It’s been a very long two weeks, but I am back home in Virginia and wanted to post something for friends and family since my mother’s passing on July 6th.
The service, mom’s “Celebration of Life” was a beautiful tribute to a life well lived. There were flowers and hymns, prayers and poems, a slideshow, scripture, and two solos with guitar by my mom’s Musical Therapist who had been singing for her since April.
We took care to make mom’s service and reception her own. We had blue linens, bouquets, and big blue hydrangea’s to honor her favorite color. We had The Carpenters, Barbara Streisand, and Neil Diamond to honor her favorite songs. We also included “The Animal Prayer” by Albert Schweitzer in her service to honor her love of animals.
I must say — mom’s service was beautiful.
It should also be noted that the people in my parent’s church came together as a supportive and hard working community to help make my mother’s service and reception successful and memorable — a huge thank you goes out to Living Spirit United Methodist Church.
With my brother and sister’s blessing, I gave the “Family Remembrance” and said out loud who my mother was, which I felt was important. But even as I say this, I’m sure I didn’t capture all that she was. And if you’re reading this and are anticipating the loss of a loved one, might I suggest you start thinking about what you want to say now and begin writing some things down? Because it’s hard enough to write about a loved one who’s gone, but even harder when in the chaotic midst of funeral planning.
So I cheated. I took something I wrote on my blog last year titled “Mom: A Brief Biography” and I tweaked it a bit. It was a relief having something in hand, but if I could re-wind the clock, I would have written a remembrance for my mom a year ago when there was more time to get it right. But hindsight is like that, almost everything is like that. We live, we learn.
But still, I don’t think I could have ever gotten it “right.” I mean, what words would I use to convey all that my mother was? How would I have described her? I couldn’t, I didn’t, so this will have to do.
A REMEMBRANCE ~ by Joanne Leonardis, Ruth’s daughter
My mother, Ruth Joanne Hall was born 1937 in Wadena, Minnesota. She was the oldest of three children and in many ways had an idyllic childhood — she was a Girl Scout, had a paper route, played the piano, sang in the church choir and yes, she even wore bobby socks and poodle skirts.
She graduated from high school in 1955, then moved to Minneapolis to attend the Minnesota School of Business and receive her secretarial degree. She learned shorthand, dictation and other “cutting edge” office duties and then worked at IBM for five years where she was like a “Mad Men” secretary with cat-eye glasses.
Mom met my father during this time, they married in 1960 and my sister Marilyn soon came along in 1962. I followed in less than a year, and my brother John came three years later. Mom stayed home with her children, but her secretary training would prove beneficial as she ran our household like a business and balanced the checkbook down to the penny every month.
Our childhood was rich with activities like traveling throughout the country, camping, fishing, family bike rides, sledding and drive-in movies.
Later, with the three of us grown and mostly out of the house, mom went back to work. She had about 20 years or so to rediscover herself, travel, and spend time with her grandchildren before her Alzheimer’s diagnosis came around 2005 when she was just 68.
The long and slow descent into the fog of Alzheimer’s has been her journey for the last 8 or 9 years now. And we have all said a thousand good-byes during this time. In the beginning we said good-bye to simple remembering, like what we talked about yesterday, or how to make a meal. Then we said good-bye to things like getting a call just to say hello, birthday cards, and even knowing our names. Finally, we said good-bye to most everything that resembled our mom.
But this is not what we’ll remember. Instead of focusing on what Alzheimer’s took, we choose to remember what mom kept.
Mom kept her joy. She never once complained even though she knew what was happening to her. In the very beginning of her disease, I tentatively asked her – “do you know that you have what grandma had?” And she replied, “yes, but I can’t do anything about it, so I may as well be happy.”
Mom kept her friendliness. Strangers were friends she hadn’t met yet. This could be a bit awkward at times, but really, it was a great lesson – we are all here together, we are all friends.
Mom kept her sense of humor. She was playful and silly right up to the end.
Mom kept her love and tenderness. I can’t tell you how many people have shared that mom was “the best hugger.” That’s just what she did. She wasn’t afraid to reach out and touch people. My mother wasn’t afraid to love.
Mom lost just about everything, but she kept her heart. She may not have known your name, but her heart knew you, and her heart loved you.
Mom showed us that in the end, all that’s left, all that matters — is love.
Some things mom loved are:
Texas Blue Bonnets
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Picking raspberries off the vine
The color blue
Hanging clothes on the line
Walking to run her errands
Clouds in the sky
If you are so moved, memorials may be made to:
Alzheimer’s Research Center
640 Jackson Street
St. Paul, MN 55101
CLICK HERE to learn more about the Alzheimer’s Research Center.
*** Also, if you are so inclined to share this post, I ask that you copy the link that’s in your browser and paste it in the email you are sending out so the recipient will be directed to this website. Thank you. ~ Joanne