On July 31st 2013, breast cancer claimed my Mother 1 day before the 4th anniversary of my father’s death (also to cancer). In one week, her house will be sold and there will be few touchstones left, few belongings left, that are full of the rich lives that my parents lived.
I know that this is the circle of life and no one gets out alive – not without suffering or death but I am struck by how quickly we will be left grasping at the little that is left of our parents on the material plane. I also know that I am adult who is quite capable of taking care of myself and yet the concept that I am an adult orphan grips me. I don’t NEED them but I will never stop wanting them. I will never stop missing them. And there is an irony so deep and disturbing in that the people I want to talk to the most about the pain of it all are the ones who are not able to pick up the phone any longer. I can’t begin to explain the agony of picking up the phone (with a frequency too absurd to note ) only to realize that no one will answer (and soon there will not be a voicemail message to listen to…)
This is banal, I know. And I was lucky to have wonderful parents for as long as I had them. They were shockingly not perfect. But they were good and they loved deeply and I miss them both all the time.
A friend commented to me recently, that “what are our parents but home?” And I have lost mine. I have lost my anchor and my compass and I feel like I’m free-falling down the rabbit hole.
As the closing of the house approaches, as does Halloween, (one of my mother’s great joys… )I am grateful that I had so much to lose and yet still lost.
And so, I offer this eulogy that I have offered twice to her friends and family in memorial, as a way to shout to the universe that this woman was loved. And I miss her.
MARIE EVELYN CARROL JAMISON’S EULOGY:
Instructions from my mother, on the eulogy:
“People think I’m a nice person. DON’T blow it! “
My mother was a nice person: A really sweet lady. In many ways she was a throwback to a simpler time. She didn’t swear. She didn’t drink. She had perfect grammar. She wrote in cursive. She sent letters and cards. And her life was anchored in her love for her family and her faith in God.
But she was also a painfully shy person, so as I looked around the church during her Charlotte memorial and saw the pews filled with the friends that she had made in the 4 years since my dad passed away, (and as I look around this chuch today, ) – I think, “GO MOM!” “YOU DID IT.” In the last few years, she joined a MOVING ON GROUP/ SPIRITED SENIORS, 3 BRIDGE CLUBS, a book club, & volunteered with Hospice. She had so much fun… SO. MUCH. FUN. My mom had a SOCIAL CALENDAR and she loved it. AND she got to whip some of her new friends at bridge… which (for the record) she relished… . 😉
And though my mom was shy, her friendships were life-long. Some of her closest friends were her oldest friends. She deeply cherished those relationships and marveled how her “old” friends had been her pillars of strength during her greatest time of need. She was quiet and reserved but steadfast in her affections and her friendships meant the world to her.
“Mrs.J, Marie, Marieev, MaryEvelyn, Sug”: These are the names that my mother answered to. Her father and MY father called her SUG – for sugar: partially because she was sweet but also, I think … because she had an epic sweet-tooth. She absolutely adored candy, chocolate, and any & all deserts. At the end of a meal, she would proclaim she was stuffed and couldn’t eat another bite but would never turn down ice cream for dessert because according to her “it slid right down…”
She had her nicknames…. But her real name, the name she treasured, was “Mom” or “Mommy”. That is who she was to her core. My mom was: “A. MOM.”. She raised seven children. She was class mother for our grammar school classes from the time the oldest kid started school until the youngest finished. She helped us with endless homework assignments, costumes, papers & class projects. She came to all our games, meets, and plays. She made dinner for nine for years !!! (Lots of casseroles.) She cleaned and did wash and she worked. My mother worked for my father’s investment firm for over 20 years. She used the money she earned to buy gifts for her kids- not because we didn’t have money but so we could have all the various extras that can enrich a child’s life. When I was accepted to a very expensive arts program for college, my father wanted me to go to a less expensive state school instead. My mother volunteered to give me her entire yearly salary to pay for it. I didn’t accept because I didn’t want her to sacrifice so much for me. But she offered in earnest. That is who my mother was. That is how she chose to spend her life.
Even as she lay dying, her biggest concern was for us: would we be ok? Was everything taken care of? What had she forgotten? All she ever wanted to do was take care of her children. And her greatest regret in the end was that she had to leave us. She said to us, “I wish I could be here for you. “ She wanted to be able to help us through her death.
But then…. of course, she had instructions: “Be nice to each other and take care of each other. Go to Church.” Instructions from my mother….
Now don’t get me wrong, my mom was sweet but she was tough. There are many stories of her chasing (some of my more mischievous) siblings, around the house with a wooden spoon. And she could sniff out a lie better than film noir detective. There was no fooling my mother. (Maybe that is why she loved Agatha Christie books so much….) And my mom was a quintessential mama bear. If you threatened her cubs, she would NOT back down – not to the principal of the school (be it a nun or a priest) or neighborhood kids who meant hers harm. AND… She survived 11 surgeries, including 7 caesarian sections. SEVEN. She lived with a back pain for the last 30 years & while it slowed her down, it never stopped her. And she refused to take more than a little Advil for pain. My mom? TOUGH.
And she was tough on the court. Marie Jamison was an athlete: She won a state championship with her high school basketball team. She played volleyball in college and continued to play both volleyball and softball as an adult. She also was an incredible bowler with a perfect game to her name. And she coached Livingston Little League softball for both my sister and me…. And it drove her crazy that our male coaches just assumed (because she was a woman) that she didn’t know what she was talking about. Boy did she show them what’s what. My mom was a great coach.
