by David Sisler
For Mary Elizabeth Sisler, life traveled full circle. Born on November 3, 1924, in the section of southern Garrett County, Maryland, known as Pleasant Valley, she was carried by her parents, O. C. and Victoria Bittinger. In mid-February, 23 years later, she started carrying me in her arms. A few days ago, I was able to return the favor.
Mom was fiercely independent. Dad always called it the "Bittinger Stubbornness." When Dad died, she insisted on staying at 117 Shenandoah Avenue and taking care of herself. After three years of coaxing she finally agreed to spend this winter in Augusta, but Sunday night, with her health deteriorating dramatically, I carried her to the car (Mom always named her cars — this one, which she reluctantly agreed to allow me to drive down from Maryland, is "Mahettabelle") and took her to the hospital where she died the next day.
We have spent a lot of time over the past few days remembering.
Mom was a collector.
For years she and Dad would prowl flea markets, yard sales, and antique stores, looking for the latest piece to add. It started more than 30 years ago with Depression Glass, then glass baskets, glass swans, miniature furniture, cookie cutters, Santa Claus figures, salt and pepper shakers, Mickey Mouse collectibles, and dolls. Each collection grew into hundreds of pieces, some into thousands.
The dolls were her favorites. She had Shirley Temples, Madam Alexanders, Ragged Anns and Andys, Trolls, Star Trek characters, and Cabbage Patch Dolls. She had dozens of "action figures." But Barbies seemed to head the list. Whenever a new variety came out, she scoured the shops and stores looking for the newest "goodie."
Mom was an excellent seamstress. We didn't live in a little house on the prairie, but I did wear shirts made from feed sacks. The one she made for me in a Roy Rogers pattern was my favorite (the day Jay Bill Rice picked me up and wiped the black board with me and my cowboy shirt, I tried to deck him with a metal clamp and a hammer). And she was a quilter. Every bed in three houses (hers, my brother, Kyle's, and mine) is covered in at least one of Mom's hand-made quilts.
Mom enjoyed her collections and her quilts. She loved her sons and our wives and our children. Most of all she loved her husband and her Savior.
Mom and Dad were married for 50 years. They taught two generations of Sislers the meaning of true love and companionship. Monday night Bonnie, Jennifer, Amy and I were going through Mom's things. Somewhere in the exploring and the remembering Amy told me something I did not know: perfectly preserved in the attic back home is the corsage she wore on her wedding day.
That flower is just one picture of enduring love. One of the most important for us is the fact that once Dad placed her wedding ring on her finger on April 6, 1946, it was never off of her finger. She always said that the last conscious thing she would do in this world would be to curl her fingers into a tight ball so her ring could not be removed. Standing beside of her bed, I pulled back the covers and looked. It was just as she had said.
But no matter how great her love was for Dad, her greatest love was for Jesus. She would sing so quietly in church that you could stand beside her and not hear a sound — that was because, she said, her worship and her love were so personal no one needed to hear it but her Savior. She loved Jesus from the time she was a little girl, and together with Dad, she taught all of us what it means to live each day trusting in the Lord God Almighty.
She commented a few weeks ago that she was ready to go home. I said, with only half a scripture to back it up, "Mom, you have two carpenters working on your mansion. When Jesus and Dad are finished, Jesus will take you to live with him forever." Her eternal home was completed on Monday and she moved in.
When Bonnie and I got the call to rush to the hospital, Matthew went with us. Michael stayed home so no one would see his tears. Matthew and I waited for the doctor to come and sign the death certificate. Standing there by her bed we sang the chorus of "Victory in Jesus." Matt said it was like there was an echo in the room, an echo from eternity.
We sorrow, but in the words of Paul, not as those who have no hope. We miss her more than words can say, but even greater is our rejoicing in her victory. That is why when we gathered in church Wednesday morning we did not have a funeral service. With complete and total confidence in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection we had a victory celebration! If you have not done so already, add your name to the guest list.
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 11/27/99
Copyright 1999 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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