Mom’s philosophy on life was beautifully simple. She felt that all of her time, talents, energies and money really belonged to God. Thus, she felt obligated, driven really, to find a thousand quality ways to give. Mom cared deeply about excellence. For example, she was the valedictorian in high school, first chair all-state band and a finalist in the Miss Texas pageant. For her, achieving excellence placed her in a position to do more good.
Mom had a heart as big as Texas. It truly seemed that there was no end to her capacity to love. For starters, she and Bernie had 13 children together, all of them single births. Even though she had an unbelievable load caring for her own children, she opened her home to all kinds of other people. For example, she did not want her great aunt (who had no children of her own) to live her final years in a nursing home; so even though there were 14 of us living in the home at the time, Mom opened her doors and cared for Aunt Grace until her death.
From 1982 to 1992, Mom also took in more than a dozen other children. These children usually had some dysfunctional situation in their home-life, so Mom let these kids live and grow-up with her own children – until things stabilized at the child’s home. Some stayed only for a few weeks, but others stayed for years. There was never any financial compensation for any of this; Mom did it because that was the kind of person she was.
Although she was a source of blessings to all kinds of people, Mom saved her best energies for her children. Day and night, she was helping with homework, sewing dresses, cooking large meals, giving music lessons or just talking to her children. Mom was not overly preachy, but she had an authentic spirituality that inspired all of us in a fundamental and profound way.
When Mom was 50 years old, she was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease – a dreaded and fatal condition. At the time, five children were still in school and living at home, with the youngest only 9 years old. Most of the other children were still in college. It was a devastating blow, but Mom faced death with the same faith and compassion she demonstrated when she was healthy and vibrant. To her last breath, she was looking for ways to encourage, lift and build others – especially her children. She died in her home, with her beloved husband, Bernie, and all of her children surrounding her bedside.
If you ask any of her children, they will all say that they have never been able to match their mother’s passion, energy and faith. But none of us has ever forgotten it either. Mom is still a part of everything we do, and we hope that our lives are, in some small way, a tribute to the remarkable life she lived.
Written by one of her loving sons, Dan Packard.