After a year delay from Covid, we were finally able to gather in a larger group last weekend to celebrate Mom's life, and all that she meant to us. It was at once a difficult day, but also a day filled with the warmth of love and friendship. The day seemed to fly by as we hugged and shared stories, saw friends old and new, and feel joy in the midst of grief. The day was a blessing, much like she was.
Some words I shared at the memorial.
Grief and loss are never easy burdens to bear. It is at once so universal, yet so specific a feeling it can be isolating. We gather today to share both our feelings of loss, and also to celebrate the joy we all have had in knowing Beverly, Bev, Aunt Bev, and Mom in our lives. I thank you all for being here today. It means so much to us, and Mom was blessed by your love and friendship.
I want to thank Nick once again for putting together the lovely slideshow. It is such a great way to see the various parts of her life, and we will have it running in the background later in case you want to catch parts of it again.
I also want to thank all of the family members who sent us pictures for the slideshow, and for us to have for our own memories. Some of the photos I had never seen, and some were wonderful reminders. It was great to be able to walk through various points of mom's life. What a gift.
Mom herself was a diligent photographer and scrapbooker. She had bookshelves filed with albums with careful notes of dates and places. As she was often the one behind the camera, there were more pictures of her family than of herself. Of course most of her time taking pictures pre-dates the selfie, and even if it had been around, I don't know how often she would have pointed the lens at herself to capture a moment. Thankfully she was not camera shy though, and she joined me in the recent tradition of selfies at Crescent Bar. I wish that the selfie tradition had been a thing much earlier, so that I could look back on those forty years of Sun Lakes and then Crescent Bar, a year at time.
One of the great things about these photos is to remind us of moments and the stories behind them. We of course have shared many stories with each other over the past year. Some are big moments like the road trip to the Rose Bowl, or the sketchy flight into the Grand Canyon, but most of them are smaller moments. There is a great story behind the picture of Mom jumping off the boat at Sun Lakes that is in the slideshow and on the photo board. The moment was etched in Corey's mind since he snapped the picture when he was just seven years old, but it was just a random moment for Mom until she got to hear the story many years later.
Another moment I vividly remember Mom wasn't physically there, but boy was she present. I was up camping outside of Salmon La Sac some thirty years ago. I was crossing a river alone, and got swept away. I was flying down the river trying to swim or find my feet, and the only thing in my head besides panic was, "Mom is going to be so pissed if I die." She must have read something about the snowpack, melting run off, or some other person getting swept away in another river, but she had warned me to be careful before I left for the trip. I had not been careful.
It took what felt like an eternity to make my way across the river, but I was still moving fast downstream. When I got close to the opposite shore, I saw a branch extended out over the river like something in a movie and lunged for it. The force of the river twisted me around and dislocated a finger, but I was safe. I walked a mile down river to a bridge and then back upstream to camp, soaking wet and ready to start listening to good advice again. When I told Mom the story later, she was of course more thankful that I was OK than mad that I had done something stupid, but she may have given me a good Nanny-like shake of the finger.
My last story takes us back to Sun Lakes again, and it lives in my memory even though this time it was me who wasn't really there. One morning Mom hiked up the cliff with Dan and a few others. I was invited along, but I couldn't be bothered to get out of bed any earlier than absolutely necessary because I was a teenager. This "old" lady and Dan came back with animated stories of their adventures and all the fun they had. You could see the light in Mom's eyes as she relived the tough but rewarding climb. There was no way my extra hour of sleep had been worth missing out. I have taken that to heart, and have been much more likely to say "count me in!" instead of talking myself out of things. To spend time with people I care for, and to create a new memory.
Our lives end up being these stories. Our lives are about who we create these stories with, and who we get to tell them too. Our lives are even the stories we don't know we are a part of. These seemingly throw away moments that impacted others, and left them better for it.
At the graveside service I mentioned Mom' s habit of collecting rocks when she hiked. Each one held a memory. When I recently went looking for the rocks, I found that the old Lucerne ice cream bucket she piled them into did not make it through their last move. Dad also mentioned that Mom had used some of the rocks to line the garden at their previous home, which seemed a lovely way to share those memories instead of tucking them away. Even so, she had collected so many rocks that there are still ones left over. We encourage you to take one of her memory rocks home with you if you like, to remember her, and to remind ourselves that memories can be sometimes be found in the strangest places.
Mom left this world a better place through her love, her actions and her words. She will live on in our memories, in the recipe cards she passed along, in the cross-stitch keepsakes she created, in the kindness we show each other, and in our stories.
May the stories we tell and retell keep her alive in our hearts. May those little reminders and stories bring us joy, even when we still miss her so.
I love you Mom, and I miss you so. You will always be with me.