The Most Beautiful Woman I Have Ever Known

One week ago my mother passed away after an almost two year battle with ovarian cancer.  I wish I could type about her but right now I can't hardly put one foot in front of the other, let alone talk about her.  The tears just start to flow.  I know - no doubt in my mind - that she is home with Jesus.  God has her and she is not only healed but she is perfect.  All of that brings me joy but the joy is there beyond the fog of grief right now.  I spoke to or saw my mother almost every day of my life.  We worked together in the same office for 15 years, too.  We spent a lot of time together and now...she's gone.  I know - there are memories and trust me, I've looked to them several times already.  I know where she is, who she is with but for me, she is no longer a phone call away and I ache with a pain I never knew I could feel and continue to breathe.

This is what I said at her funeral on Thursday.  I will warn you, it took me about 10-11 minutes to say so it's a bit of a long read. 

Good afternoon, everyone.  For anyone who doesn’t know me, I am Bonnie, Mae’s oldest daughter.  Thank you for coming.  Mom would be overwhelmed and quite embarrassed if she knew how much attention she was getting today.  We, however, are incredibly grateful for the love and support you have shown our family – not just today but in the almost two years since Mom was diagnosed.  I will try to be quick and stick to what I’ve written.  I have a tendency to rabbit trail a lot but if Mom could see all of this today, she’d want to run & hide.  She was never a fan of attention.  If Dad is right in his picture of heaven, she is currently running the Golden Streets Daycare, holding a baby and watching dozens more play.  If she were here, she’d tell us to stop all of this and get outside – take a walk – it’s a beautiful day.  So…in respect to my shy and humble mother…

I wish I was a brilliant speaker.  Mom deserves the best stories, the best laughs.  She deserves a great party.  She so loved to throw them and she never needed a reason although the holidays always meant mandatory party time.  Parties meant games and she always had a few – unscrambling words, guessing how many of.. whatever… she’d put in a glass jar to name a couple.  There were always, always prizes.  She didn’t need anyone but her family, either, to make something a party.  The kids (her grandkids) would ask her on the 4th of July what the next year’s theme would be.  Yup.  Theme.  I don’t know how many years ago it was but she decided there would be a theme for 4th of July.  You came dressed as…  your favorite Disney character, as a pirate, in pj’s, we had Hawaiian dress one year… 

Easter meant the annual hunting of the eggs.  There got to be so many people in our family hunting eggs, she started having to mix the eggs up – blue tops with green bottoms.  Pain in the neck if she didn’t lay your egg down sideways.  We’d often get our colors mixed up with each other and one year we were in pretty big trouble - SHE couldn’t remember who was what color OR where she’d hidden all the eggs.  After that?  A map.  Even then we’d more often than not be missing an egg.  There was always the “big prize” egg, too.  I think her favorite on that one was the year she hid it in the burn barrel.  She stood on the deck and watched us – each one of us adults – walk up to that burn barrel and look in it.  Then… walk away without seeing it.  My brother-in-law was the one who finally found it.  The rest of us were laughing with the “how did we miss that?” Man, did she laugh over that one.

She loved to laugh and one thing is for sure – she had the right family for that one.  Some of the wittiest one-liners you’ve wished you could have heard have been said at my parents’ house by someone in this family.  She loved every one of them.  She also loved going to work to laugh.  In one of her journals, she wrote about that.  Forgive me as, I’m paraphrasing a bit here – “why would I want to stay home, lay on the couch, be alone and feel bad when I can go to the office and the guys will make me laugh.”  It felt good to her to, during the day, be around those she worked with.  She often said it wasn’t the job that dragged her to work, it was the people.  Mom & I worked together for 15 years.  When she first started at the District Council, she worked with me in the morning and with my sister at a daycare in the afternoon.  I can still hear her when she was telling my brother – Bonnie bosses me around in the morning and Brenda bosses me around in the afternoon.  My weekends are free – you want ‘em?

Flamingo wars – she loved her little flamingo war which started with my sister & brother-in-law but then grew to encompass the whole family.  I don’t know when it started and I don’t know if it was her or Matt who tossed the first flamingo but…it went on for years and we all learned something pretty interesting.  If you can imagine it, they have a flamingo for it. One year she went to Florida to visit my Uncle John & Aunt Diane and she brought home a few flamingo items.  They were that next year’s – or just about the whole year’s - holiday’s game’s prizes.  We all have flamingoes.  So much power was held by that flamingo war that she had indirect influence, too.  My mother-in-law spotted the flamingo trinkets I’d been given and/or won and thinking I liked flamingoes, decided to get in on the fun.  I have received a couple of flamingoes from her and ummm… not that I have to tell you this but my mother showed NO sympathy on that one.  She just laughed. 

