Monday, February 21, 2011

A tribute to my mom.

A tribute that I gave to my mom at her funeral on February 21st, 2011:

I wasn’t sure that I would have the courage or the strength to stand here in front of you today.  So I decided to wear my mother’s shoes, so that she can give me the strength courage to stand up here today.
My mother…If I could describe my mother in one word, it would be vibrant.  She was a vibrant, colorful woman, who was always seeking out fun.  My mom loved to laugh and spend time with her friends and children.   My mom had the best sense of humor.  In December as we all gathered for the holidays, she pulled out some trinkets and announced, “Ok kids, I’m having a “Going out of business sale”  do you want any of these items?”  It made me laugh and burst into tears all at the same time.  

She was a planner as well and always had her calendar handy.  The Sunday morning before she passed away she became so agitated.   She kept saying, “Why am I still here?  They won’t know when to come. I’m so embarrassed”.  My mother was annoyed she hadn’t passed away before church began, because she wanted the bishop to be able to announce the date and time of the funeral from the pulpit.  She was afraid that no one would show up to her funeral.   Obviously, she didn’t need to worry about that.  Even her funeral was preplanned…. and my talk… I have a note from her with suggestions complete with a smiley face on the end. 

My mom supported us in developing our talents.  My brother K, whose amazing music you are hearing today, played the upright string bass in high school.  My mom would drive her Buick around town with the neck of that String Bass hanging out the window with pride. She endured hours of us butchering Beethoven’s beautiful piece that will be played as the recessional music, “Ode to Joy” on the piano, the cello, the violin, the clarinet and many other instruments.   She would always say, “I love it, play it again.”  When we had an idea, she encouraged us to go for it. 

She always tried to expose us to as much culture as possible.  We went to every museum within a 200 mile radius, and my mom had the ability to get the best seats for any venue, whether it was the symphony, Basketball games, Ice Capades, or WWF Wrestling.  

My mom magically went blond over 40 years ago.  She loved her blond hair and insisted that blondes have more fun.  Last year she was at my house and in the process of “touching up” her hair with some hair dye.  She had been saying for years I should try going blonde, “Just once, you’ll love it.”  While I was in the bathroom helping my daughter, she had stealthily painted two streaks of hair with bleach.  I screamed in shock, and she just laughed and said, “Oh well, guess we better dye the rest of your hair to match”   I left those streaks in my hair until they grew out, because I loved telling people about my mom, “the blonde, who had more fun.”  

Many of you might not have known that my mom was a great swimmer.  We had a pool growing up and my mom swam laps in the pool every summer afternoon with us.  She was the only mom in the neighborhood who would get in the pool with the kids. She loved being in the water.  We spent many happy hours in the pool as a family. There was a few times where she let us eat dinner in the pool, with our plates perched on the edge. And she even had a TV put on the patio so we could watch “The Dukes of Hazard” from the pool. She loved the carefree days of summer and the sun.
My mom loved the Ocean.  There was something about having her feet in the sand and the ocean breeze in her face that rejuvenated her soul.   When we lived inland, my mom would get antsy for the beach and we would go several times a year.  We knew a beach trip to Ventura was in the near future, when she would start to utter the first two stanzas of John Masefield’s poem “Sea Fever”.  
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

We frequented Ventura several times a summer, and my mom always returned refreshed.  While visiting Ventura, my mother signed us up for Sailing Lessons with Leo and my parents bought a boat, which we named “Kelpie Jr.” for us to sail in.  When we moved to Santa Barbara, my mom often picked me up from school with the beach chairs loaded in the trunk and would say, “You can study for your history test with your toes in the sand.”  

My mother was always in our corner.  She was the definition of the term, “Mama Bear” "I pity the fool"* who decided to cross her children.  When I was in 2nd grade, I had some major surgery and had to miss the first few weeks of school.  When I returned to school, I was unaware of the classroom rules and procedures.  On the first day back from my long illness, I got into trouble for talking, because I was asking the student next to me what the teacher was referring to when she talked about our “Compucat workbook”.  I was told to “Change my color” by my teacher.  I had NO idea that in 2nd grade “changing your color” was a form of discipline in which the blue smiley face above your name gets changed to an orange frowny face.   When I got home, I told my mom all about how the teacher had forgotten I was new, and I’d gotten in trouble because I had asked the student next to me what workbook the teacher was telling us to use. I wailed to her about the injustice of having an Orange frowny face above my name, when I had missed the first three weeks of school.  She sent me off to rest and went to her room and closed the door.  I tiptoed out to hear her on the phone reading the riot act to my 2nd grade teacher, using terms like, “How dare you, and I expect you will apologize tomorrow”  My teacher apologized the next day profusely and mentioned, “Your mother was VERY upset with me.”   I was filled with the confidence that my mother was on my side, “I told her, "Yeah, if you mess with me, you’re gonna have to deal with mom, so you better watch it."

