Friday, January 29, 2010

Remembering My Mother

An excerpt from the Eulogy and Postlude of my mother's 'Celebration of Life Service' Five Years Ago

My mother did not want a funeral and liked the idea of what the Irish do . . . laugh and cry retelling stories of a loved one. In fact, my mom’s friend Nancy told me in a conversation, that my mom once told her “I don’t do funerals.”

Some of my mom's happiest times were when she was a child living on the farm in Otisco Valley with her mom, brother, mother and various animals including Bossie the cow. My mom told me many stories of riding that very lumpy cow and how she loved to pester her brother Fred.

My mom was a woman who wore many hats in her life. She was a survivor of abuse, a single mom, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. Although my mother’s life was often troubled, she was a strong caring person, a loyal friend, and she was a survivor. She often told me at times of pain in my own life that the women in our family were strong. She was right. My grandmother was the rock of our family and I was a third generation survivor of abuse.

My biggest respect for my mother was as a struggling single mom. Mom worked hard to raise her two children the best that she could, with the limited resources that she had. My mom was a caring person who took special delight in children and animals. Mom once told me that she wished that she could have been a veterinarian [although I also thought that she should have been a great singer]. Mom had a beautiful singing voice and I grew up listening to her singing along to her records of various Motown artists as well as Barbara Streisand.

My mom had a great sense of humor too. She was a kid at heart who loved to dress up for Halloween, and enjoyed the family get-together's at holiday time. Although we were poor, my mother worked hard so that I got to go to the senior prom, graduate on stage with my classmates, and insisted that I have a class ring. She made all those things possible for me. She said I was her star and she was very proud of me.

My mother was an adventurous friend who loved to go on drives every weekend and she adored fishing! Her best friend in Syracuse, who is also called Cathy, reminded me how much my mom loved the water. The two Cathy’s were like sisters and spent more weekends than not either fishing or driving around for a great adventure. I remember as a kid my mom would say to us kids, “Hey, let’s go get in the car and drive around and get lost!” She loved to drive and loved going on big driving adventures almost every weekend.

After her family had grown, mom moved to the countryside of Central Virginia to be closer to all of us. She worked for a number of years as an elder caregiver before she had to retire due to disability, and eventually ended up in a rehab nursing facility. There she had many friends and people who were very fond of her and she was very fond of them. The folks here took good care of her and many of you called her "the social butterfly." Mom had her daily afternoon bingo at her special table with her bingo buddies.

Often times when I would call my mom, I could not reach her on the phone and she would call me back breathless and cheerful telling me about her visit at the nurse’s station or talking to residents in the hallways. I will miss my talks with mom throughout her day as she filled me in on her daily happenings.

While I carefully sorted through pictures, to make a collage for her memorial service, I found a note in my grandmother's handwriting which read:

"When my final farewell to this world I have said, and gladly lay down to my rest. When softly the watchers shall say (she is dead) and fold my pale hands on my breast. And when with my glorified vision at last (the walls of that city) I see. Will any one then at the beautiful Gates be watching and waiting for me?”

My mother, Cathie, the social butterfly may be gone, but she is not forgotten. We are sad at her passing, but know that she is at peace in heaven. She is once again reunited with her own mother and in the presence of the Lord.

Aside: this appeared in the program for the memorial service. It is a beautiful song that I love to sing. It is written by a contemporary Christian artist who is a singer, songwriter, and classically trained pianist.

"If I Flew on Morning Wings"
If the Heaven's heights I fly
You are still beside me.
Or in death's dark shadows lie,
You will stay close by me.
If I flee on morning wings
Far across the gray sea,
Even there your hand will lead,
Your right hand will guide me.
Written by Fernando Ortega 1998


I invited those attending the Memorial Service to take one of my mom’s stuffies as a remembrance of her. When the service was over and we were leaving, I saw one of my mom’s friends in the hallway. This white haired lady with the shining face had taken two of my mother’s stuffed animals. A beautiful little fur bear that Dan and I had given mom that she thought was too pretty to hold very much and only talked to him while he sat in his special place next to her bed and a aquamarine colored pony with white mane and tail. This little lady told me again how much she enjoyed my mom’s friendship and would miss her talks and being bingo buddies [her room is straight across the hall from my mother’s room].

My mother is at peace and I think she would have been pleased with the service.