I could talk all day about things my Mom made fun.  It would be the easiest thing in the world to do.  I told her once, 99.9% of the fun I’ve had in my life is because of and/or with her. 

Mom was pretty spontaneous, too.  One casual comment at a wedding shower a few years ago and she was off for a week to Hawaii with three of my friends.  A high school dream turned into a week long road-trip with one of her best friends and a quick conversation turned into an Alaskan cruise.  You call her on a Saturday morning and say “Hey Mom, I’m thinking about doing ___ .  Wanna come?”  Answer was almost always yes.  Even her last weekend we had a trip planned and despite knowing she probably couldn’t do it, she didn’t have me cancel it until the Tuesday before.

My Mother was one of the best women I have ever known.  She made our house a home.  Always.  When we were kids, she made our home “the” place to hang out.  Not only did we want to be at home but our friends all wanted to be there with us. 

She was graceful and humble, shy and quiet, lovely and thoughtful.  Friendly and sweet but stubborn…  I told her just recently, “For so many years I’ve wanted to be like you.  People look at me and they use words like “intimidating” and “strong” and “independent.”  For you, they use words like “gentle” and “gracious” and “sweet” and “nice.” 

Mom was and will always be the most beautiful woman I have ever known.  I do not know if I will ever be capable of her kindness, but I strive for it.  I do not know if I will ever be as skilled as she at making people feel at home but I keep practicing.  I am over 40 and I can tell you, my mother is still teaching me and while she may not be a phone call away anymore, I can still see her and hear her.  My oldest son has her deep love of tradition – not the kind that says don’t wear white after Labor Day but the kind you create for your own family.    In her granddaughters I see her compassion, her stubbornness (ok…that’s in her kids, too), a bit of the tomboy flair I’ve heard stories about, her as a kid, her quiet watchfulness and too many other attributes to name.  In my nephew I see her intelligence and analyzing everything and in my younger son, who gained her as a grandmother when he was 5, I see her love of exploring things outdoors.  How many grandmothers would let their 6 year old grandson pick up an intact dead crab on the beach and bring it home to show me…  Only one.  The rest of them would have been too afraid of my reaction… 

Looking through pictures of my mother for today, it was rare to find one of her alone, being “serious.”  Usually she’s doing something silly (sticking her tongue out was a favorite) or has grandkids climbing all over her or is standing with… someone.  Always with someone.  How deeply she loved all of the people in her life and every picture was a treasured memory of some moment and she shared it with the people around her. 

I can’t talk about my Mom without talking about her faith.  My mother embodied 1 Peter 3:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.

Her reference verse was Galatians 6:9.  She put it in an email to my brother & sister & I over a year ago and she had it written on a card, taped in her room.  The verse on the card reads:

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.

And her note after:  “It’s easy to quit, it takes faith to go through”

She had her struggles, her doubts and through this last battle, it was quite tough for her to lay it all at God’s feet but…she would, even if she picked it back up, she’d lay it back down.  She always knew, and her journals reflect, that she didn’t understand God’s plan, she didn’t know God’s plan and she hoped God’s plan included allowing her to stay with us for many years to come but ultimately…she trusted Him and His plan. 

As I try to wrap this up ~ I know this is clich√© but the death of someone you love is a time of great personal reflection.  Mom & I had so many conversations about death & dying in the last several months.  In one of them we talked about being fortunate enough to know it was coming much sooner than anyone would ever want and we had the opportunity to say all of those things we wanted to say.  In another, I told my mother all she’d ever meant to me, who she was to me and it surprised her.  Happily surprised her.  So…don’t wait.  Don’t ever pass up an opportunity to tell the people you love just how much they mean to you, how you see them, how important they are to you.  Don’t let the angry or bad feelings linger – go, talk it out.  Apologize when you screw up and work to never do it again.  We only know we have the moment we’re breathing right now.

I know, I repeat myself but…my mother was the most beautiful woman I know and I had the privilege of telling her all of who she was to me before I had to say good-bye.  My new normal is totally abnormal.  A light has gone out in my life, I’m not quite sure who I’m going to go to now ~ she was always who I called when I had something funny to share or a question to ask or a rant that needed venting…  And she was always there. 

Finally… Mom, for a while was “into” Precious Moments.  The figurines.  She collected a few but mostly, she bought them to give away.  Each person in this room can relate stories, we all can state in years how much time we had with her.  62 years, 45 years, 44 years, 43 years, 34 years…all the way down to not quite 1 year..  but each one of those years is broken into moments.  Even if it wasn’t a figurine, she spent a lifetime giving away Precious Moments.  Thank you all for being a part of her treasure.

1 comment:

HeathahLee said...

Well, of course I'm crying. What a beautiful, beautiful tribute to your mother. How proud of you she would have been, if not a bit embarrassed at the attention, from your description of her. You did well, Bonnie.