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

A Young Man with Curly, Light-Brown Hair

Written by JoAnn Looper on November 5, 2012

Lee Looper FMMW

Top Photo, Lee and his fiancé, Cathy.

My Darling Lee,

I have chosen you because you were one of the middle children of four.  You arrived early, weighing only 4 ½ pounds so you were rushed to Chattanooga Children’s Hospital to stay until you weighed 5 pounds.

I remember the dear Swedish nurse who taught me how to care for you before bringing you home.  You were the only child who looked like my side of the family.

Thank you dear Lee for having such a sweet spirit and caring heart.  You rescued so many hurt critters and brought them home to nurse them back to health.  The one I remember most vividly was the darling little raccoon that you named Bandit.  You were the only one who could touch him.

The last Christmas that you were home, you helped me take down the Christmas tree and store the ornaments. Then we chatted in the garage as you were getting ready to return to the University of South Carolina for your junior year in college.  I cherish those last moments and big hug before you drove away.

I could see you on the screen of my imagination returning to the little rented cottage on Lake Murray.  You were able to keep your little boat and trailer as well as your beloved dog, Buckshot.  Your love of nature was evident in the choices that you made.  That has made me appreciate our beautiful rivers, mountains, sunsets and all the wonders of our world even more.

I often see a little green car, a guitar, or a young man with curly light brown hair and think of you.  We found your camera filled with gorgeous snapshots of the rising and setting of the sun over Lake Murray.

You and Cathy were making wedding plans even though you were not quite 20 years old.  It was exciting to hear the two of you making plans for your future.

That same weekend, the Lord called you and sweet Glenn Home in a terrible boating accident.  Our world fell apart and my heart melted within me.

I would not have survived if God had not comforted me with His precious promises.  I remember the Apostle Paul writing, “ …absent from the body and present with the Lord”.

I believe that you and Glenn were escorted into the presence of the Lord by angels.

I can’t wait to see you again, as well as your Dad and brothers!  And there are so many others!

I understand more clearly now that children are a gift from the Lord.  You were such a special gift.

We were so blessed to have you almost 20 years. I shall love you forever.

Editor’s Note: This story has particular importance and meaning to me. Lee Looper was my cousin. Gone too soon.

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Son

Five More Minutes With Mother

Written by Anonymous on September 6, 2012

If I had five more minutes with my mom, I would tell her how sorry I was every time I rushed her off the phone.

I would tell her how sorry I was that I didn’t help her with my dad.

I would tell her how much I was going to miss her, that she meant so much to me, that she taught me everything, that my life would not be the same without her in it everyday.

And I would touch her. I would hold her hand. I would touch her cheeks with mine. I miss that so much.

I would brush her hair because I know how much she loved that.

And I would thank her for being my mom–mine–who loved me more than anyone in this world.

If I had five more minutes with my mom, I would beg her for five more. And five more after that. Because it’s never enough.

There is never enough time to spend with your mom.




More stories from: Featured Story,With My Mom

Darling Bo-Bo the Cat

Written by Braiden on August 10, 2012

Bo-Bo Photo

Bo-Bo plays with the Christmas ornaments

Editor’s Note: This story originally ran on August 10, 2010, exactly six years after the death of our beloved feline of almost 16 years, Bo-Bo. I’m reposting it today in his honor. . .we still toast to him with every glass of wine. . .and his ashes still sit on our granite buffet in plain sight in our living/dining room. We love you, boy! R.I.P always. 

I can still remember as if it were only yesterday the day I took Bo-Bo to the vet the final time. He hadn’t been eating well, his stomach was especially distended (he had always been a good eater, and more than a tad overweight as a result!), and he had stopped grooming himself (very uncharacteristic as he was part Siamese and a fastidious groomer).

After a brief exam, the vet came in, crouched down on her knees (I think to get more eye level with me) and told me he most likely had stomach cancer and to take him home and feed him Friskies or whatever he would eat until he died naturally or we thought we should put him down.

I was totally in shock, called Spencer (who offered to come pick me up in a cab, as he was worried about me driving home), yet I somehow made it home through the tears.

Once home, Bo took up residence in a white fluffy chair. I think, in their wisdom, that animals know long before we do that it is their “time.” I can tell you the “real” Bo-Bo, the one who came running to the door the minute he heard the elevator coming up the shaft, the one who butted you awake every morning at 6 a.m. so you’d grudgingly feed him, the one who stole butter off our butter plates every night at dinner, thinking we didn’t see him “sneaking” up on it. . .that animal left his physical body long before we did the inevitable.

It was a long (several-week) death march, and because I was here all day with him, I witnessed most every single moment of it. It was interesting that by the time I had determined that we had to let Bo go, Spencer still wanted to get tests, put him through chemo, etc. Some dear friends of ours had done that for their cat and they flat-out advised us NOT to undergo that. They reasoned that the extra days/week of life simply were not worth all the vet visits, and that toward the end they were afraid their cat hated them for putting him through it.

