Betty Lou Gudgeon Gahan, age 85, passed away at home with her beloved husband by her side on Sunday, June 27th, 2021. She is survived by her husband, Jack Edwin Gahan 91, her daughters Patricia Ann (Sarah McQuilkin) 68, Jacqueline Latham 68, Edna Jewel (Julie) Erickson 66, and Sally Len Lockard 57. She is also the mother of two deceased sons, Jack Allen Gahan, and James Edwin Gahan. Her youngest child James was always her favorite. As children, some of us used to resent that. But having children of our own, we have come to accept that mother had a special bond with our little brother.
If I could describe her with only one word, it would be LAUGHTER. My mother was a happy woman. But don’t assume despite her smiles and cheerful countenance that she had a life of ease. She once told me her grandmother never smiled due to the heartaches she had experienced in life. My mother made a decision that she would be a woman who always smiled. She told me a few tragedies that befell her when she was a small child. I asked her how she could be happy after what happened to her. With a determined voice she firmly asserted that, “No one was going to deprive her of happiness.” Her children remember her as a happy woman who smiled daily and frequently laughed.
A great source of her happiness was derived from her loving husband. Her passing deprived her and my father from celebrating their 71st wedding anniversary on August 12th, 2021 —they having been married in 1950. My father is a devoted husband and a gentle father-UNLESS we dared offend his sweetheart-our mother. He was her protector. Gentle he was and tender but more than once he valiantly defended his wife. For years, he has tenderly and patiently cared for our mother after her declining health left her dependent on him. Never once, has he complained until she suddenly left him behind the day she passed. “Don’t leave me,” he cried.
Their story is one of True Enduring, Love. Don’t be fooled by my father’s rough exterior. He is a romantic at heart and showered my mother with many sentimental gifts. They suffered through job loss on more than one occasion, even hunger to the point they momentarily considered putting their children in an orphanage because they could barely afford to feed us.
There was illness of both children and parents, but they struggled on and sometimes worried what the future held.
Surely they argued but, rarely in front of their children. Adult subjects were never discussed in front of children. At some point they determined that divorce was not an option for them. We never heard them mention that fearful word in our home. How grateful we are that despite their afflictions-or maybe-maybe perhaps BECAUSE of their afflictions-our parents never divorced. And thus, we were spared the heart ache of a broken home. Their love for each other grew through the years and they are deeply in love.
Even during hard times, laughter could be heard in our home. One Christmas, my mother said we were so poor they couldn’t afford to buy any presents. She made a cardboard church and we all decorated it together. Mother was surprised when years later, I was remembering that as my happiest Christmas as a young child.
Dad loved Christmas. His greatest joy was watching our excitement as we opened the gifts, he had worked so hard to provide for us.
But mother’s favorite holiday is the Fourth of July. After she passed, Dad said we would not be celebrating the holiday this year. We immediately-even defiantly said, “Oh yes we are going to celebrate the fourth.” And we did. We knew our mother would be furious if we did not celebrate her favorite day of the year.
My mother always had a clean home until she could no longer do it herself. She taught herself to sew. It bothered her that she never graduated from high school so later in life she got her GED. She was so proud when she received her CNA certificate. Mother is intelligent and with her love of all things legal, she could have easily been a criminal defense lawyer but, unselfishly chose the role of wife and mother.
Some of the lessons I learned from my mother are:
You don’t wait for hard times to be over before you can be happy. Counting your blessings and dreaming of the good times yet to be helped her enjoy the life she currently had. For example, when we were struggling financially, she, dad, and sometimes close friends would happily daydream about what they would do if they had a million dollars to spend.
I also learned that forgiving those who have inflicted great pain on you, frees you from the burden of anger and hatred. It is impossible to be happy when you are bitter.
My mother forgave those who broke her heart and welcomed them back into her world as oft as they wished.
I can’t possibly put 85 years of lessons learned, into a few paragraphs. My mother was an ordinary woman who lived an ordinary life extraordinarily well. She will be missed until we meet again.
For genealogical purposes:
My mother is the daughter of Caroline (Kelly) Evans, Gudgeon, Edgmond and Clarence Harley Gudgeon. My father Jack Edwin Gahan is the son of EdwinJames Gahan and Bertha Mabel Mader.
This obituary is written by Jacqueline Anne Latham (daughter of Betty Lou Gahan).
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