Friday, May 9, 2014

Ernesta Drinker Ballard

Ernesta Drinker Ballard was my mother.  On May 13 she would have been 94 years old.  Sometimes Mothers' Day falls on her birthday.  Three years ago I wrote about her.  I cannot improve what I wrote then.  Here is that post from May 11, 2011.

My mother has been dead for only six years.  From our house I can see Mt. Baker in the North Cascade Range.  With the candor of the old, she told me that I had been conceived on a hiking trip there.  I miss her every day.

My mothers' passion was the power of vision.  What she could imagine, she could do.  Whomever showed up was enlisted in her cause.  With volunteers her armies mowed down the opposition.  She believed in belief.  To watch her work a room was to know that you were an amateur to her mastery of teamwork.  As she lay dying people came to her room to say goodbye - people my sister and I could no longer count or account for.

One of her close friends sent us this poem that was written by Edna St. Vincent Millay about another woman who dedicated her life to the cause of women's rights.  We printed it in the program for my mother's memorial service.

To Inez Milholland

Upon this marble bust that is not I
Lay the round, formal wreath that is not fame;
But in the forum of my silenced cry
Root ye the living tree whose sap is flame.
I, that was proud and valiant, am no more;—
Save as a dream that wanders wide and late,
Save as a wind that rattles the stout door,
Troubling the ashes in the sheltered grate.
The stone will perish; I shall be twice dust.
Only my standard on a taken hill
Can cheat the mildew and the red-brown rust
And make immortal my adventurous will.
Even now the silk is tugging at the staff:
Take up the song; forget the epitaph.
—Edna St. Vincent Millay

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