Our mom, Marilyn, the mother of four children: Betsy, Jenny, Chris and Jon passed away on October 11, 2017. She was 89 years old. She died 10 years and 4 days after our dad, Charles.
I remember a friend of mine, David Holt saying he and his brothers were now orphans after the second of his parents had passed away. Adults are not what you typically picture when you hear the word orphan. There is, at least for me and my siblings a sense of having our lives’ foundations shaken with this feeling, not just of grief, but also that we have lost something and I can’t find the right word for it – a focus, a purpose, a guiding element. I think the last one is close and it’s that we’ve lost our family leader, our guiding light. But we know Mom was confident that we would be all right without her. And in time we will be.
We four kids had fun together while we worked on the obituary, the memorial service arrangements and visits from friends, etc. Once I got home to NC, I have been feeling a type of loneliness – a bit like I’m drifting without direction. To now, not have either of the two people in your life that were so important and always there is a shock.
I realize these feelings are part of the grieving process and we (children and grandchildren) are entering a new phase in life. What I want to share with you is Mom’s unfailingly positive outlook. For as long as we can remember, we always subscribed to Readers’ Digest and Guideposts magazine. Guideposts was founded by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. He is the author of The Power of Positive Thinking. We think she read that book and decided that is how she would live her life.
A few months ago, I had an aha moment which showed the impact of her positive messages. Ever since I was 8 or so Mom repeatedly told me something that I have believed ever since. If Mom or my sisters had a necklace or other piece of jewelry that was tangled, knotted or unusable in some way, Mom would give it to me and ask me to fix it, saying, “you’re good at fixing jewelry”. I have always believed that I’m good at that. Recently, my girlfriend had a necklace that was knotted and I said, “oh give that to me to fix, I’m good at fixing jewelry.” Right then I realized something – I’m probably not very good at fixing jewelry, because generally, I’m not very handy or mechanical. But I believed I was, so like with Deb’s necklace or Mom’s jewelry, because i was good at it, i wouldn’t give up until I had it untangled.
All of Mom’s grandchildren and we, her children will miss the great feeling after talking with her. She made you feel great. Phrases we could count on hearing in virtually every conversation:
- Any company would be lucky to have an employee such as you
- You’re so smart
- You’re so handsome
- You’re so pretty
- I am so proud of you
- You’re doing so well in your career
- It just thrills me to hear you talk about your children/work/friends/activities
- You’re such a good cook
- How do you know how to do all these amazing things
- I love you so much
- You’re such a good father/mother
- Your children are so smart
- I love to talk to you
- I can’t wait to see you
- that is such a pretty shirt
- your hair looks so nice
I know that both Jenny (on the phone) and Jon in person when they would talk to her at night or help put her to bed, htey would say: Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite, … We would take turns saying each part. And she would laugh and laugh.
What a great approach to parenting and to life. Our ongoing tribute to her will be to live the rest of our lives with the same optimism, positivity and kindness that she showed.