This Mother’s Day, Lisa Weyer found that the perfect gift to honor her mother’s life was the Gift of Hope of a sewing machine — given to a mother in need across the world.
I am the daughter of a woman, born in Lithuania, who fled her country as a 4-year-old. Soviet troops captured Vilnius on July 13, 1944. My family would have been targeted because my grandfather was a banker, so they had no choice but to go to Germany. The day my mom turned 5, she vividly remembered her father carrying her on his shoulders as they crossed a bombed-out bridge. Separated from her parents during a bombing raid in Berlin, she was sent to an orphanage in Switzerland. She eventually reunited with her parents and lived in a displaced persons camp. One winter, coats were distributed, and inside the pocket was the name and contact person stateside who wished to sponsor the family and bring them the U.S.
Fast forward many years later, she was married and living in Arizona with three young daughters. I was the middle girl.
One of the many memories I have is of my mom making us clothes — along with placemats, napkins, drapes and tablecloths. We crafted a sewing center in our home, with the sewing machine folding into a cabinet. There were many drawers and cabinets built into the center – all filled with a vast array of materials and notions. This sewing center was a major fixture in our home — even our great dane would jump on top of it to bark at anyone who would come to our front door.
During my childhood, my parents owned a cruise and travel agency. My mom would sell huge tours on the ships and in return our family would travel for free. Suffice it to say my sisters and I were spoiled by all the crew, as it was still a novelty to have kids on board.
My mom always loved fabric, so as we traveled the world her collection grew to represent many countries. Like the fabric, the tapestry of every trip was interwoven with life lessons which remain with me today.
I am so very blessed I had a remarkable relationship with my mom. Due to the circumstances of my conception and birth, things could have been very different. However, I never felt anything but love. We had a special bond. I was born with fluid in my lungs and my mom always said she refused to let me sleep in a crib because she thought I would suffocate. So, every night, I slept next to mom. As a result, I believe we were bonded in a unique way that lasted a lifetime.
Tragedy struck our family when my younger sister was killed in a car crash at the age of 15. Our family home was sold, and my parents tried hard to find light again. I do not believe the sewing machine and fabrics were every touched again.
Many years later, my parents moved to Oregon to live closer to my sister. My mom said the landscape, rivers and climate reminded her of Lithuania. Soon after, she was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare neurological disease. Over the course of about three years, she declined and eventually required 24/7 supervision and care. My dad became her caregiver, and my sister helped as much as she could. I still lived in Phoenix and traveled back and forth quite often to see my parents and help my dad.
On November 18, 2019 I left Phoenix after nearly 48 years there. I sold most of my belongings, knowing in my heart that Oregon is where I should be. My mom was in the hospital that December with a critical case of sepsis. Miraculously, she was released on December 18 and came home for Christmas. Then on January 18, 2020 she died. I am so grateful for the final two months I had with her and spending every day in her presence.
Before her death, I had been looking for work and soon after she died, I had an interview. At both interviews I got teary eyed and was given so much grace and mercy. On February 18th, yes, another 18th of the month, I was offered my new position at Holt International Children’s Services as the foundation and grants relations officer. I absolutely believe God orchestrated things exactly as they revealed themselves and I’ve felt so much peace since then.
Most evenings my dad and I share the dinner table. On top of one of the table runners my mom made, we light a candle in her honor. As I reflect on my mom’s life, one of my many cherished memories is a photo of my little sister and me in matching pants she sewed — quite the fashion statement with little red apples on denim!
As I think about my mom, my memories of her are woven together with the dresses, pants, placemats and more that she so lovingly created and incorporated into my life. So, as I considered how to honor her this Mother’s Day, my second Mother’s Day without her, I believe the Gift of Hope of a sewing machine will honor her life the most. This machine, given to a mother in poverty across the world, will dramatically change her life — allowing her to make a profit as a tailor and support her family.
I hope the sewing machine I gifted can help create income and cherished memories. Maybe one day, the families’ children will wear something sewn with love, and years later, as they recall childhood memories, they will smile.
Lisa Weyer | Holt Foundations and Grants Relations Officer | Gift of Hope Donor