My mother and father were married for just over 50 years when he passed away. They had a very complementary, yin/yang relationship. My dad was big, boisterous, fiery and funny, and my mom was quiet, reserved, gentle & calm. In so many ways, they really were opposites but they were devoted to each other, their children, their marriage & their faith. They saw each other for exactly who they were: flaws and all and that didn’t weaken their relationship; it strengthened it. Theirs was a marriage built on respect, acceptance, compromise and love and after 50 years of ups and downs, they still really, really liked each other.
My mom enjoyed shopping or “just browsing” as she called it. Although my father loathed shopping, he loved to be wherever she was, so he would hang around outside the stores while she shopped. // When we knew that my mother had very little time left I said to her, “I just imagine that dad is waiting for you in heaven like he used to at the mall,” and she laughed and did an impersonation of my dad: (arms crossed) “I’ll wait. Take all the time you need…” 😉
My mom was OBSESSED with holidays. I’ve gotten a Valentine’s day, St Patrick’s day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, & Christmas card every year from my mother, my entire life. She simply adored all the decorations and the celebrations. During Christmas, her house was just dreamy: she created a joyful, winter wonderland wherever she was. And she loved Halloween too. She decorated the house and wore Halloween sweaters with skulls and witches. Her greatest disappointment about her most recent home was that there weren’t any kids that came by for candy on Halloween. “Isn’t that crummy?!,” she said. It really, truly, bummed her out.
One of her last requests was to see her Christmas tree again before she died. So we decorated her room for Christmas: with her tree & lights and decorations. When she saw it, her beautiful blue eyes lit up with wonder… and she whispered, “Isn’t it beautiful?” She just loved Christmas, but for my mom, the essence of Christmas was home and family.
And she loved God. She loved the Church. She loved being Catholic. She loved the Madonna (NOT “Madonna – dancing around Madonna” – she felt it was important to point out.) I teased her – “NOT like a virgin Madonna?” and she said…. “NO! THE Virgin Madonna.” She was devout. Her faith was her rock. God was her best friend. Prayer was her medium. And her peace was born of her faith.
My mother lived her last year of life on her terms. She knew the odds and she bet on herself. She bet on the quality of her life being more valuable than the quantity. It was a brave, bold choice and so she prayed to God to give her at least one more, good year. And she got it. She really did. She had so much fun.
But there are things I will miss about my mom….
I will miss her epic devotion to GENERAL HOSPITAL. Before Tivo we weren’t allowed to call the house between 3 & 4 o’clock.
I’ll miss her obsession with bridge. She studied it all the time. And I took special pleasure in knowing how good she was at the gambling, betting, bluffing part of it.
I will miss her old fashioned sayings like: “Crummy /oh, for pete’s sake/ that’s for the birds/ golly / oh my gosh/ oh, for heavens sake/ this too shall pass.”
I will miss her fighting with her computer… oh, she’d get SO mad at it!
I’ll miss her hilarious attempts to text message when all I’d receive would be gibberish.
I’ll miss her deep baritone singing voice. AND.. I’m gonna miss that when she sang, she CROONED.
I’ll miss how cute she was with our first dog, Skippy, and her beloved Josie, and how she adored them both to the moon and back.
I’ll miss watching my 77 year old mom put on sparkly fruit-punch flavored Bonnie Bell lip gloss that that is made for preteens and (she’s been wearing for 20 years).
I’m gonna miss her sneeze that could scare the living daylights out of you: AAAAAAAAAcho.
I’m gonna miss how stubborn she was and how she’d say “whatever,” whenever you’d try to reason with her – particularly to take it easy or take care of herself.
I’m gonna miss her compulsion for cleaning and keeping things neat and in order. This woman loved a clean house and did housework her whole life.
I’m gonna miss seeing her at the beach, frolicking in the water or looking for seashells.
I’m gonna miss her NJ accent, & one of her favorite expressions, “ I CAN’T STAND IT”.
I’m going to miss her differentiation between taking a nap and “resting her eyes.” According to my mom, she never napped.
”I’m gonna miss her smile and how her crystal clear, blue- grey eyes would light up & dance when she laughed.
I’m gonna miss the challenge of finding her a movie that she would like: without sex, violence, OR British accents.
I’m gonna miss how she would have half the conversation in her head and just start talking to you as if you had ANY idea of what she was talking about.
I’m gonna miss watching her balance her checkbook to the PENNY.
I’m gonna miss her holiday sweaters and her holiday spirit.
I’m gonna miss her infamous answer to any question asking how she liked something: “IT WAS FINE.”
I’m gonna miss her saying “HEEEY ELISABETH” when I’d call or just “Hey” – if she couldn’t read the Caller ID and was trying to figure out which daughter it was…
I’m gonna miss her: so, so, much.
I have so many instructions from my mother. And she LITERALLY left us PRINTED INSTRUCTIONS on how to live our lives, to read, after she passed away. But the most profound instruction she left was us was her living example: the indelible memory of his beautiful, sweet, kind woman who lived for and loved her family and friends and her God with her whole being.
The day after my father died, after my mother had mopped the whole house (before 6am in the morning, mind you), we looked at each other with tears in our eyes, so bereft at the thought of living our lives without my dad and she said, “Good for him. Sucks for us.” I say, “exactly.” Good for you, Mom. Sucks for us.
– Elisabeth Jamison
– Delivered Aug 10, 2013
– St. Raphael Parish, Livingston NJ