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

Memory of Mom: An Afternoon at Valley Green

Written by Victoria Pendragon on May 13, 2012

Victoria Pendragon is an artist and author who has written “Sleep Magic, Surrendering to Success.” 

Although her mother is still with us physically, the once-brilliant physician now suffers from Alzheimer’s. Here is Victoria’s tribute to a wonderfully strong woman.

I spent a couple of hours this past Sunday with my mother, a woman who was once a world famous physician and now has difficulty even comprehending simple sentences. We sat on the bench outside of the Alzheimers unit to which she has been confined, looking into a cloudless blue sky, warmed by sun, caressed by the gentlest of breezes as she told me, over and over again, of the joy she receives from just sitting and looking at nature, a joy that is far more rare now that she must be accompanied everywhere she goes.

I recalled a most rare afternoon in my early teens when she had piled five or six of us brothers and sisters into the old Rambler station wagon and driven to a small park on the outskirts of Philadelphia called Valley Green. There we ambled aimlessly along rock lined walks in heavy shade, picking up small rocks, playing in the shallow waters of the stream, dallying in nature.

My mother, even then, was a busy woman. We never saw much of her. Recently, asked to prepare her obituary for when it becomes necessary, I had the opportunity to review her curriculum vitae – an outstanding 30 pages detailing a body of work that would have been daunting to produce for a single person let alone this mother of 11 – and wondered how she’d ever had time for any of us. We’d been lucky to have that day with her…that one precious afternoon.

Now we can have all the afternoons we want but we cannot go far from the place she now recognizes as home. Now she is the mother I always wished for as a child, available, cuddly, wanting to hear my stories. As an adult, I miss her intelligence but the child in me loves her sweetness, her untroubled face, the pure love she now seems to exude as we snuggle side by side in the spring air taking in together what she called “that purple sky.”

More stories from: Featured Story

Just Two More Words

Written by Anonymous on January 16, 2012

When I thought about being able to spend five more minutes with a departed loved one, I immediately thought of both my parents and my mother-in-law.

I miss them all terribly.

If I had the chance, I would simply tell them all, “Thank you.”

A Southern Gentleman and Woman

Written by Renie on December 15, 2011

The young Fergusons

James Thomas Ferguson, my Daddy, passed away in 1996 at 96 1/2 years old. (Only people six and under and those over 90 used the ‘1/2’.) Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, he was a southern gentleman all his life. Ran a cotton business, buying from the farmer and selling to the people or the factories who made the cotton merchandise.

He married my American beauty California Mom, Lorene Denton, in 1935 while on a trip to Santa Diego and Santa Barbara to consider retiring. Fell in love, married, and had to go back to work at Ferguson Cotton Comapany in Shreveport.

Sixty-one years later on July 24th, we held to his southern actions and attitude in our tributes at the graveside funeral service. Had a confederate flag draped on the casket, and a three-piece jazz band play “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “When the Saints Come Marching In,” “Dixie,” and other beloved New Orleans music.

It was a fabulous, appropriate celebration of life. We danced under the small white tent on artificial grass on July 24, a very, very hot mid-summer day, smiling and glowing with perspiration.

The “vintage” Fergusons

Ten years later, we did this again, also in July, for my Mom, without the Confederate flag, but with the same music. She was 97. The only difference was that there were fewer people, and an older generation of grandchildren. We did dance…….and I think I saw her looking down through the holes in the floor of heaven with her eyes twinkling and a big ‘ole smile on her face.

With affection,

Renie Ferguson Steves

Nothing Left to Say. . .

Written by Carole Cancler on November 3, 2011

 Many of us have issues with our mothers. . .here fellow food professional and friend Carole Cancler describes her strained relationship with her mom. Carole told me that writing this story for Five More Minutes With did more for her in helping her release her pent-up feelings than years of therapy. Thanks for sharing, Carole!

Carole's Mom

I remember as a young girl going to the Tea Room at Frederick & Nelson with my mother and enjoying a Crab Louie with Russian dressing. We bought new dresses and hats for Easter service. I felt very grown-up and very special. I don’t recall feeling that special ever again.

A couple of years later, I found my mother alone and crying in the living room. I asked what was wrong. She said that no one loved her. In a small, meek voice, I stated that I loved her. She answered in an angry retort, “No, you don’t! Nobody does.”

I never seemed able to please her—each time I tried, I failed. I always seemed to do the wrong thing, in the wrong way, or at the wrong time. No boy I dated in high school was good enough. When my first husband left me, she reminded me, she often did that I had always been “a brat”. When I remarried 10 years later, she said that I was just plain stupid; she did not come to the wedding and did not speak to me for two years.

I tried to find common ground, be it developing an interest in things that she enjoyed (like opera, gardening, and bridge—none of which I do today). Each time I came up short. When I suggested we play bridge, she responded, “Why would I want to do that?”

We simply never bonded. In the 51 years we had together, we did not have even one “mother-daughter” talk. We didn’t share clothes or makeup secrets. She gave me no guidance in handling boys (or men). In the most vivid and frequent memories that I have of her, she is angry. During one angry exchange, I asked her if she could remember one time when we bonded. I did not receive an answer.

