The Last Goodbye: A Tribute to My Mom
I introduced my mom to the readers of this blog years ago. I knew the content wasn’t exactly in line with the typical conversations of home decor and recipes, but it was important to me.
I documented my journey with Mom here mostly for myself. However, I found through the response, that many readers were walking similar paths as our own.
- I wrote about the day the doctor gave Mom the dementia diagnosis.
- I wrote about the day I shared a laugh over the phone with her.
- I wrote about the last time I heard her voice sing (and God gifted me with a picture of the last time I saw her smile – picture here).
- and I wrote about her special lullaby song .
For the past 9 1/2 years we’ve watched our mom fade into a shell of who she once was. Each visit brought a new reality of loss and mourning. It felt like a really long good-bye that ripped a little piece of my heart out each time.
- The last stitch of the knitted dishcloth.
- The last word.
- The last laugh.
- The last smile.
- The last note sung.
And at the end, I longed to see just one thing:
a little twinkle in her eye.
I’m no expert on the medical condition of dementia. In fact, I can’t even tell you what the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s is.
But, this one thing I do know:
It’s very hard to watch.
The doctor warned my sister and I of that at the time he gave the diagnosis.
I’ve cried many tears and grieved many losses of my mom over the years.
I thought I was prepared…
But, when I got the call early in the morning on New Year’s Eve from my sister that Mom had breathed her last breath on earth, I realized you can never really prepare yourself for loss.
No matter when. No matter how.
The truth is, I’m 49 years old and I miss my Mom & Dad.
I’ve just returned home from spending a week with my family on the farm I grew up on. Although, obviously, it was a sad occasion that brought us together, it was also an incredible time of blessing and precious memories. I have 4 siblings, and once their spouses and kids and their kids’ kids all get together, there’s over 60 of us!
We laughed and told stories and learned things about our family history that we never knew.
And on Saturday, we gathered together in the church I grew up attending to honor and celebrate the life of Mom.
My brother was the Master of the Ceremonies of the event (is that what you call it?). He gave a beautiful message at the end, as did one of my nephews.
The five of us kids sang a song together that we’ve been singing for years. (This one.)
And for the first time ever, I volunteered to give a tribute. I lost sleep worrying over if I could get through it without crying…
It was the first thing on the program, and God gave me strength to do it…sans tears (although I know everyone would have excused them. It was a funeral, after all!).
If you’re interested in what I said, I’ll include it below.
And for those of you who have sent messages and notes, thank you so much for your kind words and care. Blessings to you.
This past year, I took part in an 8 week Study series at our church. Each week we were given an assignment to take home and complete. As someone who loves school and paper and assignments, I was always eager get my homework done. But one assignment stood out as more difficult than all the others. In fact, I’ve pondered it long after completion – possibly proving it to be the most effective “assignment” of all.
The question we were to answer was this:
“When people are attending your funeral one day, what do you want to be remembered for? Write down all the values you have for your life, and narrow it down to the top 3.”
Today is the day we gather together to celebrate & honor the life of Eunice Kay Scammon Lynn Jones. Some of you know her as neighbor, friend, Aunt, sister, cousin, or Grandma.
But, to me, she was Mom.
As I woke early one morning this past week, I pondered that assignment question again, but this time, I thought of it with Mom in mind. What were the top three values in her life?
The answers were quick and easy to think of. It’s what I will remember her for, and more importantly, they were the 3 main life lessons that she planted firmly in the depths of my heart.
Value #1 ~ Jesus
Mom was passionately rooted in her faith and love for Jesus. She and Dad made it very clear to all us kids that Jesus was to be the top priority in our lives. Every time these very church doors were open, our family was here. Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night prayer meeting, youth groups, potlucks, New Years’ Eve parties, weddings, funerals, and anything else in between.
Because of that value in Mom’s life, I was introduced to Jesus in pre-school Sunday School class with Lillian Woodhouse as my teacher. Because of her, I decided very early in my life that I, too, wanted to follow Jesus. Through those crucial growing up years, I watched an learned from saints who sat in the pews that you’re sitting in right now. They were living, breathing examples of what faith lived out in everyday life looked like.
Mom loved kids and teaching, and coupled with her love for Jesus, she and Thurley Duty began an after school program here at the church called Joy Club. Long before we’d ever heard of Ipads or high tech animation, I remember sitting downstairs and watching spellbound as they brought the Scriptures to life with stories and flannelgraph pictures. Even to this day, many Bible stories I think of are vividly illustrated in my mind with those colorful, simple flannelgraph images that hung on a simple flannel-backed board.
Value #2 ~ Music
Music was a love of my Mom’s heart. She sang and played the piano with passion and enthusiasm, and instilled in each of us kids the power and pleasure of song.
We each took piano lessons, although I don’t ever remember seeing the boys sitting at the piano stool ~ they tell me they did.;) But, what I remember most was standing around the piano at the farm and singing together.
All big occasions ~ whether happy or sad ~ were punctuated in some way with music. In fact, my most precious family memory ever was with music.
As we sat together in the funeral home during my dad’s viewing, it was an awkward time of sad silence ~until one of us started to sing,
“When peace like a river attended my soul. When sorrow like sea billows roll…”
Voices joined in and soon the place was filled with the beautiful sounds and harmonies of song.
“It is Well…
It is Well…
It is Well with my soul…”
Value #3 ~ Laughter
As I’ve gotten texts and notes this past week, there is a thread common to many of them ~ Mom’s laugh. Those of us who knew her before she became ill, will always remember it.
Mom loved to laugh and did so at every chance she could. My dad always commented that he would never lose her in a store,
“I just stand and wait for her to laugh, and then I know right where she is.”
Laughter. It’s contagious and we all love it, don’t we? I love to be around happy people, and I guess I would categorize Mom as a happy person.
But, more than that, my Mom showed me that there is a big difference between being happy and having the true joy that comes with the peace and hope of Jesus.
I watched her have joy even during the most difficult and sad times of life. She looked for things to be thankful for, and modeled that though you are deeply sorrowful in your soul, true joy isn’t shaken by life’s circumstances.
So now, today, we’d like this service to include Mom’s three values in life. There’s going to be Jesus, music, and although it’s a sad occasion…we’re hoping to share a little of that laughter today that Mom loved so well. She’d like that.
(The service was full of great memories, inspiring words, and sprinkled throughout was – indeed – laughter. Mom would have loved that.)
DON’T MISS A THING!
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Your tribute is beautiful, Rita! Set the tone for the whole service, which was a “good” one, although I bathed the entire “event” in tears. So many memories, and so many loved ones missed (for now). Was just a joy to see you all. Love ya, Elaine
Beautiful tribute to your mom- I just lost my Dad from dementia in august. While I know he is no longer suffering from that prison he lived in I’m assured that he’s fully healed and present with the Lord.
Thank you Rita for your work in writing this and sharing this. My mom just went to see Jesus after battling the same thing and I am working on her tribute to honor her, so very hard to do. But I know she is celebrating with Jesus now💐🎉