Monday, September 21, 2009

Mom's Memorial & After Thoughts (revised)

I love this picture because I think it captures mom's beauty and independent spirit. I actually imagine her to now look as young, healthy and vibrant as she is in this picture.

*The bagpipe music is temporary until I write the next post. I am playing "Flower of Scotland" followed by "Amazing Grace" because those were the 2 songs played during Mom's memorial service and so have just put them on to go with the memorial post.

Mom passed away, 6 months ago on April 17th.

We were finally able to have the memorial ... this past Saturday, September 19th.

We delayed the memorial because I wasn't feeling good back in May. My cousins had planned to be here in May... but after that... then weren't able to be here until the fall. Unfortunately.. it turned out that none of them could be here for the memorial that was held yesterday.

I missed them greatly.

I know they would have been here if they could have. (Hopefully..we will be able to have a family dinner together in the fall.)

Anyway... it was a perfect fall day... simply beautiful!

I am so very grateful to my friends and family who helped me put this together. We held it at Church. I was married in that church on October 25, 1975. My husband grew up in that same church and older son was baptized there.

Even though my membership is in another church now... this pastor reached out to me the day after my mother died and has spent time with me on the phone. It has always seemed like it was meant to be to have mom's memorial in this church. The pastor was most welcoming, helpful, supportive and encouraging throughout this difficult time. I shall always be most grateful to her.

Most of the food was home cooked by friends, family and myself.

Mom would love that a bagpiper played at her service. It is the only request she had regarding a service.

The organist is an accomplished musician and music teacher and husband of a good friend and the bagpiper is the brother of this same good friend. I loved having them for the music and told them so..that it just felt so right.

The bagpiper was in full regalia playing outside in front of the church before the service began and with doors closed to the inside... friend played the prelude.

The pastor arranged the service perfectly.

I was so nervous about giving the eulogy. And.. I had a writer's block of epic proportions. I had all summer to write it..and I did.. but just couldn't seem to hone in on the perfect thing to say.
And then last week I wrote and then for the 2 days before... I wrote pages more. Obviously.. I couldn't say all that.. but I wrote my heart out... looking for what felt right. I write so much.. but this was the most difficult thing I have ever had to write and I think that is because no other death has affected me as profoundly... even tho I have been deeply saddened by other losses in my life. I wrote a lot of good things but just couldn't downsize and fine tune it and perhaps anxiety was also hindering me. The pressure of doing this final thing just right for Mom. You'd think that would be the catalyst.. but instead it was the distraction.

Interestingly.. while somewhat nervous..I didn't even have butterflies in my stomach as I walked up to the pulpit. I did go up there with some notes of what I wanted to say.

I thanked everyone..the pastor, musicians, friends and family for their help and for being there. But I began to falter as I glanced at the notes and it wasn't coming out the way I wanted it to and so I quickly put them aside and just spoke with my heart... a daughter's sad... but grateful heart.

The following isn't necessarily in the order in which I spoke ... but these are most of the things I said:

I described who she was.. her traits and interests and that she loved her friends and family greatly and was passionate in her love for animals. I described her generous spirit and how I have always known her to help others. That she never complained about helping... but was always glad to do what ever she could. It didn't matter if she knew you personally or not... that it was as if she felt that person's pain herself and did what she could to help.

I said that the doctor had said if it wasn't for her... my grandparents wouldn't have lived as long as they did. Also in her latter years... she often sat with people in her building that couldn't be alone as well as with my husband's grandmother when she became ill. She also walked their dogs, fed their cats and did what she could. Her greatest joy was watching the boys when they were little.

I said she wasn't the least bit materialistic and even thou she didn't have much... she was always happy with what she had... and was happy to share whatever she had with anyone. My uncle once told me that when she was a young girl...any time she got any money...she would go to the candy store with her friends and buy them all candy... spending it all.

I did state that we had gone through some hardships when I was young... and I couldn't understand why she gave me away to her brother and his wife. And so at the age of 14, when I was sent up here... I was very angry with her.

But, some years later... after I became a mother myself ... it was with the heart of a mother... that I realized that there isn't anything a mother wouldn't do for her children so that they could have a better life. I realized that when you love someone.. you are willing to let them go if it will help them and that is what she did for me. She wasn't rejecting me.. but letting me go. And after she came up here and got settled...I was given a choice... to stay with my aunt and uncle or to move back with her... and I chose them. I know that had to have hurt her.. but she sacrificed her own feelings and let me stay with them... and I do believe I had a better life because she allowed that.

I said that she had said we were oil and water and we were but that we loved each other very much. I said that even though the last 6 months of her life was in the nursing home and it was bittersweet.. because we had come full circle in our lives. It gave us time to reconnect in a way we hadn't before. I apologized for things I had done wrong and she said she had made some mistakes too.

