There are different lengths in our Bible and nation
By which to define a complete generation.
Millennials and Boomers span nineteen years each;
Israel took forty for Promised Land’s reach.
Moses’ psalm estimates we each live seventy;
The lawgiver himself saw one hundred twenty!
My own belov’d mother met the end of her days
At fifty-one years, ten months, and four days.
Though Audrey Mae (Bollmann) Arneberg died “young,”
She lived a full life with deeds praised and unsung.
The seventh-born of nine from a large St. Paul clan,
She loved people—not promptness!—since her life began.
A quasi-tomboy, she loved hunting and poker;
A natural humorist, she was always a joker!
Stenography training led to 3M hiring
Fueling precision in speaking and writing.
At nineteen, she met a boy from the West Side:
A Polish-Norwegian to her French-German pride.
Beyond Euro-ethnics, their contrasts told tale
Of opposite ends on the extrovert scale!
Quiet Ron proposed marriage while on Air Force leave
And at twenty-two their lives began to cleave.
Four kids came along within five-point-five years;
This fifth-born was added post-miscarriage tears.
With childbearing done, no one could forecast
That in sixteen years, Audrey would breathe her last.
Before I reflect on that morbid foreboding,
I must pause and reflect more on her life’s unfolding.
Three decades a housewife, Mom never was idle;
She reigned in her kids with her motherly bridle.
She was the home-anchor for her career bridegroom;
Her cooking and laughter filled up every room.
When not with her siblings, at church, or with friends,
She nosily pried in her kids’ social trends.
Her sibs’ kids (four dozen!) were clan “super-sized,”
And yet she had all their birthdays memorized!
She fought against cancer of blood and of breast,
And openly told of her Heavenly quest.
She longed to survive and pass her health test
And see that her fifth-born be launched from the nest.
But her Christian faith had God’s peace at its best
And prepared her to answer His final behest.
Her physical suff’ring on Earth met its crest—
On twenty-and-two of September, her zest
For life met its end. She entered her rest
Like Bilbo and Frodo sailing into the West.
As I witnessed her passing to Life that sad day,
Her body was agonized, but soul not dismayed.
To nurture my comfort, and my fears allay,
She had a last death-bed Mom-blessing to say:
“I love you, Paul. You’re a good boy—stay that way.”
On March the sixteenth of this year I will pass
A bittersweet milestone for years lived en masse.
If the Lord wills, I’ll continue my ways
And reach fifty-one years, ten months and five days.
This reality cuts to the heart of my life,
Informed by God’s Word which is sharp as a knife.
Mom lived to the full; her life is now sealed,
But now I pray for my “extension” revealed.
I want to die well, as I saw my mom do
Whether into my nineties or at fifty-two.
One thing that my mom made abundantly clear
Is to trust in the Lord all the days that we’re here.
“Every man dies,” says the Braveheart cliché,
“But not every man really lives” warns today.
One thing is for certain: my life’s not yet done;
I sense that there’s more to do under the sun.
As hard as it was to lose Mom as a teen,
Her lifelong example bore fruit unforeseen.
She thought I’d do radio or maybe perform;
Regardless, she knew I’d be out of the norm.
This JUGHEADS comp’ny is a grandchild of Aud;
If she were still here, she’d be first to applaud.
The props and the stage and our big “family clan”
Extends from the life she gave when mine began.
Some people die famous and rich and quite old;
Some die with a closet of scandals untold.
My mom died and much of all Roseville did mourn;
Her relational absence made many forlorn.
I’ve tried to live up to her “good boy” last words,
But only God’s grace makes me soar like the birds.
My mom was not perfect, but winsomely real
While living and dying with Christ-like appeal.
I cannot predict how I’ll steward my life
Lived past Mom’s lifespan, growing old with my wife.
I want to live well and to die in the Son;
When all told, I yet live for an Audience of One.
“Paul’s Poetic Platform” Series Note
This 10-part poetic series covers a wide variety of general and personal topics with acrostic, one-word rhyming titles from A through J. March represents a tribute to my late mother and her relatively short lifespan. It’s inordinately long, but that’s how it came out!
This poem is dedicated to my four older siblings (Jean, Margaret, Tom, Jim) who helped to raise me from birth through young adulthood; my step-mom, Bonnie, who was a Godsend during my coming-of-age college years; and my Dad, Ron, whose 87 years matches the number of lines in this poem. Dad has been a faithful husband over a combined 62.5 years in his two marriages and continues to be an example to the next generation. —PRA