Mom's passing seems a lifetime ago

By Steve Sell
May 20, 2016

It was 21 years ago today that God stood at the gates of heaven and welcomed his latest angel.

It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since my mother passed away after a long-and-courageous battle with cancer on May 20, 1995.

It’s heart-breaking to lose a parent (I’ve lost both), but in Mom’s case it was a blessing. Her body had been ravaged by the dreaded disease for the better part of two years. Our family thanked God when he took her, because it put her out of her pain. It had been so difficult to watch her battle cancer, giving everything she had because she didn’t want to leave us.

I always mark her passing on this day to reflect on what she meant to me and take stock of my life. I always wonder how much different my life would be if she were still alive because I called on her so much for wisdom and guidance.

Mom would be 89 and given that her mother was going strong at 93, I have a feeling Mom would have been very active.

As it is now, she’s probably busy keeping track of my Dad in heaven, as he joined her nearly two years ago.

Mom was my best friend. I actually had more in common with her than my father growing up as she was a monster sports fan, especially her beloved Notre Dame football team and Kansas Jayhawk basketball team. If you wanted to find Mom on a Saturday in the fall, you had to look no further than the TV set in the afternoon as she never missed college football, though she never, ironically, watched the NFL. She would enter the local newspaper college football contests and often win the first-place prize, even earning mention in the editor’s Sunday column for her prowess. And, no, I didn’t pick the games for her. If I had, she’d never won.

Mom always wanted the best for me. While she was the kindest woman I ever knew, she also had a stern side. After graduating from Independence Community Junior College, I kind of dragged my feet on where I would attend my final two years. I was all set to go to Pittsburg State, the alma mater for my parents, but deep down I wanted to go to the University of Kansas. I got in at the last moment, but not before I incurred my mother’s wrath for procrastinating.

Anybody who met Betty Sell knew that was something she never did. She was the most organized person I ever knew. She had a schedule and stuck to it.

She was a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother. She took care of my Dad, myself and my sister and there was never a question who ran the household. Once the two grandkids came along, she doted on them non-stop.

Mom was the office manager at my Dad’s business and also ran the professional building of which they were members of. She served the church in many capacities and volunteered at the local hospital. She was prominent in the community, doing whatever she could to make Independence great.

I have always lived my life trying to make her proud even though she’s gone. I hope she’s looking down and nodding with approval as I’ve always given everything I’ve had to my jobs and tried to treat people the way I would want them to treat me. She always made a point to remind me in life that I’m no better than anybody else and I should never look down on people, instead treat them as equals.

When something happens in life, I always wonder how Mom would have reacted. She would have been devastated by the 9-11 attacks and what our world has become. I guarantee she would not be watching the presidential race (even though she enjoyed politics) because of how far the candidates have sunk with their personal attacks and not concentrated on the issues.

She would be devastated as well by the fact Mercy Hospital in Independence has closed, where both of her children were born and a place she had such a vested interest in. It’s hard to believe Mercy is closed because a hospital, along with schools, are the small town’s heartbeat.

Mom left us far too soon, but she’s been joined in recent years by many of her closest friends. I’m sure when Betty “Princess” Dancer passed away recently, she was one of the first ones there to welcome her dear friend, who became a mother figure in my life. I bet Mom thanked Princess for watching over me.

Those who knew Betty Sell were the better for it. Few people I’ve known have ever said a bad word about her and many to this day still talk about her (especially her delicious Red Velvet cake). That makes me proudest of all.

I know there will come a time when I’ll be joining her. While I still have much left on Earth to accomplish, I have to admit I can’t wait to see her again.