I said that when we were cleaning things out, I had come across things I wondered about.. things that pertained to her life in some way and now I would never know what they were. I encouraged people that if they have something they want to say, to work out with another person.. they should do it now ...while they can.

And then I picked up a little book about Mothers I had brought up with me.

It's called "A Mother is Love" a collection of thoughts celebrating mothers. I explained how I found it in her drawer. I opened it and saw that I had never filled out the front..where it says :

A gift for Mom
With Warm Thoughts and Wishes From With lots of love, Patty

And so I filled out what you see in Italics and brought it to her in the nursing home. At that point she couldn't read well and so I read it to her.

(It was given back to me in a box with her personal effects after she died and I forgot about it. But then a couple of nights prior to the service, I got the book out to see if there was something I could use as a quote and then I discovered something that confused me at first, then caused me great sadness but is ultimately very comforting to me.)

I went on to explain that I had read that entire book and nothing in that book had been filled out prior to my bringing it in to her.

But Thursday night... on the very last page... The last quote read as follows:

The value of a wonderful mother cannot be measured - only treasured!

and under that it was signed:

Love forever,
Mom S.

Once I realized that she had written that for me to see while she was in the nursing home... I cried. I explained that my mother never signed love *forever* on anything she has ever signed. It was always signed "Love always" and so... it seems that she knew this was the final stage and while she still could ...she feebly wrote those words ...

"Love forever,
Mom S."

That told me she wanted me to know that she will always love me.

I began to cry when I first began to read the quote... but I closed my mouth while simultaneously closing my eyes, swallowed, took a breath and with a slow, deliberate nod of my head... I went on. I just needed a second to push my feelings back down and to compose myself. One of my friends said that you could see my resolve to go on.

I could see one aunt crying. I don't know if anyone else was. I could see my immediate family easily and my friends in the next row.. but my vision on the other side was slightly obscured from the light emanating from the stained glass windows in the back. Well that and I wasn't wearing my glasses or contacts.

I mentioned that my mother adored my husband.

I explained that I chose the picture above to be the main picture in the collage because I felt it showed her spirit and what I felt she looked like now in heaven. I did go off track slightly..explaining that I had heard that we all get younger to the age of perfection in heaven and then I realized that was conjecture, hoped I hadn't overstepped my bounds as I didn't want to be saying anything that would conflict with any scriptures or church doctrines and so quickly looked over to the pastor who was standing at the pulpit on the other side. She interjected that some have thought that since Christ was 33 when he died that that was considered to be the "age of perfection". I said that I thought it was a 70s thing I heard some people say. *So.. I did digress there a bit. (Personally, I do believe we get more youthful though.. to what age.. I don't know. I think signs of disease and decay will no longer be seen... again.. I am not saying this as doctrine... but does make sense given what is said about heaven in the scriptures.)

And I asked my granddaughter Devan if I could quote her poem. She was immediately embarrassed and hid her blushing face behind her little hands. (She's 8 yrs old) I again asked if I could and then proceeded to.

(I actually did it for her because last week I called her to ask if she would read something one of my cousins sent... but she said.. "Mum-mum.. you know I'm shy" and then said..why can't I write something of my own? So I said..she could and to call me back. But when she read it to me..I told her even tho it was beautiful..I was looking for something happier because it was a celebration of her life. I explained she had described the night my mother died and I didn't know if that was a good thing to do at the service. I could tell it disappointed her and it bothered me and so that is why I decided to use it.

It isn't verbatim.. but the gist of it goes like this:

When I'm old and gray
And my spirit leaves me..
When I perish..
I hope you will all surround me.

I explained that during the last few years of my mother's life... I worried about her being alone. I used to pray that she wouldn't die alone. I know people die alone all the time and that is life... but I hoped it wouldn't happen to her. Then when she went into the nursing home..I thought well at least there will be someone there.

Devan's poem actually describes what happened the night my mother died. We were all there with her those last few hours. My husband, our 2 sons, my d-i-l, Devan and even her soon to be born newest great grandchild Wrenna ... and we were there when her heart stopped beating. My friend Debbie had come in earlier to see Mom. It was better than I thought it might be. We were all there.

And so then I said a I wanted to end with a Jewish mourning prayer a friend had given to me, called the Kaddish that was originally from the Hebrew Union Prayer Book of 1895.

