Monday, August 23, 2010

A Phone Call Away

A funny thing happens when someone passes away...  I don't think your brain really comprehends the finality of it all.

Shortly after the Memorial Service...I picked up the phone to tell my mom that I had seen her two half sisters.  I dialed her number before realizing...

I spoke to a friend about this and she told me that she wrote a blog to her mom...she said it helped.  Maybe this blog will help our family too.


My mom didn't belong to any particular church, but my daughters do.  They allowed us to have her service there.

We enlarged a photo of my mother with my little sister.  It was one of the nicer photos of my mom.  You see, it was hard to get a great shot, as she didn't always look at the camera.

The church printed programs...I added an insert with a collage of photos of my mom.  She was so beautiful.  The other side of the insert was a family tree.  One of my younger cousins went around the room, matching faces to photos.

There were a few photos, flowers, a guest book...I wasn't sure how many people would show up.  My mother's friends were older, some were blind also...we didn't know if they would be able to attend.

My mother's sister and brother were there.  Including her half sisters.  Her sister-in-law, Her children, grand children, great grand children, an aunt, cousin, neices and nephews and friends.

The pastors did a lovely job, speaking about a woman they'd never met.  My Aunts and my Uncle got up and said a few words...shared stories that made us smile.

I had written a few words and wanted to speak...but was so afraid that I wouldn't get the words out.  My husband said, he would finish for me...if that happened.


Hello, I am Suellen, Marianne’s oldest daughter. Thank you all for coming, it means a lot to my family.

When I first set out to write a few words about my mother, I thought: How do I sum up her life with just a few words. I’m finding this very difficult, as words are inadequate…but, I will try my best to put into words, who my mother was.

I’d like you take a moment and close your eyes. Imagine a world of darkness…imagine relying on your other senses: hearing, taste, touch, smell. Would you be frightened to walk out into the world? Cook? How about just walking around your home? Now, take a breath and open your eyes.

This was my mother’s world. Being blind wasn’t all that bad, my mother used to say. She’d tell us that her other senses had magnified. She’d have us close our eyes and navigate the room, or listen to the things most people never hear.

My mother lost her sight at 25 years old and she had three small kids. I remember my father taking me out onto the front porch, I was 5 years old. He said: Susie, your mom is losing her sight, she won’t be able to see, you have to be a big girl now, she is going to need our help. …and then he said OK, get ready Mom is driving you to school. What??? Imagine my confusion. So doing as I was told, I hopped into the car, Mom is in the drivers seat, I’m standing in the back, straddling that hump in the floorboard (we didn’t have seatbelt laws back then) my hands holding onto the back of the front seat as we back out of the drive way, she drives down the street, turns the corner…hits the curb and I about fainted. I didn’t know Mom had one good eye left. Unfortunately her depth perception was a little off. She didn’t drive very long after that.

When I turned 25 and had three kids of my own…I imagined what it must have been like raising three children. Not being able to see what they were doing or getting in to. It’s a frightening thought. You know how kids can be: driving off of the roof on your bike or jumping off with an umbrella, putting pennies in the light socket, breaking a wrist while roller skating, and cutting our own hair. Thankfully, Aunt Val fixed many a haircut gone wrong.

How about the time Steve and I, along with some neighbor kids decided to swing on the rope of the flag pole at Pomona Girls Catholic School. Yes, it was a lot of fun. We’d get on the fence, put our foot in the loop and swing by the classroom windows so that we could peer in…one day, the nuns, about 10 of them came running out two side doors and tried to corral us. We took off and jumped the fence and ran all the way home. We never looked back… We got home to find mom standing on the front porch, one hand on her hip, the other holding a cigarette, tapping her toe. We knew we were in trouble. But what we didn’t know was, that Valerie Pfleger hadn’t made it over the fence and she gave us up for a lollipop. Yes, that really happened.

