Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mother’s funeral

My mother had a wonderful funeral. I’m sure she smiled, and forgave us most of it.

To start at the beginning, mom lost the fight to a virulent breast cancer. We took her to the hospital when we realized we were completely unprepared to care for her at home, the end snuck up so fast. Being mom, she closed her eyes, intending to open them no more. She did open them one time, to sign a check for her entire annual tithe to her church. The same her shyster lawyer stole to close her estate of one old car. My sister and I made good the tithe, and the small church was grateful.

Pat, my cousin in Texas, sent a plant to the hospital. Mom smiled and said “Dallas.” Pat is the daughter of one of our dad’s uncles. Her parents died very young, alcoholics, and my parents tried to adopt Pat. The staunchly Catholic faction united against my fallen from grace father who had the additional audacity to marry a Baptist. They sent Pat to live with an evil cousin in Texas. Pat grew up, married Ellis, and that’s how I have cousins in Texas. The day after mom saw the plant Pat arrived at the airport; mom was the last living relative from those days. We all were sad she was a day late.

Not long after we moved in together, Mom joined her brother’s church, a more fundamental church than I could imagine her being with. But—Uncle Hank’s church had bus tours for seniors, and to be assured of a seat every time, she had to be a member. She joined. Somewhere during her affiliation the old minister retired and the church hired a young woman for an interim minister.

Mom and Stephanie made an immediate connection. After there was a new minister at Uncle Hank's church, Mom would show up unannounced at Stephanie’s new churches; she liked what Stephanie had to say.

On Mom’s initial trips to the hospital, a year before her cancer went viral, Stephanie would pop from an elevator, a tiny bit of a girl. “There you are!” The two of them were off, and I went to the family waiting room. Jan and I teased Stephanie, she was the good daughter, and Stephanie replied “Not if she knew everything.” I knew she was alluding to being a tiny, gay, sprite, and simply replied mother loved her.

So, you know Mom is going to die very soon in my story, and she did. We took her to the hospital on Tuesday, on Wednesday we told her we had a hospice room. Warm blankets at hospice did not entice her, the hospital blankets were just fine. She died on Thursday, but not before she told us “No notice.”

Mom and Uncle Hank, 1936

Uncle Hank stood beside her body, held his big sister’s hand and said, “We were on vacation in Florida. She never told us your dad died, you know. She didn't want to bother us.” He waited twenty years to tell us that.

Mom was a planner. A, B, she had an entire alphabet of alternative plans in her repertoire. Leaving on that particular Thursday, the next day being Good Friday and Easter on Sunday was her Plan A, I know. The phone calls went around, people gathered in her hospital room, then at the house. It was a beautiful early spring day, the bees were out. We gave the hospital instructions to send mom to Hennessy’s, her Irish funeral home of choice the many times she had to use one. We went home to join her guests.

I'm only half way into the story; but it's almost finished tomorrow.


  1. The older I get, the more I miss my parents.


  2. Joanne, I'm so sorry. It's frightening how many of us are hit by breast cancer.
    Your mother sounds like a spunky lady. I love the story of the bus trips.

  3. Hamilton looks just like your uncle!

  4. Sounds like your mother and mine could be related... Ma died the day after Christmas... I'm sure she didn't want to make anyone sad a Christmas, but with the holidays at hand, they could attend a funeral before celebrating New Year's Eve. I'm looking forward to the next part of your narrative... love it!

    1. Mother initially waited until the week between Christmas and New Year to tell us she had the diagnosis. Didn't want to spoil Christmas.

  5. Said it before and doubtless I'll say it a few more times: you sure know how to tell a story, Joanne!

    And I think you inherited her planning gene, at a minimum.

  6. My father refused to let go until my eldest brother had arrived from the US, and he could talk to us all. And slipped away less than five minutes after we left the room. I admire his determination - but it still hurt just as much.

  7. I always enjoy glimpses into the lives that made you,you.
    Jane x

  8. I'm glad I read that. I almost didn't because of the title. Like your new photos.

  9. I like the picture of your mother and her brother; I look forward to the rest of the story.


  10. Your mom sounds like a very classy lady. Did not want to spoil the Holidays therefore she did not talk about her troubles?

  11. Wait a minute -- I was deep into the story and now I have to wait! I am anxious to hear the end of your story. Like the photo of you with your granddaughters and your new header. -- barbara

  12. Hari OM
    I echo Folkway's comment - talk about cliffhanger! Clearly you are feeling optimistic about the arrival of spring with the great revamp on photos... YAM xx

  13. There was such sweetness in her face and apparently such steel in her backbone.

  14. Today is my mother's 95th birthday so it is quite touching to read such a lovely tribute to your very thoughtful mother. The next part is eagerly anticipated!