Archive for the ‘grief’ Category

Mixed feelings

Posted: July 15, 2014 in family, grief, regrets

We go on… To the joy and through the tears – We Go On – Kellie Coffey

In a little over four hours, we will lay mom’s remains to rest. She will be buried with my father, closing the final chapter of the life of an extraordinary woman.

Still sucks for those of us left behind.

I was able to wake up and be fully functional on Saturday morning. This morning, I woke up in tears, just feeling I had to write a little bit… maybe getting it on screen will help with my control later. Not like anyone is going to blame me if I am a blubbering mess.

Mom and I on the morning of my wedding

Mom and I on the morning of my wedding

So, Saturday was a huge turnout. I was so amazed to see so many of my mother’s friends, some of whom drove great distances to pay their respects. It was also amazed at some of my friends who came out… one friend I haven’t seen since my high school graduation 25 years ago. I even managed to make it all the way through Mom’s eulogy (with only minor breakdowns).

It was a fitting sendoff to a special lady.

Now, you might remember that a few months ago, I had posted about my personal crisis of faith. One of mom’s friends had asked her if I was angry at God. I tried to explain my feelings, best as I could, that I felt it to be unfair that so many good people are taken so soon, and so many bad people hang around for so long.

My mom had no such crisis, and if there is indeed an afterlife, she’s on the good side of things.

I wanted to say so much and now that I’m in front of a keyboard, I’m having a horrible time thinking of what I wanted to say. Ugh.

I’ll close by saying thank you to all the folks who came on Saturday to pay their respects. It was great to see everyone, even under the circumstances. It just reinforces that we need to take the time to get together under better circumstances, because life is too damn fragile.

I especially want to thank mom’s card club for all the years of friendship and love. Barbara, Janice, Aggie, Joanne and Carole, you were all like sisters to mom and I know she loved you to pieces. I also promise that Supportive Partner Woman and I will do our best to make mom’s cookie recipes at Christmas, and we will try (no promises) to get them decorated as well as she did. We will also stay in touch and will be there for you if you need anything, as you were always there for her.

For those of you who aren’t Disney fans, you might not understand the meaning of the opening quote. That song is at the end of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at EPCOT and I just felt those words to be especially poignant. Didn’t hurt that mom was a fan of IllumiNations, either. But that’s what she would want… for us to go on, persevere and life each day. She wouldn’t want us to be sad when we thought of her. She would want us to remember her with a smile.

I’m going to do that.

Just not today.

A eulogy

Posted: July 12, 2014 in family, friends, grief, I has a sad, regrets

One of my biggest pet peeves is going to a funeral and the celebrant obviously knows nothing about the dearly departed.

I feel that’s disrespectful. As such, I stood up and volunteered to eulogize my mother. It’s not something I could leave to chance. I couldn’t let someone sum up this extraordinary life with a few trite sentences about how JoAnn loved her family. Yes, she loved her family, but there was much, much more.

Without further ado, I present the first eulogy I’ve ever written.

Good afternoon.

I volunteered to take a few minutes to talk about JoAnn. Whether you called her JoAnn, Mom, Sis, Niece, Aunt, Cousin, hey you… she was certainly a unique and wonderful individual. We are lucky to have had her in our lives.

As you know, mom passed very suddenly. I was on my way home when I got a call from the dentist’s office informing me of what had happened. As anyone who has ever ridden with me knows, I can be a bit… impatient with other drivers, especially when I need to get somewhere. Turns out that the driver I was impatient with was driving a large farm tractor. Hey, it IS Lancaster County.

To make a long story short, I got home, picked up Laura and we were on our way to Reading. I opted to ride shotgun, seeing that I was pretty freaked out. We fully expected that mom would be sitting up in the emergency room, wondering what we were all doing there.

The fact that we are all here today proves that to be wishful thinking. I honestly always thought mom was indestructible. We assumed that when the apocalypse came, the only living things left on earth would be the cockroaches, Keith Richards and my mom.

Enough about what has happened. It is done.

This is a celebration of the life of an extraordinary woman.

A woman we all loved dearly.

Again, those of you who know me well know that I have a certain way with words. If you are expecting a eulogy that is sorrowful, well, I’m sorry to disappoint. If there’s one thing my mother was not, it was sorrowful. As such, I wanted to share some remembrances of her.

Now, many of you know that while mom could be incredibly perceptive, she would also be completely oblivious from time to time. I remember one time I had her convinced that the stealth fighter was, in fact, invisible to the naked eye.

Yeah, I did that. She was a good sport about it, though. She usually was.

She taught me most of all the things I know about cooking. Everything else I know is due to the Food Network. Just don’t put the two of us in the same kitchen.