As a young girl lunching in the Tea Room, I saw her as an energetic, exciting, and glamorous woman. I very much wanted to be like her. As I grew up and began to make myself in this image, I also began to see her lack of confidence, a need that no amount of reassurance could assuage. At these times she would erupt in anger—anger that I’ve learned is the fear of failure, of being unloved. Yet, there were miniscule moments when some small gesture on my part was met with silence and I knew she felt love after all, love that she could only express with silence, never with a hug or conversation.

Still, I managed to build a successful life with dual careers, a loving husband, and a happy home life.

On what was to be her last birthday, knowing her cancer would soon take her, I gave her a card in which I thanked her for the qualities that I posses that have brought me the most success and happiness. Despite all indications, she must have had something to do with them. They came from somewhere. While I take full credit for my hard work, it seemed appropriate to look past her anger and silence, and simply thank her for the successful qualities we seem to share—my love of travel and adventure, a tenacious and determined nature, and the joy I find in life around good food shared with friends.

If I had five more minutes with my mother, there would be nothing left to say. She read the card. And she was silent.

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Mom

Alma’s Grace and Style

Written by Kate Heyhoe on October 10, 2011

This was the very first story ever published on the Five More Minutes With website, written by my friend and fellow cookbook author and food writer (turned artist), Kate Heyhoe.

To the Momster!

I’ve only got 5 minutes, so I’ve got to talk fast: You already know, I hope, how much I love you. Thank you for being my best friend and such an extraordinary person. You really got the fact that in this life, love means everything.

Dying doesn’t look easy. We were amazed how such a tiny person could last a full seven days and nights without food or water. But then again, you were never less than super-hero strong in character. Still, it wasn’t until both your children were in your room at the same time did you finally release and let go. We believe you were waiting for that very moment, with each of us holding your beautiful hands, to remind us to go on together as family. Your last breath was your exclamation mark.

I wish I had known better how to tell what your thrashing really meant, whether you were in agony or just seeing something that the living can’t. Were those “Oh, mama!” moans of extreme pain, or expressions of awe and wonder as you touched the next plane of consciousness?

The hospice nurses explained what each drug did, but they didn’t really prepare me for the rest of the details, the ones that drugs can’t fix. I figured it was okay to ramp up the morphine. But comforting a person transitioning through death just doesn’t seem to work the same way as cozying a person with a cold or the flu. Wish I could have done better. And I’m sorry we encouraged you to try cancer treatments; they bought a couple of years, but you may have been happier without them.

 

I think about you every day, and try to make those thoughts of joy now, rather than sorrow. Not always successful; I miss you so much. You are my muse, and as I work at your old oak drawing table, I feel your presence. You were and still are so inspiring, something I wish I had told you more often. And you were such a good person, going out of your way to bring a smile to everyone’s day just through a little comment or action. I think you were scared going into death, but I hope you’ve found a bright new phase of being, plump with joy and peace and all things good.

Until we play together again…
Lovey doveys,
Kate

 

More stories from: With My Mom

19 Years, and Still Mourning Mom

Written by Martie on June 6, 2011

Dear Mom,

If I could spend five more minutes with you….I might have been able to save you.

You gave my boys and me someplace to stay …when our house had “sprung a leak,” and you and Dad were soooooooo good to us.

That night I came back to my house…you begged me to come spend the night with you…(I thought we had already been TOO much of an imposition)…so we declined…

IF ONLY I HAD KNOWN…that night … you would be taken from us!!!

OMG MOM!!!!! IF I ONLY WOULD HAVE KNOWN!!!!! MAYBE I COULD’VE SAVED YOU!!!

It’s been 19 years now… and I still hurt soooooo bad!!!!

I LOVE YOU AND MISS YOU SOOOOO MUCH!!!!

 

 

Announcing Our Memory of Mom (MoM) Contest Winner

Written by Maelyn Lessard on May 8, 2011

Congratulations to Maelyn Lessard, our Memory of Mom (MoM) contest winner.

For her excellent efforts, she wins a sweet quartet of cherry chocolates from our friends at the Chukar Cherry Co.

Here’s her story, which first posted on April 15:

My best memory that I share with my Mom is when I gave birth to my daughter.

I called when I was in labor but I went fast.

I was living in North Carolina and she was in Melbourne, Florida.

She drove all night and arrived at 7a.m.

I was sitting in bed holding my new baby girl and she walked in crying.

I cry thinking of the moment we all held each other for the first time.

It is a moment you cannot describe because it was filled with so much love and emotion.

We have since moved to Melbourne and have shared many things, but that moment is truly just ours.

 

A Five-Minute Manicure and Pedicure

Written by Mary Riddle Bailey on April 11, 2011

If I had five more minutes with my Mom, I would I would give her a five-minute manicure and pedicure.

My mother had beautiful nails, but never had a mani or pedi.

I mentioned that I would love to take her and get one done, but she died before I could do it.

Everytime I have one, I think how much my mother would have loved to do that.

That is the one thing I wish I could do that I didn’t do while she was here.

While she was doing that I would tell her all about my grandchildren she didn’t get to see.

Note: Mary Riddle Bailey is the author of “Jesus My Son: Mary’s Journal of Jesus’ Early Life.” To order, visit her website.

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Mom