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Posts Tagged ‘funeral’

Mom’s Service

I think mom’s service went well. I thought they were going to wait to sing “In the Garden” until last, but they threw that in pretty early, which didn’t help me or dad hold it together. That was mom’s favorite hymn, and it was easy to picture her singing it, full of joy. It made me miss her terribly. I also had a hard time looking at the urn.

Mom’s brother and mom’s best friend both did a wonderful job with their eulogies. I had hoped to make it through mine without crying, but I failed. For a minute there, I didn’t think I’d be able to finish it at all. I had practised giving my speech without any notes. I ended up reading it straight off the paper. That made it a little easier. Taking my glasses off made it easier, too: I didn’t have to see anyone.

I think mom would have been appreciative of the choir. I recognized some of the faces in the loft from my childhood. The music director said that members of the choirs from two of mom’s churches volunteered to come. Mom always loved singing.

Such a sad day.

We didn’t stay very long for the reception. I didn’t actually have a chance to speak to many people once we were through with the receiving line. It was a looong line. I know it tired dad out. I think I was just in some kind of a daze. I’m not sure how many people came to the funeral, but I heard one person say that he thought it was at least 300 or 350. The church was about 3/4 full, and it probably holds about 500.

It was great of everyone to come out. I was surprised by how many people came out just for me. Three people from my current job came, which meant a lot, and three from my previous job (at least, previous in NC) came, which also meant a lot. Good people, those. One of my friends drove from Virginia, and another from Boone. Several of my friends from Raleigh showed up, including two friends from elementary/middle/high school. It was nice.

And now we get to go about the task of figuring out what life is going to be like from here. We’ve had a lot of invitations for Christmas, but I’d kind of like to stay here with dad. We need to make our own new traditions. I’m sure they will involve hanging all the Annalee ornaments on the tree. It will be hard and it will be sad, but we’ll make it through together.

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My Eulogy for Mom

I would like to begin this afternoon by thanking each and every one of you. Not just for being here to celebrate the life of my mother, but for everything you have done and continue to do for my family. Thank you, and I welcome you all here today.

*

It seems like we women spend a great deal of our lives trying not to become our mothers.

I know my mom, when she was much younger, tried very hard not to become hers. That’s part of what led her into her professional career: getting out of the house to find her own life rather than living only for her family. She was not successful, though: my mother grew into a nurturing woman who took pride in caring for those close to her and who tried to live as Jesus would have wanted her to…in other words, she was just like her mother.

I saw this shift reflected most clearly in her changing reaction to her favorite movie, Gone with the Wind. Mom used to idolize Scarlett, the impetuous youth, but when we went to see the movie together when it was re-released in theaters, mom told me that she had changed her mind: now, she strove to emulate Scarlett’s mother: kind, non-judgmental, generous, graceful.

I, too, tried for years not to become my mother, but I, too, failed. And I am very proud to admit it: that I am, in many ways, just like her.

*

Back during those years when I was convinced I could escape becoming my mother, I was following in her footsteps without even realizing it. As one example, I had a long-term relationship with someone that mirrored one from her own youth. Both were destructive. And as hard as it must have been for her, as painful as it must have been to relive it vicariously through me, she never told me what to do or forbid me from seeing that person.

She was the perfect teacher: she offered gentle guidance when asked, but she let me make my own way so that I could learn from my own mistakes. And she was there, waiting to hold me, when it all came crumbling down, as she must have known it would.

*

What I would most like to tell you today is that Sallie was not just my mother. Sallie was my best friend.

You see, my parents never treated me like a typical child. From as far back as I can remember, they treated me like a little person with valid opinions, thoughts, and beliefs. There weren’t many “because I told you so” moments in our house: my mom always took the time to explain why things should or shouldn’t be done. This fostered my natural sense of curiosity, helped me learn how to reason through everything, and taught me to believe in my own value.

My mom always told me that I could talk with her about anything. And it was true. I remember one day, when I was young—maybe around 12 or 13?—lying on my parents’ bed, talking to mom while she was trying very hard to continue reading her romance novel. I don’t know if I was deliberately trying to test her, but I was curious to see how far that “anything” really went.

