The coincidence was a “Kodak moment,” a snapshot of a time long forgotten. For a grieving daughter, the unexpected encounter brought a vivid picture, one captured through the eyes of another.
The timing couldn’t have been better.
“I got called to jury duty — every year I get called — and 160 of us were sitting in a dark room with bad coffee,” Dana Berry of Aurora, Ore., said, smiling as she recalled the tedious wait. “I started chatting with a lady a couple of seats away and she said, ‘You remind me of someone I know, but I can’t put my finger on it.’ ”
Connecting the dots as they chatted was a good way for Dana to push back the gray sadness on that February day. Grief had felt close in the damp winter. The loss of her mom in the spring of 2015 had come after years of caring for her parent while watching memories fade.
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“My mom had increasing memory loss and she’d use sticky notes,” Dana explained. “I’m not kidding; the walls and counters were covered. All of a sudden there’d be 20 sticky notes with, ‘I need to get some Kleenex,’ or sour cream, or dog food.”
Dana remembered hours in the grocery store where her mom gathered countless Kleenex or milk cartons, each a reminder on her multiple sticky notes. Eventually, Dana had to have a heart-to-heart talk with both of her parents. It was time to place them in extended care.
“It was about 10 years ago that my parents started having problems,” the businesswoman said, recalling how her dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and dementia, then her mom with Alzheimer’s shortly thereafter. “Seems like families usually get just one — and no family history either.”
Saying goodbye to her 74-year-old mother only a year after her dad was gone had left an empty place in Dana’s heart. Remaining were photo albums, reminders of a beautiful life.
For Dana, being called to serve on jury duty eclipsed time and remnants of sorrow as the two women explored possible links to each other. Dana had been in the music industry in California and later in Portland. Now a semi-retired Realtor with a son and daughter, her network was complex.
It was one of my mom’s most treasured experiences in her life. She adored all the women she traveled and worked with over there.
Then an image emerged.
“She asked where I grew up,” Dana said, adding that she had told her the rural street name when she discovered the woman had lived in Lake Oswego at one time as well. “That’s when she said, ‘You remind me of a lady that lived on that road, but I haven’t seen her in years. Her name was Linda something.’ ”
Dana’s world stood still.
“Weaver? That’s my mother!” Dana had exclaimed as myriad questions and never-heard stories followed. Suddenly, this daughter was transported back to a Sunday morning in 1994.
Dana remembers how she had just finished singing with the church worship team when a woman from World Vision and a photographer from National Geographic were invited to the podium. The presenter told the audience of about 800 people that she and a small team of ladies were planning to go to Africa to empower women. They were looking for one more “great woman” to join their effort, Dana said.
“My mom who had never done more than sit in the pew and go to a tea I forced her to go to, leans over to me and says, ‘I want to go to Africa,’ ” Dana said as she remembered her astonishment and skeptical thoughts. “This woman who has lipstick applied perfectly, clothes perfect even before she goes out to check the mail, ‘You’re going to go to a Third World country?’ ”
After the service, Dana’s mom made a beeline to the ambassadors from the Women of Vision ministry while the rest of the family thought she had disappeared into the ladies room, Dana said with a chuckle.
The meeting after church, however, was a turning point for Dana’s mother. By November 1995, she was on the plane to Mauritania, Africa with a group of seven women, including the wife of a U.S. senator, the wife of then World Vision’s president, and the National Geographic photographer.
“It was one of my mom’s most treasured experiences in her life. She adored all the women she traveled and worked with over there,” Dana said of her mother’s mission trip from more than 20 years ago. “She had always been giving, caring, but it changed her.”
How much, Dana didn’t really know. She had heard stories from her mother’s perspective — a woman who was very spiritual, but not one to draw attention or be in the limelight. Even to read scriptures or pray in front of others in a church setting made Dana’s mom uncomfortable.
Now as Dana sat in the jury room side by side with LuAnn Yocky, senior director at World Vision USA, the attentive daughter saw the trip — and her mother — through another’s eyes.
“She told me, ‘One of the things we so loved about your mom was the way she prayed and how she touched the lives of the women,’ ” Dana said, reflecting on the effect of this astonishing tie with one person out of a room filled with 159 others. “I always thought of my mom as a servant to her family, place of work, the neighborhood. But when my mom was in Africa, she was a leader and she’d never had that opportunity.”
In her typical humble way, Dana’s mother had never shared that part of the story.
“To hear that from LuAnn,” Dana said, pausing with emotion, “it wasn’t like my mom did amazing things, but in Africa it was amazing things for her.”
A bigger picture of her late mother that filled the empty spot in Dana’s heart — in God’s perfect time.