My Memorial for My Mother

Written by Braiden on December 3, 2012

The following is the the two-page document I shared with the people who attended my mother’s small memorial service in Austin, Texas, on August 17, 2005.

Welcome to this memorial for Julie Rex. Any of you who knew her knew she was from the South, and so had many “interesting” view on life and death, particularly on funerals.

Which puts her family in a funny place after her death last Saturday. Mom didn’t want any “doings,” and by that she meant a lot of pageantry, pomp, and circumstance. But those who knew her knew how much she loved a good party, so instead of calling this gathering tonight to celebrate her life “doings,” let’s call it a party. So. . .welcome to the party.

As my husband Spencer and I were flying here from Seattle on American Airlines’ red-eye flight on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, I had many quiet hours to think about Mom. As is my pattern as a professional writer, I wrote down my thoughts quickly, recklessly, in their raw form once we landed in Dallas and had a two-hour layover.

I cleaned my notes up a bit, edited and organized them, and tonight I’d like to share my thoughts with you.

Mom’s motto in life was to “Live each day gloriously.” I’ll say it again: Live each day gloriously. Mom was a relentlessly upbeat person who never saw the glass as half empty, but always as half full. She took delight in simple things—a perfect pink rosebud in a crystal vase, a homegrown peach sliced into cold milk, the baby sparrows that landed on her beloved bird feeder.

Within the last two years, the physical limitations of her body—the defibrillator, almost total blindness, severe arthritis in both hands and one knee—would have killed most mortals. But, up until her last week to 10 days, Mom kept up a brave front, until I think she just could not see the glass as half full any more.

I grew up in suburban Philadelphia in the 1960s, where Mom was the prototypical good mother. Some of the things I vividly remember from childhood:

–Going to the farmers’ market on Tuesdays and Saturdays, where the Amish people pulled up in their horse-drawn buggies to sell us everything from fresh-killed chickens to shoofly pie. As the author of six books on the Pike Place Market, this exposure to farmers’ markets from an early age has had a profound effect on my adult life.

–I remember her bringing cupcakes for the entire class when it was my birthday—white cake and pink icing, of course.

Rock-hunting for rubies and sapphires in North Carolina one summer vacation. She had a beautiful ruby-and-gold ring specially designed for me from our discoveries and I still wear it to this day.

–Her orchids painstakingly hand-pollinated and nurtured under black lights.

–Science projects that took over the laundry room.

–Her outdoor garden with specimen rose bushes, dahlias, peonies, and her beloved (being a true Southern belle) magnolia trees. People in Pennsylvania never could understand how those fragile trees could survive the harsh winters.

–Car trips through Mom’s beloved South with stops at places such as Mammy’s Barbecue in South Carolina (those were less politically correct times) and The Deck in Brunswick, Georgia, with the best fried shrimp and hush puppies.

–Finally, the numerous cats we adopted, beginning with Diamond, the tortoise-shell Persian, when I was six and Brad was three.

To wrap up, I’d just like to say that Spencer and I went to see Mom at the funeral home on Monday. I was worried that she might be ravaged by all the pain she may have experienced during her last moments, but we were relieved to find instead her face beautiful, unmarked, without a wrinkle. In death, as in life, her bearing was regal, her hair neatly combed. She looked like a movie star.

Most importantly, she looked totally, completely, at peace.

So instead of mourning her death with pretentious “doings,” it seems much more appropriate to celebrate her life with a gathering of her favorite friends and family. Because anyone whose credo was to “Live each day gloriously,” wouldn’t have it any other way.

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Mom