I proceeded to read the prayer out loud and is as follows:

"I remember you in this solemn hour, my dear mother. I remember the days when you dwelled on Earth, and your tender love watched over me like a guardian angel. You are gone from me, but the bond which unites our souls can never be severed; your image lives within my heart. May the merciful Father reward you for the faithfulness and kindness you have ever shown me; may he lift up the light of his countenance upon you, and grant you eternal peace. Amen"

I had meant for that to be the ending, but then realized I didn't say one of the most important things... that she was responsible for encouraging me to have faith in God. I said that she wasn't one to overtly speak of her faith.. but that she did have a strong belief in God and encouraged me to go to a neighborhood children's Bible study on Saturdays and got me ready every Sunday for Sunday school... and that my friend Iris (she was there) and I, used to go together.

I said one year... I never missed a Sunday and was so proud that I had received a little pin as a reward for consistent attendance. I smiled and said "I still have it today." and held up the paper from which I had just read the prayer and had fastened the pin to to.

I further explained that she answered any questions she could about God and never hindered my growing faith in anyway. I explained that because she cared enough to have seeds of faith planted in my life at an early age... it provided a strong foundation which supported me when we went through the challenging times that were to come and even still today. I said that at the time when my home life was being uprooted... peer pressure was also great... it would've been real easy to go down a wrong path. I said that I know for a fact... that it was my faith in God... that kept me on a good path... and had my mother to thank for that.

I'm not sure how I ended it and said some other things.. but that was the main part.

Then thinking the stairs were immediately to my right (they weren't) I stopped myself before I almost walked off into the air. oops! I made a joke and then walked down the stairs. Then the bagpiper played "Flower of Scotland". Pastor did a sermon on John 14.

The 3 songs I chose for us to sing were "Be still, my soul", "On Eagles Wings" and "In the Garden". There were other readings and prayers that were said throughout the service.

Then the benediction, postlude followed by and ending with the bagpiper playing "Amazing Grace".

And then went into the Church's great hall for the repast.
I shall always be grateful to Debbie and Iris ..two very close friends who helped me set up for the repast in the great hall of the church (along with husband and son) the night before and also got all the food and beverages set up in the morning before the well as clean up afterward. I was touched that Debbie's husband, Tom... also pitched in and helped with the clean up afterward. Older son and my husband pitched in too.

Iris thought it was done so nicely and would want the same thing. I agree. I am very pleased with how it all turned out.

They did most of the work that day and I helped with very little. I appreciate that they enabled me to do what I needed to do and to be with the guests. We are truly blessed to have such wonderful friends.
Later Iris and Debbie hung out with me over here all night until the wee hours of the morning and I still didn't want them to go. Even though I was relieved to finally have had the service and that it went so well... I was beginning to feel a mountain of sadness that I was keeping at bay thanks to the laughter and interesting conversations with my friends. Then after Iris got home..we talked until 03:30.
I do wish I had honed down my words on paper because I did miss some things I still would've liked to have said, unconditional love, etc. and I wanted to expound on specifics in childhood..that she was the first person to teach me about honesty and I have a great story with that, etc., but then it was already long I suppose. I do feel good about what I did say though and there are things people may not have realized about her. Mom was very private. She never had to one up anyone..except in a game of something (I get my competitive game spirit from her:) , she really was happy with what she had and she never ever bragged. She was a good person. I am blessed to have had her for my mother.
I was slightly taken aback when the pastor stated that we would be feeling my mother's loss over these next few months..especially with the holidays coming and she encouraged them to reach out. I don't know why I was surprised..because I know this is true. i guess because Mom died 6 months ago. But then Christmas.. is still Christmas and they always say the holidays hurt when you lose someone.

What happens is that when someone dies... everyone rallies around the family. Cards, food and visitors come in, the funeral plans, phone calls.. there is a flurry and the grieving people are numb from the loss. But then in a couple of weeks... everything settles down and it is life as usual for everyone else... but not for the people who lost their loved one. people stop reaching out and inevitably.. when everything is quiet is when people begin to really feel their loss.

So.. I know that is why she said what she said and I appreciate that too. She was such a comfort to me through all of this.
I plan on writing special thank you notes..and that includes for the people that reached out and did kind things back in the spring when Mom died. I know I should have much sooner for those dear people. I feel better about it after having read that a doctor who lost his mother back in March hadn't finished writing the thank you notes even tho he knew he should. He said something like writing them out would be acceptance of her death and he hadn't gotten to that point yet. I know exactly how he felt.

There are phases of grief that we all go through and I suppose the timing of it is individual..but never the less..we will go through the process.

I did mot expect to feel like I lost her all over again... which is what happened Sunday. It really hit me as soon as I woke up. But now (Monday night), even though it hurts and I miss her terribly and wish I could tell her I love her and hold her close in my arms (Like I did for the last time on Easter Sunday), I am feeling better and I am feeling a peace about it all now.

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