So when the inevitable day came, August 10 (my brother’s birthday, BTW–we reasoned that his good life would counter Bo’s sad death), we called a “mobile vet,” a very compassionate woman who goes around in her “vet mobile” making house calls. Bo hated going to the vet, and we couldn’t imagine him dying in that place of antiseptic smells and unfamiliar animals. We wanted him to die at home, in our arms.

The night before the day of Bo’s date with death, we both slept on the floor while he dozed above us on “his” chair. Of course, neither of us really slept. It was really a weird experience to know that this would be Bo’s last night on earth.

Just before 4 p.m., the vet showed up. The door was ajar; candles were burning; soft music was playing. Bo jumped down one last time for a bite of food, but could hardly make it to his bowl. I will always think it was an homage to me that his last moments on earth were spent eating. 🙂

Anyway, I held Bo on “his” chair through the whole process, from the initial sedation in the paw, to the actual injection of the fluid that stops the heart. And the whole way I talked him into his death, telling him it was all right, he was our boy, and he’d always be in our hearts. It was almost as if I were channeling another person, and Spencer said he’d never seen anything like it.

Bo-Bo died at 4:35 p.m.

To this day, I have no idea how I “knew” how to do that, or where that other “person” came from.

After he was gone, the vet left us alone and we arranged his body in his little cat carrier so she could take him away and have him cremated. Before she took the body, she made a plaster of paris molding of his little paw, and one of his hairs got stuck in it, and we will treasure that always.

A few days later, I had a vivid dream that Bo was at his food bowl. He turned to look at me as he walked away, and was gone. I KNOW it was his little spirit passing over, him letting me know he was okay, and that I/we’d be okay.

Our shrine to Bo-Bo

We put Bo’s ashes, the mold of his paw, and some other mementoes on our granite buffet along with a plant from my in-laws house (they are also gone) and Bo’s food bowl (a cute carved wooden cat that I planted with palms and a rubber plant) so we can “visit” him whenever we want. And every time we have a glass of wine, we toast to Bo by clinking twice instead of once. We both still think of him, and miss him, every day.

We haven’t gotten another animal and I doubt we ever will. When you’ve had the best, why mess around with cheap imitations? Once you’ve had that experience, why tempt fate?

Today marks the sixth anniversary of Bo’s death. And I am still missing him and loving him and writing this through the tears.

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Cat

Memory of Dad: I’m Sorry I Didn’t Listen

Written by Kevin Huhn on June 13, 2012

The first thing I would do is hug him and tell him how sorry I was for not listening to his wisdom.

I was 26 when my Dad passed away from a sudden heart attack. He was 52 and was so well respected in Montreal, Québec, in the travel industry.

He did so much making sure that I was given all that he didn’t have, while, at the same, making sure I learned great lessons of how to treat people, how to be in certain environments, and what to do with my life as I got older.

By no means was he rich financially, but he was wealthy with relationships, especially with my mom.

He adored her and taught me how to be a good husband and father. . .problem was, it took me years to learn about how to do it.

Today I am 48. And, in my dreams, I talk to him about the things I have done/not done.

I did not get to say goodbye when he died. I was in another city at a sales meeting and got a call that he had passed away a few hours earlier.

I can remember walking into my Mom’s house, and just breaking down there, and then again at the cemetary.

For anyone who has a relationship with a parent (that they feel is a good one). . .I urge them to hug them, listen to them, and really feel the presence of them.

I sometimes wonder what would I have been like had he still been around.

Then again, his passing is what maybe helped me grow up.

Editor’s Note: This Memory of Dad (MoD) was written by Kevin Huhn, an author based in Ontario, Canada.

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Dad

Chelsea Hanson Tells Us How to Make Life Full Again

Written by Chelsea Hanson on May 24, 2012

In today’s blog post, our frequent guest columnist, Chelsea Hanson, founder of With Sympathy Gifts, wants us to make a promise to ourselves after the death of a loved one. . .that our lives can be full again. Thanks for the encouragement and wisdom, as always, Chelsea.

Make a Promise to Yourself….Your Life Can Be Full Again

“When a man takes an oath… he’s holding his own self in his own hands.” ~ Robert Bolt

After losing someone close, do you believe a full and joyful life may be possible for you again? Perhaps your grief is too fresh and the pain is too strong for such a belief to be more than a fleeting thought. When I first lost my mother, I never dreamed this was possible.

It is possible though; you will find joy again – if you make the commitment to seek it out in the small moments of the day. Those small moments will be as seeds in the garden, and soon they will multiply in number. Life’s garden will once again be bountiful. Have trust…there will come a day when you wake up, and your loss won’t be the first thing on your mind…you will look to the day for the treasure it is.

Go ahead. Why not make the promise to yourself that life can be full again? After all, your loved one would want only the best for you…to live your life fully, deeply and, joyously.

Here are some resources that Chelsea suggests to help you see the beauty in life each day:

One Joy Scatters a Hundred Griefs

Coping With Grief: How to Handle Your Emotions

Virtual Book Tour – Interview with Chelsea Hanson, Author of the Sympathy Matters Collection

Memory of Mom: Thoughts and Even a Video!

Written by Joy Ware Miller on May 5, 2012

This Memory of Mom comes from Joy Ware Miller, who also submitted our first-ever Memory of Mom video! Thanks for both your submissions, Joy!

