The memorial service for Mom was Friday late morning. It was a beautiful way to remember Mom.
As part of it brother Tom told about visiting Mom daily during the last year of her life. He said in the Wizard of Oz the scarecrow wanted a brain, the tin man wanted a heart, and the lion wanted courage. As Mom’s Alzheimer’s progressed she lost more and more of her brain, but never lost her heart. She faced her decline with courage. At meals Mom would greet caretakers and fellow residents by offering her name and saying, “Pleased to meet you.” It didn’t matter that Mom had said the same thing every day for weeks and months.
Both pastors of the church also related what they knew of Mom (and stories I had shared earlier in the week). When Mom was still attending services there every week she would greet the pastors after the service by giving her name and saying, “I’m a PK,” a preacher’s kid. Her father had been a pastor. Both pastors understood Mom saying, “I understand what you are going through as a pastor and I offer my support.”
I had found and displayed lots of pictures of Mom from the heaps of photos and slides I inherited. The oldest was of when she was 3 months old. The most recent were from last Christmas. Several pictures showed her holding grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
As is usual for an event like this, family gathered. Her living children were there with spouses as was Tim’s wife. Twelve of fourteen grandchildren made the trip and four of them came with spouses. Of the 32 great-grandchildren, 11 of them were there, the oldest being 8 years old and five of them under the age of 2. One grandson and his family turned the trip into a 10 day holiday, exploring scenic parts of Michigan.
Tim’s wife flew in from Texas. Alas, a connecting flight was canceled. She had the choice of arriving in Detroit after midnight or at the nearby airport mid-morning (and too late for the service). She chose Detroit. Three of her sons drove from Texas together. They were in Indiana with an expected arrival about 9 pm. When they heard of their mother’s plight they agreed to pick her up. That gave them extra time – just enough to see the new Spider Man movie in Fort Wayne.
Alas, Mom’s sisters and Dad’s brother and sister were not strong enough to come.
There are two same-sex couples in all those relatives. From what I heard they were treated with love and respect, including from the more conservative parts of the family.
After the luncheon at the church we sat and talked for a while. Then, because the kids needed to let off steam, we went to a nearby park with a playscape. The older grandchildren grew up in this little town and realized they lost the reason for ever coming back. So the oldest one arranged a tour – he narrated into his phone with the other cars connected by conference call.
We all went back to the hotel were many of us were staying and filled their breakfast room and adjacent meeting room where we ate luncheon leftovers as well as picnic type food purchased that afternoon. And that’s where we all hung out for the rest of the evening. Mom and Dad would have loved being surrounded by so much family.
On Saturday morning those who were still around gathered at a park near Dad’s house. The weather was delightful. While the kids played the adults talked until some had to leave and the rest of us wanted lunch. After lunch I took a niece and family to a hotel near the Detroit airport for an early morning flight. They grumbled they are old enough to rent an apartment and support an infant, but not old enough to rent a car.
Though it was a sad occasion that brought us all together we had a wonderful time. I usually visit one brother at a time, so I rarely saw their children interact. I got to know a couple nephews-in-law a bit better (one of them can be quite the ham). Perhaps we should gather at a wedding. Anyone getting married?