What, I asked her, would happen if I told her I was pregnant? Well, she said very calmly, putting down her book, of course she would still love me, and they would support me, but I’d better never, ever tell my dad who the father was because he’d kill him.

*

As my relationship with my mother grew and changed over the years, that was perhaps my favorite thing about it: that I could tell her anything. And, to her credit, she listened. She only offered advice when I asked, and she never thought less of me for anything bad I’ve ever done.

That’s saying a lot.

*

Everyone who knows me knows that purple is my favorite color. Some of you might also know that purple was mom’s favorite color. But there is another reason that I chose to wear purple today.

Purple is the color of Easter. Come every spring, purple drapes the alter here as a reminder to Christians that those who believe in Jesus never truly die, but rise again, and have eternal life by the grace of God.

Purple means that we should not spend all our time in mourning. It means we should give thanks for the life of such an amazing woman who has touched so many—who was such a great leader, mentor, mother, wife, and friend—and we should celebrate her return home.

As hard as it is right now to see through the tears of our grief, we should take comfort in the fact that Sallie is not truly gone: she will live on forever in the hearts and minds of those of us who love her.

And most especially in the one who has become just like her.

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Honesty

I’m glad we’ve made it to Wednesday. The weeks keep getting longer and longer.

People keep asking me if I have friends here in Raleigh. It’s an interesting question. I’m sure it comes from the fact that I move around a lot, but I’m curious about why having friends who live down the road is important. I’ve done a lot of work over the past several years to cut drama out of my life, and that meant shutting some doors and opening others. The result is that, while I do have a few friends who live in the area, the majority of my closest friends live elsewhere: the NC mountains, Virginia, Georgia, Florida…even Russia.

I’ve never been an extrovert. I like hanging out with close friends, I love going out to nice dinners with said close friends, and I like going out occasionally, but I’ve gotten so busy that I do most of my heart-to-hearts via email. One of my best friends is the one living in Russia. We met a long time ago at an interesting junction: he was moving to New York a month or so after I met him, and I was heading off to Lesotho a couple of weeks after that. We somehow formed this connection that has spanned six years and three different continents. We were talking recently about that connection, and the best word we could come up with to describe it is honesty. It’s rare to find people with whom you can be 100% honest all the time. It’s definitely something to be valued.

So, yes, I have friends who live nearby. “Nearby” might mean near my heart and not near my house, but it’s still nearby. 🙂

I also have amazing co-workers. I might have mentioned this before, but one of my first managers taught me that what makes a company a great place to work is not its perks, but its people. Should I feel a need to escape my apartment, I have several offers from those fine folks for dinners and/or drinks. I might take them up on it soon even if I don’t need it, per se. They’re a great group of people, and I always have fun with them. The company split up our team due to space restrictions, so most of them moved across the street…those of us who stayed behind took a trip over to visit the others yesterday, and it was crazy. It was like getting a group of old college buddies who hadn’t seen each other in a long time back together for a reunion. Hopefully we’ll get our new building soon so we can all sit together again.

Halloween is a big deal where I work, so I took in my Halloween decorations and we had a blast trying to arrange the cotton spiderwebs. There’s a company party on Friday afternoon, which I’m looking forward to. I have a costume that is just perfect for me. Should be fun!

I’m still trying to finish the eulogy/homily (I need to look up the difference) that I’m going to give on Saturday. I have about half of it ready. I need to get it done soon so I can practice. If I don’t practice, I’m not going to be able to make it through without crying.

I haven’t been sleeping very well. I get to sleep fine, but I have such strange dreams that I don’t sleep through the night, so I don’t wake up rested. I also had a horrible crying spell in the shower a couple of nights ago…had a friend not warned me about this sort of thing, it would have scared me. I’m hoping things will calm down after the funeral. I’m not sure they will, but I can still hope.

