Sunday Stories: My Home Town Church

Today I’ve been thinking about the little church I grew up attending in Montana. I’m beyond grateful for it.

As I pictured the wooden pews and hymnbooks, I had a vague memory of including pictures of it in a long ago blog post.

I just found it. Some of you have requested seeing some of the posts I wrote about my Mom (who is now in glory) and her journey with dementia.

Although it’s a bit long, here is a chapter of our story. I’m so glad I wrote it down, because there were things I had already forgotten!

Originally published July 29, 2011

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you already know that last week I packed up my carry-on bag and headed to Montana to visit my family.  I just arrived back home last night.  It was a wonderful time on so many levels.

So…for my own memory’s sake, I decided to jot down in blog-o-sphere some of the highlights of my time.  It may, perhaps, become novel-like, so if you just want to peruse the pictures, feel free!  {tee hee}

The first leg of my journey took me to the airport in Cranbrook, BC.  Little did I know that the day of my arrival was also the Cranbrook Air Show.  As we approached the airport, I heard the captain give this announcement,

“You will see the airport down below you on the right.  However, the Snowbirds are currently performing for the Air Show, so we will need to circle the plane until the ‘ok’ is given for our landing.”

What followed was 35 minutes of turbulence that I have never experienced in my live long days.  It wasn’t horrific, however the unpredictableness of it had my stomach doing flip-flops.  I finally resorted to digging through the “seat-back pocket” to find the airsick bag.  I found it hilarious that it was sealed inside a plastic bag that I had to open.  Apparently, if you’re going to be sick, you need to plan ahead!

Thankfully, (whew!), I didn’t need to use the bag.  I was so relieved to walk off the plane and be greeted by two of my favourite people in the world – my sisters!!


(me, Susan, and Becky)

We then travelled together on a two day trip to the home town where we all grew up.  Of course, we included a big shopping trip along the way.

It may help for you to know that between us three sisters, we have 8 kids.  Only one of those “kids” is a girl.  None of the “boys” in the bunch are shoppers… so this shopping trip is a BIG DEAL!!

I’ve decided that if shopping were an Olympic sport based on stamina and determination…hands down…Susan would win!  She can find what you are looking for – with all the accessories – and most likely on sale, too!

A few important notes to remember for next time…

  • I found the perfect lunch – at Arby’s – A Jr. Roast Beef and side salad…for only $2.68!!!  I like to save money where I can…
  • Restaurants stay open late there so you can stay until the mall closes at 9 p.m. and go have a ham and cheese omelette for supper at 10!!
  • In addition to the items I mentioned packing in my carry-on, I can also add 2 pairs of capris pants, 3 shirts, 2 shirts for my husband, a pair of sandals,  3 bags of Montana Coffee Trader coffee beans, and a really cool wooden vase.  Be thankful for the wheels on your carry-on…


Montana trip July 2011

On Sunday, I was able to go to the church that I went to from birth.  As I sat there looking at the stained and varnished boards at the front (I used to count them when I was bored with the sermon), I got a big-ol’ lump in my throat at all the memories this place gave me…

~It was where I heard about Jesus and Stella Cox taught me how to sing “Heavenly Sunshine” in Japanese.

~It was where I married the man I love…

~ It was where I said good-by to my Dad…and where the seats used to be filled with dear Saints who are now in glory.

God orchestrated a special blessing the day that I was there.  Without any planning or plotting on my part, there ended up being a reunion of so many people from my past.  The place was filled with old friends that I hadn’t seen for many, many years.  It was an indescribable blessing.


After church {and my favourite burger in the whole world from the Wibaux Tastee Hut!}, we were finally able to go see the person who was the purpose for this trip…Mom.

It’s hard to describe what it’s like to have your vibrant, happy, talkative, joyful Mom…become a Mom with dementia. I’ve found it to be a very sad journey.  So, this time, I purposed to go with no expectations…and look for the little sweet blessings.

It’s hard for me to answer the “How’s your mom?” question.  Gone is the mom who can talk.  Gone are the days of advice and stories of “remember when”.  Her verbal answers are even fewer than when we saw her in the Spring.  Honestly, I’m not sure if she knows who I am.  I’ve cried many tears over those losses.

