Memorial service: Tina’s homily

I’d like to thank all of you for coming, for your effort to honor a woman you didn’t know very well.

She was a little old lady when she moved in with me ten years ago, and she just…kept getting older!

I’ve tried to plan this service to reflect who she was.

She was a woman of great faith.

Today’s music is the music she grew up with and loved.

The flowers—thanks to Jennie Granrose–reflect her openness, love of green                            and growing things, and her family, including the five children she bore.

Many people here in Athens cared for her.

Several doctors who took special interest in her include                                                                              Dr. Philip Morris,                                                                                                                                     Dr. Steven Lowman                                                                                                                                 Dr. Scott Linder                                                                                                                                         Dr. Baker Hubbard.

Al Hester visited her faithfully for years.

The staffs of Whispering Pines Assisted Living and Quiet Oaks nursing home treated her well.

Mary Wade was a friend and caregiver off and on for a long time,

Linda Zacker, her Hospice nurse, literally saved her life in 2008.

Did you know she was a Hospice patient for two years?   Discharged in 2010.

She’s been hospitalized half a dozen times since then, and kept bouncing right back.

When they called me Tuesday morning, May 19, to say she was unresponsive, one of the things that went through my mind was the story from our Gospel reading.

I half expected her, like Lazarus, to yet again “Come forth.”

She did, but more about that in a moment.

My mother was a farm girl from a small village near Cleveland, OH.    Her father died before she was born, so she was especially attached to her  own mom.

Grandma Ruth not only “worked like a man,” quote/unquote, on the farm, she also played piano for the silent movies.

Their house was always filled with music.

Mother was her only child.

I never knew Ruth – she died before I was born.

They lived in her grandfather’s rambling “old brick house” that meant a lot to my mother.

Several years ago she and I spent weeks at my kitchen table while she  described                   the two story, two-winged house in great detail and had me sketch out the floor plans.  For some reason she wanted me to know the arrangement of every room, where every door       and window was, where the furniture was placed, and especially, where the piano was.

I think it was her place of refuge, where she felt the safest and most  loved.

She never went to college, but had a keen mind and intense interest in the natural             world.  When I was little, she’d take me walking through Metropolitan Park and                     point out and name all the wild flowers and trees.

Have you ever heard of Bluebirds and Camp Fire Girls?  They’re sort of a Yankee version of Girl Scouts, and actually pre-date them.

For years Mother was a leader. I remember the odd and unusual  trips she took us               on, exposing us to things young girls back then wouldn’t necessarily know about .

I was her oldest.  When I was three, she had a stillborn daughter.

A son followed the next year. When I was eight and he was four, he died in her arms of a botched tonsillectomy.  I don’t think my parents ever got over that.

Two years later my late brother Ted was born, and when I was fourteen, my sister, Becky.

So she really had two families—me, then this very big gap, and her two little ones.  She was 60 when my sister graduated from high school.

Having an empty nest seemed liberating.  She and my father started traveling in their little camper all over the country.

Acadia National Park in Maine                                                                                                             Florida                                                                                                                                                         the Grand Canyon                                                                                                                                     the marvelous National Parks out west:  Glacier, the Badlands                                                   —you name it, they were probably there.

Her favorite was a cruise to Alaska.

She made two trips to Finland with my father to visit his relatives.

In 1988 I took her on a nine week trip traveling around western Europe, showing her           the places I loved best  from all the times I had lived there and chasing after her as she indulged her interest in genealogy.

The following year, she and my father went back again, exploring spots I had missed!

Somewhere along that time, when she was in her early 70’s, she became intensely         interested in “rock hounding.”

I had to look this up:

“Rock hounding is an amateur geological study of rocks and minerals, both in                           their natural environment and as specimens that can be cut and polished.”

She would research their trips, and locate places along the way where there were known “rock fields.”  She could tramp around, look at a stone, and be able to tell the likelihood of there being a geode inside.

They often come home from a trip with 300 pounds of rocks in their camper.

My father, a retired mechanical engineer, built her a rock saw and a polisher.

She would cut and polish slabs, and make wind chimes, clocks, and desk accessories that she’d sell at craft fairs.  You’ll see some examples over in the Parish Hall.

After 56 years in Olmsted Falls, OH, where I grew up, my parents moved to St.             Charles, MO to live with my sister and her family.  A series of unusual and unfortunate circumstances led her to accept my invitation to come live with me in 2005.

I will always admire the courage it took for an 89 year old woman to leave 3                           of her four family members, her church community, and her doctors, to                           move half way across the country to start a new life.

We had about three good years together.

Twice we flew out to California to visit Matt and Jill, and once we took a  three week             driving trip back to Ohio, where she was able to reconnect and visit with many of her old friends and family.

Her health failed suddenly in 2008 and she was admitted to Hospice.

After two years with her hospital bed in my dining room, they “discharged” her!

However, she was showing early signs of dementia, and I had neither the strength nor the resources to care for her on my own.

She spent a little more than five years in assisted living and nursing home facilities.

The decline in her mental faculties continued.  What was real to her was what was right in front of her, or what had  happened when she was a child.

These last 18 months or so she often talked about her mother.

“Mom was here today, did you see her?                                                                                               She’s probably still around somewhere.                                                                                               Be sure to say good-bye to her before you leave.”

“No, I can’t go back to my room with you to hang up those new tee shirts.                                 Mom’s on her way and she won’t know where to find me.”

And, teary-eyed:  “I haven’t talked to Mom in a long time.                                                             Will you help me write a note to her?                                                                                                   I think they’ve moved, can you find their new address?”

This last year she seldom knew who I was, and often confused me with Phyllis,                       her older step-sister.

What didn’t change was her knack for wise cracks and one liners.

During one visit last February, I again asked her if she knew me.

“Sure, you’re Phyllis, Rube Parker’s daughter.  (Rube Parker was her step father)                   “No, I’m your daughter, Tina.’                                                                                                                There was a pause, she looked at me, then blurted out:                                                                 “Why’d you change mothers?”

Cracked me up.

Three weeks ago I got the call from the nursing home that she had lain down for a nap after breakfast and had become unresponsive.  They were pretty sure her end was nearing.

She died 48 hours later.

It has been my limited experience that when a person dies, “they” don’t leave immediately.

It’s sort of a hovering feeling.

So I sat with her body for quite a while, still aware of her presence, just being with her.

After about an hour, I experienced a decidedly “warm” sensation, as if someone wrapped a light shawl around my shoulders.

I have no idea why, and it sounds weird, but at that moment I absolutely knew what was happening.

Her mother had come to get her.

I found myself smiling and mentally waving good-bye, knowing my  mother was being carried off by the one person she most longed for.

And then the sense of her presence in the room was gone.

Esther was a woman of great faith.  I knew where she was being taken.

Rest in peace, dear one.  I shall miss you terribly.

NOTE:  After I spoke, at the point in the service when we exchange the Peace with each other, I was presented with a hand knitted shawl made by one of the women in a group that calls itself “Threads of Prayer.”  We were all speechless and overwhelmed at the coincidence.

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About estherfromolmsted

written and maintained by Tina
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