see that in ourselves and in her family. As Jason so eloquently wrote that she was the life of the party in our family. She has passed that gift on to you and Nikki. It was her second best gift.

    The best gift was the love she gave to each family member, each friend, each GIST patient, each peson she came in contact with. With charm and grace she lived life well and we are all blessed because of it.

    Thank you Nan! And thank you Jason for sharing.


  • At 1:06 AM, Blogger CapnNerd said…

    Jason and family, I shared in those trips to see the A's and Giants (remember Will Clark's grand slam?!?). I remember the baseball card shows with your mom. She seemed to always be the one leading the charge with Mrs. Miller (Sharon) who kept everyone walking the straight line.

    I also remember a fun ride to science camp in a Maxima and listening to EMF's Unbelievable (I don't think any of the other drivers on that trip allowed such 'racey' music in their car). Your mom always seemed so down-to-earth and matter-of-fact which left an impression that was contrary to my long and tenured experience as a 4th grader (girls were silly and put on the earth to be teased plus they made for poor baseball players. A sin from which there is no redemption in the 4th grade mind).

    Your mom demonstrated a different kind of Adventist. One that seemed to rise above the politics of a small town and church* (I still love Tracy) and to truly see a person for who and what they are.

    *I get to say that because I'm a TK (teacher's kid) and I know the dirt. :-)

  • At 6:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dear Jason,
    You are a perfect example of what your Mom left behind. You and Nikki were truely blessed and are still reaping the blessings of her past presence. God answered so many of my personal prayers regarding your Mom, and I think we can all be at peace. I loved her like non other. Family is the most important thing on this earth. Hold on to every memory and share them with the world. I love you all,

    Aunt Sharon

  • At 8:10 AM, Anonymous Barbie said…

    Hello Jason, What a nice tribute to your lovely Mom! Remember the time we were all at the cabin and it was when the homeowners' could put stuff in the big dumpsters and you found this couch by one dumpster and you wanted it for your house that you shared with other students in Modesto? Your Mom let your Dad tie it on the top of your motorhome and away you went like a bunch of Okies and your Mom just fact we all laughed and are still laughing when we think of that. And she was always so proud of you and Nikki when you were in your school plays...they would take videos and bring them up for us to see and she was always so happy to share your talents with us! One time your parents met us at a Giants baseball game and your Mom brought a bag of her deep fried "chicken" and ohhhhhh it was sooooo good. Gonna' miss that! We had so many fun times with your Mom. Those couple of winters when they worked at Bob's Christmas Tree Land at Cal Expo she always picked out a beautiful, white flocked tree for us and then she'd call and say come quick, I've got it "hidden" for you and we would hurry over to get our beautiful tree. And when she worked for Heinz we were well stocked with catsup! We always buy that brand to this day because she said it was the best. She always wanted to see her children married and she wanted to meet her grandchildren and she got to do both of her desires. Little Timothy is a presious bundle and it's a delight to see you enjoying him even when he burped up all over your shoulder in your nice black suit. Well, Jason, we knew you before you were even born and we have enjoyed all the pleasant times you were with your parents visiting us. Oh, yes, how proud your Mom was when you ran with the Olympic torch in San Francisco and the fun time we all had at the Hard Rock afterwards and the Hard Rock gave your table full of people a free meal in honor of having you there and the beam on your Mom's face as you walked around in the restaurant to show all the customers a close-up of the torch after they made the special announcement of who you were. We could go on and on some more, right? What a are blessed to have had her and now you can pass the blessing along to alllllll your children! We loved her and we love her children! Stay cool! "Auntie Barbie"

  • At 12:45 PM, Anonymous roger and carol said…

    Yes, Jason, you did have a very unique mom. We all have our special memories of her. We knew your Mom and Dad in CA and they sang in Roger's chorale for several years, but we really didn't get to know them well until just before we moved to NC. They came to NC for a special choir week end and bonded quickly with the choir members. Then we took them to Dollywood..... Nan loved Dollywood! From then on she would fly out at least once a year and we would go to Dollywood together. She did learn rather quickly that hot cinnamon bread didn't work well with the colostomy, however. I will never be able to go to Dollywood without thinking of her. Her last trip was just days before her surgery in Boston. What a lady! What courage and determination. She loved having a good time ~ with or without pain.

    She was a wonderful role model to you and Nikki. She told me she asked the Lord to let her live long enough to see both children married and to see at least one grandchild. How special to be blessed with that privilege. She was so proud of you and the person you have become. She was so excited to see not only Keanna, but also Timothy!

    Your family has been an inspiration to many. You are the next generation and now it is your turn to pass this same loving caring example on to others. Our old world could certainly benefit by more people like Nan!

    Take care of your Dad! He's a very special person and we love him also.

    Love and prayers ~ Carol


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