However…as we looked with her through photo albums, she could occasionally give the answer to “Who is that?”, and the big surprise was when she pointed to each person in her own family, and could name them all (except herself).  For one blink of an eye, she exclaimed a sentence so clearly and in context that we were all shocked!  It was a snippet of the “Mom” we once had.  It was beautiful.

We quickly realized her days of knitting are over.  In an effort to make her not feel bad about that, I said, “Well, maybe Lorrie (my sister-in-law) can teach me how to knit!”  What followed was an exercise that indicated I will probably never be a knitter.  Mom laughed at my efforts.  That laugh…it was beautiful.

Before we left one day, we decided to have a little photo session.  As we snuggled up to her and put our arms around her, she smiled.  It was beautiful.

Mom and Becky

(Mom and my sister Becky)


But the scene I never want to forget was when we were saying good-bye the last time.  She had walked with us to the front desk of the home she was in.  As we were standing there a lady with a walker approached us asking for help.  She wanted someone to walk with her to her room so she wouldn’t be scared.  As soon as she asked, my mom turned and silently started walking down the hall.  The woman turned her walker around and followed mom.  Two women with failing minds.  Silently.  Helping each other.

Becky followed behind to see what would happen.  Mom took the lady to a room and gently helped  her get situated.  Then, they looked at each other.  In silence.

“Mom,” Becky asked, “Do you want to go to your room now while she rests?”

“Yes,” she replied. And off she walked to her room.

I thought that was beyond beautiful.  Mom always liked to take care of people.  She still is.  (However, we’re still not sure whose room that lady was in!:))


big hill2

(The scene from my childhood bedroom window…”The Big Hill”)

I also got to stay in the 100 year old farmhouse I grew up in.  My sister-in-law has it decorated so beautiful.  She’s bringing back the original charm of the place, and I just love it!  I wanted to take pictures and give you all the details…but time got away… {And beyond the house, it was so much fun to have coffee times, pizza lunch, and chats with my sister-in-law and brother.  They make me feel at “home”.  It does my heart good…  Thanks, Lorrie and Richard…}

And on the journey back, God blessed me with this…


A Montana sunset… So. Beautiful.

Hands down, the best thing about this trip was not the beautiful scenery or the local attractions (however wonderful they were!)…but the people.  Family and friends.  Blessings beyond words.

One night we were looking at the Montana sky and pointing out the big dipper.  I marvel that my family thousands of miles away looks at the same sky that I look at each night…

I take comfort in that.  It makes it seem like they aren’t so far away…


I find today to be a bit bittersweet.  I so miss my (childhood) family in Montana, and so wish they weren’t so many miles away.  But, I’m also happy to be back home with my family here…

I even got breakfast in bed this morning…

…It’s nice to be missed!:)…

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  1. Love you… I can't even begin to describe… what I am feeling so I will just say that you make beauty from ashes…and the oil of Joy for mourning..Thank you for this… it was a wonderful blog…The pictures in themselves were blessings… xxoo Coleen

  2. Well Rita Joy … you are absolutely a Joy! I had to hold back the tears many times as I read your blog and the special time that you had with your sisters, family and your dear Mom. What a beautiful story of your travel times in miles, moments and also in your heart. Thank you for sharing, you do it in such a special way that anyone who reads it is blessed. Bless you my dear friend. (((hugs))) Cheryl 🙂

  3. Well, my dear Sis, I COULDN'T hold back the tears. You have such a gift in your writing. Your blog touched my heart more than words can say. It was SOOOOOO GOOOOOOD to be with you for the past few days. And now I must stop crying and get busy with my decorating. Why, oh why must you live so far away?
    Love, love, love you,

  4. Rita, thank you so much for sharing this. I just found your blog through my sister JoAn on FaceBook. I remember having so much fun at your home when I was young, and how welcoming and happy your mother always was. Thank you for the pictures of yourselves and the church!

  5. Rita Joy, You do have a way with words. Thank you for sharing your life with me. It has moved my heart tremendously. I agree with the other comments and they have said it well. Please do keep writing.

  6. Rita Joy, Im so glad that you pulled this keeper out of your blog pass and brought it back to present. What a sweet time with your family and your mom. We just are starting the very difficult journey of Dementia with my dad. There days that I am so sad that he’s not the man I knew but Im learning to hold on to the now & cherish him. Thank you for sharing your stories. I hope you will share more!

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