I’m surprised by how much I miss mom. I still think it’s so weird, this feeling. She hadn’t really been herself for about a year, and she wasn’t even really there at all these past couple of months. Sometimes all I’d get out of her was eye contact and/or a little smile. You’d think I would have felt some of this loss earlier since the woman I knew as my mom changed so long ago. But it’s not true. I miss her a lot.

And I’m looking forward to seeing dad. I haven’t seen him since Sunday, and while that was just a few days ago, it seems like a long time…I had gotten used to seeing him every day. He’s trying to keep busy, but I think he’s also looking forward to the other side of the funeral. Maybe we’re both curious about what the new “normal” is going to be.

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“Your mom is L33T!”

Here we are, another Monday. It feels like it’s been a year since last Monday. Or longer.

I sent an email to my team here at work this morning thanking them for their support and their flexibility in allowing me to be with my parents. I’m sure it seems like common sense to them that I should have been with my mom, but I’ve worked for companies before that might not have let me. Having just one bad boss can make you appreciate the good ones, that’s for sure.

I also sent them the link to mom’s biography that we posted on her legacy site. The folks here have a healthy respect for programmers and engineers who have come before, and they were all highly impressed with mom’s accomplishments. Many commented that she was amazing and inspirational. One said, “it’s clear that she’s shaped your life in many positive ways,” and that is certainly true.

My favorite comment, though, came over our IRC channel from a friend: “Your mom is L33T!” That might not mean much to many of you, but it stands for “elite,” and it’s a word used by hackers to describe the best of the best. It’s a great compliment, especially coming from a good programmer.

So how are we doing? Could be better, I suppose. Dad is busy cleaning up the house to get ready for this weekend. I’m trying to get back into my regular routine (waking up this morning at 5 wasn’t very fun for me or the cats, who were getting used to sleeping in). I’m working on the speech (eulogy? homily?) for mom’s celebration service on Saturday and trying to make sure I don’t fall behind in my last semester of school. One of my cats has to go to the vet tonight. Life goes on, and the world keeps turning, even if we think it should pause for a while. I don’t know how much I’ll get to see dad this week, so I’m hoping he can keep busy. I called around lunchtime, and it sounds like he’s doing okay.

You know, I wondered for a while why mom was hanging on so long, even when it was clear that it was her time to go. I thought I’d prepared for it…I knew it was coming…I was even praying for it on the last day. But I think I know, now. Mom didn’t want to cause us this pain. As hard as it was on her, as hard as it was for us to take care of her, I think she knew what her loss would be like for us. I’m sure she wanted to spare us the heartbreak. There’s not much comfort in understanding that, but at least I know now.

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Ashes to Ashes

Mom’s body is most likely being cremated tonight…tonight or sometime this weekend, right near me on St. Mary’s Street. I know it’s just her body and that she’s not there anymore, but it’s still very difficult to think about. I hate that she’s been alone so long…alone and cold. Well, I guess she does have her two little white stuffed poodles with her. 🙂

I’m sure everyone in these types of situations eventually finds something to feel guilty about. I know dad does…he’s very good at it. Me, I’ve been struggling with the fact that we gave mom morphine. My mom was so straightlaced that she refused marijuana, even when her major symptoms were nausea and lack of appetite. She never liked taking pain pills, even when she was in severe pain. Dad and I both hated giving those to her because they made her so confused. And I hate that I had to give her morphine at the end. She wasn’t in any pain, but her breaths came so fast and her heart was beating so rapidly…hospice said the morphine would help her slow down and breathe. I don’t know if it did. I don’t know if all it did was make her confused and feel trapped. I know that there’s no way to know and that we were all just doing the best we could, but it’s my biggest struggle right now. I hope I did right by her. I hope it was the right thing to do.

Besides that, I’ve just been struggling with struggling. It’s almost as if I have to be strong for everyone else so that everyone else can feel his or her grief. I was talking with dad last night about how I’m making a conscious effort to be compassionate. I know that all of mom’s friends and family members are sad and grieving for the loss of someone so wonderful. I know there’s this desire in each of them to express that sadness and grief to me…whether to commiserate, or to express their love to mom and to us, or to just share their feelings with someone who understands. It’s a bunch of hurt people trying to do the best they can, really. That’s all it is. But it doesn’t leave any room for my grief. I think that dad and I will have to work at being sounding boards for everyone until after the funeral, and then, when the quiet settles over us, we will have time for our own feelings.