My mother had a tough life but you’d have never known it…she made a lot of lemonade. She lost her sight and they told her that she had to learn Braille…so she learned Braille. She had to learn to cook again, so she did. She learned to use a cane and later got a guide dog, she took city buses on her own when she went to back to school. Imagine finding the bus stop, getting on the right bus, getting off at the right bus stop and navigating a college campus…she did.

Her fingers where like 10 tiny eyes. She had bionic ears. She knew who we were by our footfalls. When we were younger we’d try to sneak a couple of extra cookies…she’s say “Suellen”? I asked her how she knew it was me? Never mind “eyes in the back of her head” our mother had radar. We did what kids do…we waved our hands in front of her face and when we were in trouble we’d stick out our tongues…she knew. …and we’d “get it”.

She cooked many Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Those were times when we all gathered together in my mother’s tiny home and just be together. She loved listening to the kids open their gifts and squeal with delight. She’d sit in her chair and just listen to all the goings ons. Imagine a house full of people and everyone talking at once. It could get confusing for her at times. I liked to sit by her and describe what was going on. I’d do that while we watched TV too. My husband tells me to shhhh at the movies because I still do this. We had wonderful times.

My mother loved her grandchildren, you were her treasures, she loved her great grandchildren, you were the jewels in her treasure box. You were all the light of her life. She loved us kids too but when the grand kids and great grand kids came along…well, you know how that goes.

Shana, Neysi, Adam, Tori, Rolly, Tiana, Davonte, Tyler, Jalen and Kennedy…I’d like to read a poem for you:

READ POEM (See Below)

Grandma loved you all very very much.

Saturday, July 31st was our mom’s 71st birthday. She was surrounded by her children, grand children and great grand children. It was a good day. I think she had a good day.

My mother was our rock, the glue of our family. She handled adversity with dignity and grace. She always had a shoulder to lean on, for anyone who might need one, she always had the right words to say. She never said a bad word about anyone, you never heard her complained. She was not only kind and beautiful, she was a wonderful mother, grandmother and great grand mother…she was my hero, and we will all miss her dearly.

I love you mom.

I got through my speech...with a few tears and sniffles.  I think I made my mother proud.

My niece got up and said a few words...I was so proud of her. 

The pastor said he was moved and asked that he be allowed to call her Mom.  He said wonderful things that will give us peace...he prayed with us and then hugged us as we left the chapel.

It was a nice service.

We gathered later at my daughters home.  We shared memories with family and friends...we ate a meal that reminded us of when we were younger.

All of us being together would have made mom happy.  It was a beautiful day.

Grandma can’t be with you today

But close your eyes and think;

About all the wonderful memories you had,

And how she made you giggle when she’d wink.

She’ll be with you in the bedroom

Sitting quietly on your bed;

Just close your eyes and think of grandma,

Relive the sweet memories in your head.

She’ll be that star in the darkness,

Shining steady through and through;

You only have to watch it glow

To know She’s thinking of you.

She’ll be the music that you listen to,

She’ll be there in every song;

She’ll laugh with you and sing with you,

And comfort you when your day’s gone wrong.

She’ll be the wind that ruffles your hair,

She’ll be that warm embrace;

She’ll be the hand on your shoulder,

She’ll be the tender touch on your face.

She’ll be the moon as it dances

At night when everything is still;

for she has always loved you

and know she always will.

Though you may not always see her

As moments pass and nights turn into days;

Just close your eyes and think of her

She is never far away.

...and when I got home that evening.  I wanted to call mom and tell her all about the wonderful day we had.

I pick up the phone, thinking I'll dial and at least hear her voice on the answering machine.  I quietly put the phone back down.

I used to call my mom and we'd talk for hours...we'd do crossword puzzled over the phone or just gab.  ...I long for her sweet voice.

While my heart aches...and while I miss my mother, I know I must be strong for my children, her grand children and her great grand children.

VHL..."IT" lurks there, silently...waiting to rear it's ugly head.  Damed VHL!

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