Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A one-of-a-kind loving keepsake honoring my mom February 17, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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The book cover features a loving quote and my mom’s favorite flower, the iris. To the left, along the spine, is an empty locket for me to place pictures inside. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

THOSE WE LOVE stay forever in our hearts.

The first page features a photocopied photo of my mom holding newborn me. I have only a few photos from my early childhood, this one my most treasured. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

What beautiful, meaningful and heartfelt words. That message titles a 10-page mini altered book crafted by my dear friend Kathleen upon the recent death of my mom. The book arrived unexpectedly from Kathleen’s secluded cabin studio in Idaho on a February morning, when I most needed it.

Kathleen includes this photocopied picture of my mom on her last Mother’s Day in 2021 and posted on the Parkview Nursing Home Facebook page. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

I settled into a comfy chair, paging through the book as tears fell. Soon I was sobbing.

Me with my mom in a photo taken several years ago. The words are in my printing, from a Mother’s Day card I made for Mom as a young child. The blue flower tucked into the lavender pocket graced the front of that card. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

Kathleen, using carefully selected photos pulled from my blog, inspirational quotes and poems, recycled materials and more, created a book reflecting my mom. From Mom’s faith to her love of irises to our mother-daughter bond to her rural background and more, this book lovingly honors my mother.

It is a treasure, an absolute treasure, now cherished.

This is a special memory of my mom. On our birthdays, she baked a homemade chocolate cake and then crafted it into an animal shape following instructions in the “Animal Cut-Up Cake” booklet. We chose which animal we wanted. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

My long-time friend, once the children’s librarian in Faribault, never met Mom. But you’d never realize that by seeing this visual memoir. That’s a tribute to Kathleen, a kind, caring and compassionate soul who truly listens, whose empathy runs deep, whose heart overflows with goodness and love.

A cross hugging a corner of the last page represents Mom’s strong faith. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

Kathleen has read my blog posts about Mom through the years. She’s viewed the photos I’ve posted (and some I sent to her), from past until recently. She understood the essence of my mother—her strong faith, her farm background, her love of family, her compassion for others, and more.

The book includes a copy of a photo I took of Mom’s “The Good Shepherd” framed print, a 1954 wedding gift to my parents from Dad’s Uncle Walter Arndt. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

No detail went unnoticed by my friend in creating this work of art. In a mini-bottle attached to the book, “Amazing Grace” labels a music scroll. That was among three hymns sung at Mom’s funeral. Polka dotted ribbon and paper frame two family photos, matching the polka dotted blanket covering my Mom’s lap and the polka dots decorating her great grandson’s birthday cake in two images. A swatch of gold lace mimics the frame of my mom’s “The Good Shepherd” print which now hangs on my dining room wall. Kathleen incorporated selected “good shepherd” verses from John 10 (read at the funeral) into the book along with a photo of that cherished print.

Two pages are devoted to the grandmother-grandchild relationship, featured in this copied photo of my three children taken in 2015. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

Words cannot fully convey my gratitude to Kathleen for crafting this keepsake. It is, for me, a love-filled book to be shared with my children and grandchildren. Sweet memories of my mom, their grandmother and great grandmother. My three now-grown children are connected to Kathleen also, my daughters once working as library pages and attending teen events under her supervision and my son as a young boy asking her to find space-themed and other books for him.

Kathleen left Faribault years ago with her dear husband, Justin. But we remain deeply connected. Connected via our shared love of words and writing and reading and poetry and libraries. Connected via our shared values and genuine compassion for others. Connected via her connection to my children as they were growing, developing. And now that has extended to the next generation. Geographically, we are distanced from one another. But our friendship remains rooted, strong, enduring. Miles matter not.

And when Those we love stay forever in our hearts arrived from 1,400 miles away, I felt as if Kathleen had stopped by to give me a hug. Such are my loving thoughts upon embracing this comforting keepsake crafted by my dear dear friend.


NOTE: Several years back, Kathleen created an altered (much larger) book all about me. It tells my life story. As with the book about my mom, Kathleen tapped into my blog for images and information. My friend, even without that resource, knows me well. That book, too, is a treasure, deeply cherished.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


22 Responses to “A one-of-a-kind loving keepsake honoring my mom”

  1. beth Says:

    this is a priceless treasure.

  2. I remember you fondly talking about your mother and her animal cut up cakes 🙂 Kathleen and her artistry and creativity – a true treasure and keepsake from her to you – oh so precious. I truly appreciate you sharing this with your readers – made my day and had me reflecting on my loved ones too. Happy Day – Take Care (((((loveandhugs))))))

  3. Kathleen Ahern Says:

    Dearest Audrey, I am so touched to find the altered book I made for you featured on your blog. As I shared with you, it was truly an honor for me to create it for you in memory of your sweet mom. The words you included in your blog about the book and our enduring friendship so touched my heart. I cherish you, my friend. Thank you for honoring me by sharing my artwork on your blog. Hugs and love across the miles from me to you.

    • Hugs and love to you also, dear Kathleen. I feel such gratitude to you for creating this love gift honoring my mom. I wanted to recognize you publicly and share my joy with my readers. Thank you again, from the depths of my soul.

  4. Valerie Says:

    What a work of love…and such a beautiful gift to be treasured.

  5. Colleen Gengler Says:

    What a wonderful keepsake and tribute to your mom made by a true and loving friend.

  6. Norma Says:

    This book of your mother is the most beautiful remembrance that I have ever seen. Such a treasure.

  7. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    What a beautiful gift and keepsake!

  8. Oh my goodness what a treasured gift. She does beautiful work.

    • I absolutely treasure this, Keith. I hope you, too, have something to treasure that reminds you of your mother, also so recently gone.

      • At the moment my sister has my mom’s things. I haven’t requested anything, though she is saving some things for Nicole. We have family photos on our fridge, one is of my mom, who looks so alive and vital. I look at it multiple times a day. I still find it so hard to believe that I cannot call her, talk to her. I find her legacy, her memory, her words, on days when I am having concerns. That makes me smile.

      • Keith, I understand what you are going through, how you are feeling at losing your mom. I’m thankful you have those photos on your fridge (I do, too), the memories and the loving thoughts. I’d encourage you to get something meaningful from your sister that belonged to your mom. Just yesterday, while looking for a recipe, I came across several written by Mom. To see her handwriting was such a blessing. Sometimes it’s the littlest thing that brings her love back.

        Take care, Keith, as you grieve. I think losing our mom’s during COVID makes everything harder with neither one of us able to see our moms much in recent years.

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