I grew up with such a rich heritage. I was in my early twenties and all my grandparents and parents were still with us!

The life and God lessons they taught and lived are what truly continue to inspire me today!

In turn…I now can attempt to live the legacy with my children…because we never know, when we will only have Five More Minutes! Thanks for allowing us to share!

P.S. I created a “Proverbs 31 in Modern Day” video on YouTube! I would be delighted if you choose to share it….and I believe others blessed!



Announcing Our Second Annual Memory of Mom Contest!

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on April 12, 2012

Today is an exciting one on Five More Minutes With as we announce our second annual Memory of Mom contest.

As in the past, we are launching a Mother’s Day contest to find the most inspiring story about Mom. Big thanks to Fairytale Brownies, which has generously donated the prize for our winning writer.

For those remembrances shared between today and Thursday, May 10, 2012, you will automatically be entered to win a dozen assorted, fresh-baked Fairytale Brownies in a beautiful Mother’s Day keepsake tin shipped to your home.

As always on Five More Minutes With, you are encouraged to explore the site for inspiration, then submit your own story to share.

Answer the question: What would you say if you had Five More Minutes With. . .Mom?

And what better way to salute Mom than with her very own story just in time for her big day?

Not to mention the chance to win a dozen fresh-baked brownies in tantalizing flavors such as Original, Espresso Nib, Caramel, and Cream Cheese–enough to share with friends and family while you reminisce about Mom. Afterwards, use the keepsake tin to store letters from or photos of your mother.

It’s easy to Share Your Story here.

What Is Time Worth?

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on March 29, 2012

This is another one of those Internet nuggets of wisdom that cross my desk from time to time that I wanted to share with Five More Minutes With readers.

To realize

The value of a sister/brother:

Ask someone

Who doesn’t have one.


To realize

The value of ten years:

Ask a newly

Divorced couple.


To realize

The value of four years:

Ask a graduate.


To realize

The value of one year:

Ask a student who

Has failed a final exam.


To realize

The value of nine months:

Ask a mother who gave birth to a stillborn.


To realize

The value of one month:

Ask a mother

Who has given birth to

A premature baby.


To realize

The value of one week:

Ask an editor of a weekly newspaper.


To realize

The value of one minute:

Ask a person

Who has missed the train, bus, or plane.


To realize

The value of one second:

Ask a person

Who has survived an accident.


Time waits for no one.


Treasure every moment you have.


You will treasure it even more when you can share it with someone special.


To realize the value of a friend or family member: LOSE ONE.


Remember…hold on tight to the ones you love!

My Orchid

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on March 22, 2012

I keep a fresh orchid in plain view in my office, strategically positioned on a granite wing wall in front of my computer, as a calming influence and also for inspiration as I think and write.

It’s a cheapie from Trader Joe’s that usually costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.99 to $10.99. I figure these orchids last several months. So, compared to cut flowers, especially during the winter months when they are so expensive, the orchids are actually very cost-effective alternative since they last a lot longer.

This week, as invariably happens, my current orchid–a purple beauty–began to drop its blossoms. It happens slowly and stealthily at first, one blossom here, another one there.

Finding a withered blossom always causes me a twinge of pain.

And once the orchid goes into free fall during its death march, I might find two or three blossoms in the course of the day. They turn up on the floor, on the blood-red granite slab, or the Asian-inspired wooden pedestal upon which my orchid sits.

The other day, about the same time as I noticed my orchid was down to one surviving blossom, I received an e-mail from my 89-year-old father.

My father has been battling bladder cancer for over a year. Lately it’s been an unsettling pattern of catheter in, catheter out; catheter in, catheter out.

Now, it seems, my father’s whole world revolves around whether or not he can urinate.

As I stared at my orchid stubbornly clinging to life with one single blossom dangling tenuously, it occurred to me that, in so many ways, my father’s aging process parallels that of one of my orchids.

Over the years, his body has weakened, his glory days long gone.

First the eyes began to go when he went through a series of contact lenses and glasses and finally could no longer see well enough to operate on the inner ear.

Much later came the hearing aids, a particularly difficult solution for him to stomach since he was once a renowned ear, nose, and throat doctor.

Then his legs began acting up with restless-leg syndrome and edema. He went through went several degrees of walkers, ultimately ending up with a very expensive model he fondly referred to as “the Bentley.” His caregivers even ordered him one of those motorized scooters so widely advertised on television, but he never did learn how to maneuver it very well, so it sat mostly unused in the hallway.

And now the final indignity. . .having to rely on a bag for something as elemental and basic as peeing.

After the latest catheter in/catheter out episode, I remarked at how brave Dad was to have faced so much medical adversity.

He responded with a thought-provoking quote from a Civil-War prisoner that says, “Live in hope if I die in despair.”

Ultimately, with every one of my orchids, the last blossom falls to earth. And I am left with only a slender green stalk rising toward the sky, a few bright-green leaves at the plant’s base, and memories of a brilliant bunch of blossoms that once was.

When it’s my father’s time, I will treasure my memories of him much like I remember the beautiful blossoms on my orchids—memories of a life well lived.


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