Four years later, my phone still reminds me of her birthday…twice. Though she was born in 1940 (which made the math easy), she was always evasive about when her birthday was when we were growing up.
My mom would have been 77 years old today. Four years ago, in honoring her, I inadvertently started a Wabash tradition.
On her birthday, we buried my mom’s ashes beside my dad in Greenlawn Cemetery in Franklin. (Well, half of her ashes, actually.) That same day, my fraternity chapter held its annual auction and Mothers & Brothers pitch-in. I contributed an item and attached a note.
A Red Sweatshirt
Both sides of my family were Greek, and most of the Vandivier men, including my grandfather and namesake, were proud brothers in Sigma Alpha Epsilon at Franklin College. Though I bucked tradition by becoming a Wabash Phi Delt, my SAE dad and Chi Omega mom were incredibly supportive as always.
From football weekends to the Parents Club Auction to Mothers & Brothers (which started my sophomore year), my parents loved Wabash and this house, especially in its power to supplement their steady guidance and help transform me into the man I am today.
At Homecoming 2012, I bought a red Wabash sweatshirt for my mom, and I gave it to her at Christmas.
She bravely fought cancer on the three occasions, starting after Finals my first semester. In 2012, a new tumor had developed, and though she didn’t feel it, I knew she was worried. For me, Linda Gates Vandivier embodied the spirit of Wabash Always Fights, and I wanted to convey that to her as she faced this new threat.
Though she had few symptoms, the tumor perforated her stomach wall, and she died quite suddenly on February 20, 2013. On her birthday on April 7, we buried her ashes alongside my father in Franklin, the same day as Mothers & Brothers that year.
She never had a chance to wear the sweatshirt, so I have offered it as part of this chapter auction.
I hope that one of you moms can wear it with great pride. Our mothers’ love for their sons is one of the greatest and most unsung traditions we Wabash Phi Delts have.
Wabash Always Fights,
Hugh Vandivier ’91
Donna, the mother of Alex Hawkins ’15, won the sweatshirt. The next year, she brought it back to the auction along with a three-ring binder and my note on the first page. Each year since, a Phi Delt mom has bid on the sweatshirt, and each year her son writes something special about his mom to include in the binder and put into the auction the next year.
Naturally, I’m touched. So on my mom’s birthday, I’m grateful and inspired that her spirit and love reinforces the mother-son bond of others.
If you’re mom is still with you, give her a call. It’ll surprise her, I’m sure. Tell her you love her. Just as I’d love so much to do so today.
I love you, Mom.