My mom loved to travel.  My parents loved to go on cruises and take tours.  My mom and I had the opportunity to travel on a few trips.  She was always adventurous and would wear me out.  My mother was a night owl and really came to life after 9pm.  I consider myself a night owl as well, but my mom outlasted me, every single time.  My mom loved the hustle and bustle of the big cities. She loved the cable cars of San Francisco, and we rode them all evening one time, having the best time people watching. 

One time we were at Times Square in New York City at 1am.  A man was selling a lovely assortment of watches from a briefcase set on top of a milk crate.  The authenticity of these watches is questionable. My mom’s interest was piqued and she picked one up to look at.  Suddenly, the salesman spotted a cop and grabbed the watch out of my mom’s hands, and snapped his briefcase shut.  He took off running, and my mother chased him for four blocks.  He kept turning around and saying, “Get AWAY from me lady!”    It was really hard for that man to blend into the crowd, when he had a blonde tourist chasing after him waving a $20 bill. 
My mom taught the three of us children the value of service.  She often brought us along to help her serve someone in need.  I can remember sitting in the backseat of the car holding on to a casserole with hot pads on my lap, trying to keep it from spilling on the way to someone’s house that needed dinner.  One week in church, the bishop announced the ward choir was desperately in need of members, no singing experience required.  They just needed bodies.  My mom could not sing, a trait she passed on to meBut my mom seeing a need, stepped in to be in the choir.  It turns out the choir was not quite that desperate.  My mother proudly held the title for being the only person ever kicked out of a ward choir.   
But that was just my mother… if there was a need; she was there to fill it.   When I was little, I remember my mother loading up her car with granola bars, cereal and milk in the morning before she left to teach.  She had learned that some of her students were going hungry and that the school lunch was the only meal these children ate each day.  My mother offered these kids breakfast every day in her classroom until the school implemented a breakfast program.  She did this silently, asking for no reimbursement,   if there was a need, she was there to fill it.

I’d like to close by taking this opportunity to thank her many friends who have showered her with love over these last few months.  There has been such an outpouring of love and service given to my family.  Every time I visited my mother, there was a stack of cards from her friends, with encouraging words.  On behalf of my family I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the lovely ladies of the LDS Relief Society who have been angels in our lives and provided much relief. We’d also like to thank  the staff at Livingston Memorial Hospice for their great care.  
My mom’s final note is that she wanted to be remembered as the Happy Fun Vibrant Lady we all knew.  She does not want us to mourn for long, but to celebrate the life she had and rejoice that she is with our Heavenly Father now.

*My mom did a great Mr. T impression, it only seemed appropriate to quote him in her tribute. 


~Anna~ said...

Beautiful... Love the shoes! ;-) Your mother would have loved that touch. I'm sorry I did not get a chance to meet this marvelous woman. I imagine you are much like her. :-)

many hugs,

Anonymous said...

Oh Wendy, I'm so sorry to hear about your mom passing away. I've been there and I know how difficult it is for you and your family. My heart goes out to you. You have endured so much these past years and have handled it all with such grace. Hugs and kisses from the Mitchell family.

gena said...

What a beautiful, heartfelt tribute. You did her proud - right down to the shoes. What a blessing to have had a mom like that in your life....

prayers of comfort from nj,


Tammy said...

You wrote a fabulous tribute. I wish I had known your mom...she sounds absolutely wonderful.

oneil said...

Awesome, Thanks for sharing these great words about your Mr. T quoting Mama bear.

Anonymous said...

You will continue to walk in your moms shoes forever--and what great shoes to fill. What an incredible lady and what a difficult day for those who love her so much. Your words painted a beautiful picture of really how much your mom lived and loved. I have no doubt she was around beaming with pride at you, there in her pink shoes, giving such a graceful and fun tribute. The days ahead are not easy ones. Just remember, it hurts forever, and one day, believe it or not, you WILL be able to get along without her. I'm still getting there. Love you Wend! Get some sleep. Mindy Smith

Noelle Reese said...

That was perfect Wendy! I wish I could have known your Mom!

Brooke said...

That was beautiful, Wendy.

Hillary said...

What a beautiful and touching tribute. I love the wonderful stories that you shared.

heather said...

Such a beautiful tribute Wendy! Your mom sounds like a truly amazing woman & mother. She raised you well and her legacy will live on through you. Prayers of comfort to you and your family.

Disneypal said...

What a beautiful blog post - your mother sounds like a special person. I'm glad you wore her shoes - they reflect the vibrant woman you described.

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Staci said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute you gave for your mom.

Kerry said...

Wendy. What a beautiful tribute to your mom. I feel like I know her through your words. The shoes....that just has me in tears.

Love you girl.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled across your blog today..I am so very sorry for your huge loss. I lost my Mother in October of 2010..the pain is indescribable..the way you kept saying in your posts "I don't want to do this"..I KNOW exactly what you meant! Take your time & know your grief is your own, you deserve it..afterall you just lost a relationship like no other..mother/daughter...and since my Mother's passing I am slowly realizing & comprehending what that will mean to my life! Hugs to you..& may God hold you ever so close to Him(:

Kacy said...

I don't know if I can do this when the time comes.