She taught me the value of working for something I wanted. Case in point. When we moved out to the spread on Rivervale Road, the soil was extremely rocky. Mom got the bright idea to pay Michelle and I a penny a rock. Me being me realized that there was no size parameters for the rocks being collected… we still got a penny if it was a piece of pea gravel or a boulder. You all can probably guess what I tried to pull. I threw a few large handfuls of gravel in the cart and said, “That’ll be $5.”

As you can imagine, that was not well received.

Mom was always very self-reliant. She hated asking people for help, no matter what it was. She usually didn’t mind asking me for help at inconvenient times, though. I seem to remember her asking me about an error message she had gotten got on her computer a few weeks before, as I was tiling a bar top. She would also ask me esoteric questions about her diagram less crossword puzzle while I was driving. Kind of hard to drive, chat and look something up on Google at the same time. Trust me. I’m certainly going to miss it.

That was mom.

Whenever I drove her anywhere, I’d have to tell her that I disconnected the brake pedal on her side of the car.

There was also the time at Michelle’s birthday party when she, well, kinda sorta, managed to start her shirt on fire.

We all have so many memories of times spent with her. For the family, the biggest might be her summer parties at the Rivervale house, where the pool was open, the food was yummy and plentiful, and mom was the driving force to put it all together. Dad and I would do a lot of work, but we had no part in the master plan. We were strictly manual labor.

Fact is, mymom was full of life and love, and had a good sense of humor. She was also known to leave us speechless. At our wedding, Mom had a few too many. (OK, one… not one too many… one) Turns out my father-in-law had assigned one of the young bartenders to keep an eye on mom and make sure she was taken care of. They were bantering back and forth and at one point, the bartender joked about taking Mom home. The next day, at brunch, mom said, “I should’ve taken him up on that. I could use a roll in the hay. After my jaw audibly hit the floor and my ears stopped bleeding, the best I could come up with was, “MOM!!!”

She just smiled her JoAnn smile and a legend was cemented.

Mom was also a great friend to many. Many of her friends she stayed in touch with since she was in grade school at Hyde Park Elementary. They liked to call themselves the Silver Belles and there were a few road trips of which the details are kind of sketchy. Something like, “What happens in Florida stays in Florida.” One detail about that trip that made it out was the time that mom, Joanne and Janice went to see a Phillies spring training game in Tampa. Mom called from the stands, and was commenting that former Phillie Pat Burrell was a good looking man. In the background I hear one of her companions say, “And he’s got a nice tushy!”

Yeah. That did happen.

She also learned how to text in recent months. And somehow she learned a lot of the text abbreviations that these kids today like to use. I’d send her a long text on my smartphone and she would send back, “love u2.” I asked her about that one time and she said that while she could text a little, she never quite figured out how to capitalize a word.

That was mom.

In addition to friends and family, Mom was always a particularly soft touch when it came to Michelle’s friends and my friends. They thought she was the coolest mom ever. She was, but try to get a teenager to admit that they had a cool mom. Later, when her and my dad moved to Exeter, she became a surrogate grandmother to some of the neighborhood children, not to mention keeping up her role as den mother to the neighborhood. She was someone you could talk to so easily that most of us did. Michelle and I certainly would yak her ear off. But she always had time for you.

My mother was also very spiritual. She was always quick to tell me of what she read in her daily devotions. She was also one who took those readings to heart and tried to live her life in accordance with her faith. There are a lot of people who trumpet how faithful they are. My mom just showed her faith by how she lived.

I know that mom has gone on to a better place. That she’s off in the afterlife with our dad, our grandparents, some of her favorite aunts, uncles and cousins. I know she’s getting licks from her dogs that have crossed the Rainbow Bridge before her.

I know she is going to be OK.

Somehow I just know.

I also know she is worried about all of us. Because that’s what she did. She constantly thought of others before herself. Without fail. She sacrificed a lot so that Michelle and I could get an education. We might not have had a lot of the frills, but we had everything we needed to succeed and, most of all, we had the best mom you could ask for.

I believe our task is a simple one going forward. To live our lives to the fullest. She wouldn’t want us to be sad. Mom would want us to think of those happy times. Take each day as it comes was pretty much her attitude. I’m also pretty sure that right now she’s looking down on all of us and wondering what the fuss is about.

So, with all that being said, kids, make sure you take any available moment to tell your parents you love them and how much you appreciate them. Because they can be gone with no warning and you don’t want to carry that guilt. It’s saying (and really meaning) three little words that mean so, so much.

Finally, I’d like to close with the following quote from some Italian dude whose name I have absolutely NO idea how to pronounce, but I’ll try anyway, E.A. Bucchianeri, “So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.”

To have this much grief, you had to have a lot of love. That we did. And while it might not seem like it, someday it will balance out. We are hurting now. That’s natural. But the grief will fade and we will always have those wonderful memories of which my mom was a huge part.

Thank you all for coming this afternoon.