So it goes.

On behalf of the entire family, thank you for being here today as we celebrate the life of our Mother.

Let’s start with a little word association – when you think of Mom, what is the first word that pops into your mind?

Anybody come up with “Tough”? Mom could be characterized as fun-loving, adventurous, generous, tenacious, big-hearted… So many words… But it seems I’m not the only one who thinks of her as ‘tough’.

The scientific definition of toughness is “Strength and Ductility”. Resistance to fracture while stressed… The ability to absorb energy, take repeated blows, without failure.

Tough as nails… One tough cookie…. Built Ford tough…

That was Mom.

We learned pretty early that she was a strong woman. Stick your tongue out in our household? Be prepared to wear a clothespin on it! Bite your sister? Be prepared to have Mom bite you back. Oh, and like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story”, we were all connoisseurs of a variety of fine soaps. She maintained order and kept us all in line.

When facing heart bypass surgery in 2008, Mom was informed by her surgeon that if she continued to smoke, her chances of survival would be cut in half. On the spot, she decided that after 65 years of smoking, she should quit. And she did. Cold turkey, that very day.

While collecting information to settle Mom’s estate last night, I looked at one of her checkbooks to make sure I had the right one. Knowing that she would likely be going to the hospital on Monday, she paid her bills on Sunday. She wasn’t able to see well, write well, or even breathe easily… But she paid her bills.

Mom was an incredibly strong woman.

To complement her strength, she was also agile – able to adapt, improvise and overcome.

Fiercely independent, she was at first reluctant to let Dad into her life. He said he could remember the moment he knew he was in love with her – they were at the market, shopping for a block of Swiss cheese. She spent a great deal of time going through the individually weighed packages, trying to find the block with the fewest holes, because she wanted to get the most for her money. He was smitten! She wasn’t quite so sure…

She eventually accepted his proposal, and left the city for the suburbs. Neither she, nor Dad, knew the first thing about home ownership, maintenance, or gardening. She didn’t have a driver’s license. But she adapted, and together they created a garden, became neighbors, joined this congregation, learned how to camp, and raised a family…

Having given up her profession as a nurse to stay home with her children, and later to provide care for her oldest granddaughter she started back to school in her 50’s to brush up her skills. Returning to nursing, she quickly settled into a leadership role on the psychiatric ward at the county hospital – saying she felt right at home there…

She’d be unhappy at this point if i failed to mention that she was a straight-A student…

She was a devoted Mother, Grandmother and Great-Grandmother. Perhaps her greatest gift was her ability to understand each of us as unique individuals – she knew that one size didn’t fit all in her clan. She could coach and mentor us, knowing our capabilities, knowing our limits, and knowing when it was important to push them…

This combination of strength and ductility – her toughness – was apparent through the difficulty of the past week. There was never a doubt in our mind that she was calling the shots – even at the very end of her life. We have been fortunate that Mom’s oldest granddaughter, DQ, and her husband, BJ, have been able to care for her. She waited until they were by her side before she allowed herself to rest…

So we thank you again for coming together with us today to celebrate her life.

Life is short. Death is forever. Go joyfully! Nothing left undone!

MommaThis is the eulogy i delivered yesterday at her funeral… It’s been a pretty rotten couple of weeks, but it seems the worst is behind us.  She turned 86 on Friday, and died two days later… Not a bad run…

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End of the Season

At the end of the season, our communal pool is opened up for a Doggie Splash Day.  Residents can bring their pups and they get to fart around in the pool before the final cleaning before closure for the winter months.

This has been one of Mr. Pickles favorite things – and this is a dog whose favorite thing is generally whatever he is doing at the moment.  Today was a storybook perfect early autumn day – blue sky, wispy clouds, and warm, dry air.

Because of other commitments, i took a few hours off work today to make sure he had a chance to enjoy it.  Arriving promptly at 4:00pm, he wasted no time jumping in to steal a toy from another dog, Morgan – an elderly Chesapeake Bay Retriever.  This has become something of an annual tradition.

Devil DogMr. P, having more heart than brains, threw himself into the water with reckless joy.  He’s not always cognizant of where the steps are, so this meant i had to throw myself into the water to guide him back to safety on a few occasions.

He played.  And he played some more.  Other residents – even those without dogs – were entertained by his spirit.  After about 40 minutes, he was getting tired, and i repeatedly had to shepherd him to the steps to rest, but he would have none of that.  i very nearly had to carry him home, because…. well…. DOGS!  WATER!  BALLS!

It was hard to leave, but i was worried about him.  He’d jump in, completely submerge, pop to the surface and snag the tennis ball – but he was starting to gasp to catch his breath.  There is a fine line.  He might push himself too far… But, he’s thirteen years old.  It’s entirely possible that he won’t be alive next year for the Doggie Splash Day.

As i was walking him home, i got a text from my niece, DQ.  Mom has been feeling pretty rotten this week, and has been mostly bedridden with fatigue.  Earlier this week, she told my brother-in-law “I’ve lived a good, long life.  It may be my time…”

When i talked to her last night, her mind was firing on all cylinders, and she was ready to give up.  Given her symptoms, i was pretty sure it was an infection of some sort, and encouraged her to let DQ get some blood work done… Maybe even go to the emergency room if necessary to get checked out.

The text message from DQ was to let me know that Mom has been admitted for pneumonia, which is generally treatable.  She’ll also have to have fluid drained from her lungs – the last time this happened was in early July.  It has come back just a few months later.  Untreated, it will kill her.

Another fine line.

Ultimately, it is Mom’s decision.  i am hopeful that 24 hours of antibiotics will have her feeling less miserable, and perhaps in a better position to sort out her chosen path forward.  i will support it, whatever she decides.

Fingers crossed that she still has some enjoyable days ahead, even if the longer term prognosis sucks.

Happy Pup