Saturday, June 22, 2013

Remembering my mother

I think about my mother every day. I know that the people who loved her and were loved by her think of her all the time, too. For those who were unable to attend her memorial service, I wanted to share some of the images, music, and words from that day.

You can read the obituary that Phyllis and I wrote for our mother here and here. There were several news items on WIU's website and listservs and facebook pages of feminist organizations helped to spread the sad news.

We held the memorial service at the WIU Multicultural Center. My mother had been an active supporter of the creation of a welcoming home for the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center, Casa Latina, and the Women's Center. My mother and ten other women contributed towards the installation of a stained glass window in the library/lounge of the Women's Center, "Honoring our Mothers."

Our dear family friends the Howds, Nulls, and Diehl-Earlies helped us to select the artwork and set up the space, along with my friend Parisa Parsa, who officiated the ceremony. Phyllis and I chose to have only roses for flowers, and we all worked together to create memory boards filled with pictures and to select pieces of my mother's artwork -- her collages and a few decoupaged items. We also displayed the photograph from the Women of Western Centennial Phographic Exhibit.

At the welcome table we placed a small vase of roses, the programs, a photo of my mother with Phyllis and me, a guestbook and a box filled with rubber bracelets embossed with WWPD -- which stands for What Would Phyllis Do? This was a comment that so many people had made to us during the week following our death. Many of us, including Phyllis and I, felt lost without her.  We wanted to ask her advice on what to do.

Of course, it's intended to be funny, too, because my mother was often very forceful in her advice-giving and could laugh at herself for this trait while still insisting that you listen to what she was telling you. Anyone who reads this and would like a bracelet, email me your address and I will send you one.

Jim chose the opening and closing song -- they were both songs that my mother would interrupt conversation for, telling Jim to turn up the volume so we could all listen.  When we sat drinking wine and deciding on music for the program, Jim put this one on and we all sat quietly, the tears beginning to flow. We knew this was the one to start with.

Rebekah DelRio - Llorando

My Uncle Patrick then shared his Eulogy. We had asked him to share some memories about what our mother was like as a young woman -- where she came from. Patrick's memories and images truly captured just how cool my mother was.

Phyllis read her Eulogy next, in which she captured our mother's thinking, her beliefs, and what she stood for personally and professionally. She chose "American Tune," to end, capturing the spirit of my mother and giving us all moment of reflection -- a lullaby to comfort us.

Eva Cassidy - American Tune 

 Next I read my Eulogy, attempting to capture my mother's role in so many lives as a generous and caring source of strength, comfort and good advice.The song I chose to follow my words was "Nobody Does it Better," and yes, it was supposed to be funny. I also can't imagine who could possibly replace my mother's sage advice and ability to know how things should be done.

Carly Simon -
Nobody Does it Better

Jim spoke extemporaneously, thanking everyone for coming and explaining that the music we had been listening to were all important to my mother and had a connection to my mother. They were songs that my mother loved, or songs that made us think of my mother. He expressed how much it means to see so many people who love her like we do.

He then asked everyone to listen closely, and asked for the volume to be turned up, so the music could fill the room.

At the Four Corners with Jim

Philip Glass - Forgetting

Parisa ended with a prayer, and we collected ourselves and shared tears and hugs over refreshments provided by our friends. 

Jim's kids returned to the house and set out a beautiful reception for everyone to return to when we were ready to leave the memorial.

It was a day filled with love and I thank all who drove miles to be there, who shared words and hugs, and who made donations in my mother's honor. 

In total, approximately $2,000 was donated to both the McDonough District Hospital Hospice and the WIU Women's Center, and around $4,500 was donated to WIUM Tri-States Public Radio.

My mother's name has been added to the Memorial wall at the hospital, next to my father's. We also received notification of many donations to the ALS Association or Les Turner ALS Foundation

The faculty senate at WIU passed a resolution in mom's honor, and I recently learned that she had been named Professor Emeritus, which I had not realized. According to her colleague Janna Dietz, an undergraduate political science paper will be awarded in her name beginning this year and her friends and colleagues are working toward a named scholarship that will honor her teaching contributions. 

It's an incredible comfort to see all of these memorial tributes honoring my mother and we are blessed to be surrounded by such love.  I hope that these remembrances and images are helpful for those who wish to feel part of that day of remembrance.