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Beyond Hallmark

"Beyond Hallmark" Continued...

Issue: "No way out," May 13, 2006

Theresa DuFresne, a 44-year-old San Diego facilities manager, had no problem using vacation time and weekends to care for her mother, Marjorie DuFresne, 81, and her father, George, 83. Between 2001 and 2005, Mrs. DuFresne suffered two heart attacks and two major strokes. Every weekend for four years, Ms. DuFresne drove the two hours from San Diego to Ontario, Calif., to care for her parents.

Beyond the weekends, "whenever my mother went into the hospital, I would go, too," she said. "If she was in for three weeks, I was in for three weeks." If Mrs. DuFresne was at home, her daughter spent Friday through Sunday in Ontario, prepping the house for the coming week, running errands, and taking her mom to the beauty shop.

"That was her big outing," Ms. DuFresne said. That and slipping out for a root beer float. Ms. DuFresne remembers the time her fun-loving mom put her husband's big wool socks on Theresa and her five siblings when they were small, and danced them around on the hardwood floors to Big Band music. "This way she was able to wax the floor and have fun with all 6 of us at the same time."

In September 2005, Mrs. DuFresne suffered her final major stroke. She died in October, Ms. DuFresne and her siblings at her side. A devout Roman Catholic, her mother's faith was "so strong, unbelievable," that she was ministering to lay ministers from her death bed, Ms. DuFresne remembers.

"I can't even begin to say how thankful I am" to have cared for her for four years, Ms. DuFresne said. "If I hadn't I would've missed so much-all the storytelling, the way my mother appreciated life."

This month will mark Ms. DuFresne's first Mother's Day without her mom. Meanwhile, Tina Taylor, the Colorado centenarian, knows that every Mother's Day may be her last. Nearing life's end, she has begun to yearn for eternity. She prays every night, said her daughter, Mrs. Rinnert, that the Lord will just let her go to sleep and wake up with Him.

In the meantime, though, she remains ever practical. "Do you think," she asked Mrs. Rinnert recently, "that we'll wear lipstick in heaven?"

"No, Mom," Mrs. Rinnert said, smiling. "I think we'll all just be beautiful."

-with reporting by Kristin Chapman

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