Plus, geez, planning this funeral…it’s just very, very hard. I’m glad we have the help of mom’s best friend in planning the reception (and in planning parts of the service, too), but it’s just constant, all day, every day, something every minute. Something needs to be found for someone, or sent somewhere, or some decision needs to be made, and on and on and on. What music? What goes in the bulletin? What format for the obituary? What picture to put by the urn? Do we have a stand for the picture? Who’s handing out the bulletins? Will there be flowers? What kind of food? What were mom’s favorite Bible verses? Who’s speaking, and on what and when? This is another reason that there seems like there’s no room for our grief: there hasn’t been a single moment of downtime since Monday evening. And dad also has to deal with settling the estate, getting finances in order, sending death certificates to everyone, etc.

Dad and I are both taking tomorrow off. We both have a lot of stuff to get done around our own houses, and sometimes it’s just nice to shut everything else out and get everything in order.

So am I doing okay? Not really. I started this morning (pretty literally; the phone didn’t wake me up, but I was still in bed) talking about funeral preparations, followed it by continuing a month-long argument with the NC DMV call center about a non-existent lapse in liability coverage for three days in 2009 (when I’d switched plates to WV), then called all my insurance carriers to see if they could fax over the information *again* since the NC DMV seems to have ignored it, cleaned up my screened-in porch because the apartment complex is power-washing next week and needs everything clear, did more funeral stuff, wrote and submitted an assignment for school, worked out, got a haircut (and thus didn’t get lunch), got snapped at by my ex because he’s been working long hours (because all I do is sit around all day, obviously), then went by the grocery store and then to dad’s house to cook us both some dinner (probably the best part of the day; dinner was good). Every day is like this. I’m exhausted. I’m glad my company gave me a week off, but I feel like I need a month to deal with all this, and THEN I might need an actual vacation.

Right now, I’m going to take a shower and then eat some ice cream. Then I’m going to bed. And maybe, like dad suggested, I just shouldn’t pick up the phone tomorrow. That sounds wonderful.

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Longest Week

I swear that this week has lasted longer than any in my memory.

This process has not been fun. Not only do we have to deal with the sadness and all of the other emotions that come with my mom’s passing, but we have to plan this funeral. It’s just as involved as planning a wedding: venue, officiator, flowers, reception, catering, and on and on and on. I can’t believe this is how it always happens. How awful. Dad and I have been talking about it, and I think we’re both getting ready to start planning our own funerals so no one has to deal with all of this for us.

We met with the minister at St. Andrews today to start talking about the funeral service. He’s a very nice man, and I’m very grateful for his assistance and willingness to be open to our requests.

Mom’s obituary is posted online. It should be running in the Raleigh N&O and the Florence, SC, paper this Sunday.

The funeral home also gave us space to create a more involved website: http://display.mem.com/ContentDisplay.aspx?ID=32853202. This one includes a longer biography, a video of some pictures, and a place to leave audio memorial messages.

Okay, it’s almost tomorrow already, and I still have a lot to do tonight. This stinks. Mom was the good planner and the hostess with the mostess. It’s so difficult to do all of this without her.

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Memorial Donations

Many people have asked about tribute donations. My mother was a lifelong supporter of the Alzheimer’s Association in memory of her father, so donations in her honor can either be made there or to Uniting Against Lung Cancer, which has awarded numerous grants specific to finding treatments for her genetic mutation (EGFR).

Alzheimer’s: http://alz.org/join_the_cause_donate.asp
Lung Cancer: http://ualc.kintera.org/Donate

If you need dad’s address for memorial information, please either send me an email or just leave a comment here and I will gladly send it to you.

Thank you for your continued love and support. The house is empty without mom, and her presence is deeply missed.

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