Elizabeth Gastil’s Remembrance of our Mother

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Margaret Gerhardt Linton and Elizabeth Gastil Linton, at my brother Matt's wedding

In our ongoing series of posting our family’s reflections on our mother who passed away on Sunday July 31st 2011, below is my sister Liz’s piece. Earlier I posted a bio/obit piece we all worked on, initiated by Laura Archer Linton, and talks that Matt and Garrett gave at the memorial service. 

Here’s the reflection talk that Elizabeth Gastil Linton gave at mom’s memorial service. It took place on Saturday August 6th 2011 at Tustin Presbyterian Church.

Margaret Linton

You have heard the term “broken home”…my mother always told us that we came from a carefully broken home.  She broke it, and for good reason.  After my alcoholic father suffered from manic depression and paranoid schizophrenia.

After many years of trying to juggle his illnesses and a family of small children, she made the impossible choice to choose raising her four children over remaining in her marriage.  This was a decision she did not make lightly….. and while I was growing up, I never heard her utter a bad word about him, despite the many opportunities he gave her to do so. 

When she left my father, she had four kids under eight. We had times without a car where we rode our bikes to the store, and other times where we had no food in the house and my mom would bring just enough after work for dinner.

But, my mother made sure that we had her

She was our champion and helper. She was an intentional person, thinking through everything she did.  I like to say that my mother “majored in the majors.”  And although our house was anything but clean, she expected us to be kind, considerate and respectful of her and each other.

Every night, we sat down to dinner together and, before we said our Lutheran prayer, she  would have each of us tell God one thing we were thankful for that day.  She was always thinking up ways to encourage family togetherness, having each of her kids pick a night of the week to cook dinner with her so we would have that time to connect with her and learn to cook.
She made up contests like her weekly “niceness award” to try to encourage the four of us to be kind to each other. 

My mother was a reader, she always said that everywhere a TV was on, someone wasn’t reading a book. So daytime TV or “illegal” TV to us, was prohibited. She thought if the sun was out, children should be outside playing.  As for TV watching, each Sunday night we would sit down with the TV guide and each pick one hour, for a total of 4 hours of TV a week.  

Then, later…when the TV broke, she didn’t fix it.  She read us classic books such as Tom Sawyer, Frankenstein, and Watership Down. She would put out art supplies for us to draw and create pictures that would cover the cabinet doors of our kitchen – or we would do cat’s cradle… I still remember sitting on the stairs going step by step through the different cat’s cradles moves form the book Fun with String. After a few years, to our dismay, I think it was Matt, who finally discovered that the TV was an inexpensive and easy fix.  Later, she confessed that she knew that and she purposely didn’t fix it.

After she left my father, in God’s sovereignty, God led us to this church and we would all sit in the front row of the balcony back there. I remember her worrying that we would drop a hymnal on someone’s head.  But she brought us here, week after week.  I think my mother brought us to church because she knew we needed others in our lives, and that she couldn’t raise us alone.  She knew we needed mentors and direction and this church rose to the occasion many times, helping my mother physically, monetarily and spiritually.  At this church we experienced the love of Christ in very tangible ways. 

As kids, we were all exposed to the arts and culture.  She would drag, yes drag, us to art museums, and plays.  Every summer, she somehow bought season tickets to the Occidental [College] Summer Theater.  So, four times a summer, we would drive to L.A., get french dip sandwiches from Philippe’s and picnic on the steps of the outdoor amphitheater at Oxy and see plays from Rogers and Hammerstein, Gilbert and Sullivan and Shakespeare.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, her patient exposure to the arts was infectious and it paid off.  We didn’t always like it as children, but it is something that I so appreciate and love now in my adult life.  In the past years, I have so enjoyed going to the theatre and the drive time where we would discus the themes of the plays, and the life implications.  I will miss these times greatly.

In my mid 20’s, I often wondered how my mom did it? We had very little money, she was a single mom with the odds stacked way against her. Weren’t the children from broken homes supposed to be at risk? How did she raise four kids, who all went to college, didn’t use drugs, and were fairly decent people, “contributing citizens?” Then, I saw her as a grandmother… buying unique books that taught my children about art and music, going with her to museums and hearing her explain a painting to them, seeing her cut out funny magazine photo’s to make a picture book with Paige, making a bean pole teepee in her backyard, supporting them as they played piano, drew pictures, and acted in plays, and played football (even though she didn’t approve of the sport). Seeing her with my children it was crystal clear how we all turned out ok…she was a natural mother who  loved and cared in with great intention.

Psalm 23, verse 6 reads, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.”  In my mom’s early years, she spent a lot of time fishing in the wake off her fathers boat.  A wise pastor once said that he hoped that people would remember that his walk with Christ left a wake of goodness and mercy behind and from him, and ultimately from Christ.  I think my mom’s life left a wake of “goodness and mercy”  in the lives that she touched; we are surfing in the firm foundation that she set forth. There is a void, but there is peace, love……..and goodness and mercy.

I thank God that he deemed to give me such a strong, capable and intelligent mother that under such adverse conditions she “majored in the majors” and taught us to enjoy and engage in our world.  I thank God for her 73 years and for blessing me with her presence in my life.  I am so grateful to be surfing along in the wake of goodness and mercy that God gave me in my Mom.

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3 Responses to “Elizabeth Gastil’s Remembrance of our Mother”

  1. John Gastil Says:

    Condolences for your loss from another Gastil, from a different branch of a small family tree. The tributes written here are remarkable, and she must have been a remarkable woman.

    Google brought me to your page, and I would love to talk and compare notes (and would be happy to FBook connect). We must be around the same generational cohort b/c my Gastil-parents have also had health challenges, and I lost my uncle Ray Gastil Sr. this past year. –John (jgastil1@gmail.com) from (State College, PA)

  2. Charlie Little Says:

    Loved your remembrances – beautifully and aptly portrayed.

  3. Melissa Gerhardt Says:

    Im thinking that you must be my niece? Its strange to find relatives on the internet. My dad was Marge’s brother. I am sorry for your loss, and wish I could have known what kind of person she was. I may have met her when I was little, but do not remember.

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