10 May 2010

A final goodbye to our mother

This Mother's Day weekend, our family and friends in Massachusetts celebrated our mother's long life in a memorial service organised and hosted by our brother P. Mom died and was cremated in January of this year, and you can read her obituary in an earlier post. But as often happens these days with New England funerals, the memorial service was postponed until Spring.

The morning began with a service of thanksgiving and remembrance at the Daniel Morril Funeral Home in our home town. It was presided over by Father John Pastor, who had often visited Mom in her final years at Radius Nursing Home. Fr Pastor noted with amusement that Mom told him straight out at their first meeting that she wasn't very religious. But he was pleased to officiate, and I'm told he did a wonderful job!

More than 35 members of our extended family and friends-of-family attended, including, of course, sister D and her three beautiful daughters (see Those gorgeous 'Benoit' girls), who flew up from from Louisiana for the weekend. Numerous cousins and their families – some of the countless sons and daughters of Mom and Dad's 16 brothers and sisters – also attended.

Our brother had prepared a slide show featuring photos from Mom's long life. This was projected on a large-screen television for guests to view as they arrived. And to introduce the service, D had selected In my life, a song from Mom's all-time favourite group, the Beatles.

After the service, everyone drove from the funeral home to a chapel at a nearby country cemetery. There Mom's ashes were laid to rest alongside our father's on an idyllic hillside location our parents had selected many years ago. Then everyone retired to Cohasse Country Club for a sumptuous buffet lunch hosted by our brother, and peppered by lots of remembrances and laughs, as well as tears. Dad's 92-year-old sister happily took the role of distinguished elder during the lunch. She and the other guests reminisced and shared a fund of amusing stories from our parents' long and happy lives. (Mom was 88 years old when she died; Dad was 86.)

Unfortunately, my sister and I and our two daughters here in Australia were not able to travel to the USA for the weekend. So each of us had written a brief letter to our mother/grandmother, and these were read out during the service.

My niece in Tasmania sent a poem

For reasons of copyright, I'm not able to reproduce Granddaughter A's thoughtful offering for the service: The Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. (In a quirk of fate, Fr Pastor had selected that same poem as one of his readings.) Along with the poem, A sent this note to our brother and sister there in Massachusetts: "I send it to you with lots of love, and warm thoughts of Granny. Think of it as an electronic hug, and may all the birds in all the poems sing and fly for Granny." The beautiful poem was a perfect choice, though A may not have known that the annual migration of Canadian geese in the skies over their New England home was something our parents looked forward to every year.

My daughter sent the following letter to her grandmother:

DEAREST GRANMA,

I’m not really good at thinking of things to say in these types of situations – I’ve only ever been to one funeral in my entire life. So I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to say now except to let you know B and I are both relieved you are finally comfortable with Grandpa. I’m sure you’re indulging in all the things you like – donuts, hotdogs and baked beans; Johnny Cash music; house-coats; yodelling; scratch lotto tickets; sewing, knitting and crocheting; all while watching Mash re-runs or listening to talk-back radio.

I’m not lucky enough to have many memories of you as I have spent the vast majority of my life living away from most of my family – I never really knew you the way Mum did. But my earliest memory of anything at all is one that involves you. I was sitting in your kitchen in a highchair eating baked beans! The other memory I have was the time you were thrilled that, when pushing your dining chair back under the table, I matched up the chair legs to the existing indentations in the carpet without being asked. Our appreciation of each other grew a little more that day, I suspect.

Rest soundly now in the arms of Grandpa and be safe in the knowledge that quite a number of your habits and fancies are genetically safe with me :-)

All my love......Z

My sister in Tasmania sent this lovely tribute:

IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY MOTHER:

Crocheting still reminds me of you, Mom, more than almost anything else. And I'm never happier than when adding row upon row of geometric stitches, reminding me of simpler times gone by. Of course, I also fondly remember your knitting, your patchwork, your sewing, your love of music, your love of the sun, our laughing sessions...but I feel your warmth and closeness most when I am crocheting, using stitches you first taught me all those years ago. I'd have loved to share this new afghan stitch with you. So I'll do it now...

Loving you always.....N

And here is my final letter to my mother:

 

DEAREST MOM

The only thing that helps me to bear your loss, Mom, is the thought of how certain you were of seeing Dad again in heaven – how much you looked forward to that, and how you believed you would actually SEE him, too, with your own eyes.

Losing your sight was such a cruel blow, after a lifetime spent making beautiful things and creating a wonderful home for all of us. I don’t know how you coped with that loss, and still managed to care for Dad at home when you were already legally blind yourself and physically disabled from arthritis and other problems. I admired you then so much. But only in the past year, with all that has happened to my own husband, have I had some inkling of what you must have gone through in Dad’s final years, and how hard that would have been.

I can only wonder in awe at your strength, your toughness and your love. We all benefited from those qualities, Mom, and that’s a legacy that will live on in the lives of your lucky children, your beautiful granddaughters and your great-grandchildren.

I miss you so much, but we give thanks today for your life and for all that you and Dad gave us. Rest in peace, my dearest. No one deserves eternal happiness more than you. 

About me

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I started this blog in 2009 when I became a full-time caregiver. My husband had been diagnosed a few years earlier with primary progressive aphasia. Over the next four years until his death in 2013, we went on a journey of discovery about this rare condition. My blog is about what I learned, how we both coped and how the journey deepened our love and appreciation of each other. Allen’s journey is over, but mine goes on.