Tuesday, June 1, 2010

13 Days In May


     I mentioned in a prior post that my family, which I have always considered very traditional, seems to not be quite as traditional as I once thought. Some of that has been out of necessity, as my children and my sister’s children have gotten older, they are starting to move to different locations, work long hours and the days of getting our entire family together at one time have become much more complicated. It also may be that our family has always handled things slightly differently than most. We aren’t “showy” people. We don’t like to draw much attention to ourselves (sure, I write a blog) and we all like things to be a bit understated.

     When my mom died on May 13th (the same date as her mother’s death), we didn’t do what many families would do. We didn’t all come together around the kitchen table and wait for the casseroles to come. We all live in different towns, we would have had a long wait. What we did do may strike some of you as odd, but it really helped our family and that is why I decided to share it with all of you. We flew my dad in from Florida the next day. The process of getting my mom “home” from Florida would take a few days. My daughter had her once a year vacation back to Illinois planned for months. She was flying in on May 15th and we planned to take her to our favorite Michigan spots for 3 nights before coming home. Of course we talked of cancelling the trip to Michigan after mom died, but considering that we really had nothing to do at home except be sad, we talked my dad into going with us. So, two days after my mother’s death, we were on a road trip. We took a winery tour, climbed to the top of Sleeping Bear Dunes (even my 83-year-old father) and spent our allotted $20 each at the casino. We also visited a Chihuly exhibit (picture above and more to follow) which is something we all loved. We laughed, we cried, we talked about how much mom would have loved some of it and how she would never have let dad climb up a massive sand dune at his age. It was such a good thing to do, to go somewhere that my parent’s hadn’t been and be surrounded by such natural beauty, fresh air and three generations of family. I can honestly say that we had fun, not all the time, but mom would have been so proud of us. She told me shortly before she died that she didn’t mind dying, but she didn’t want to leave my dad, she didn’t want him to be sad. So, when I felt a twinge of guilt for enjoying myself, I remember her words.
 
     We also waited a few extra days for her services because my niece was graduating from Loyola Law School. Mom worshipped her grandkids and she wouldn’t have wanted to ruin such a wonderful experience for my niece, she was proud of her success. So, after Michigan, my dad went to Chicago with my sister and her family to graduation and the party that followed. It was difficult for him because he knew mom would have loved to have been there, but he enjoyed himself. We also sent my daughter home on the day she originally planned to leave. She wasn’t here for the services. She is in the middle of interviewing for a promotion and even though she wanted to stay, we all knew that mom wouldn’t want her to do anything that might hurt her chances.

     When we had mom’s visitation, I wore hot pink and my sister was in orange. We didn’t stand in a formal line, we mingled with those who came. Someone told my husband the next day that it felt like a cocktail party without the cocktails. My mom was a wonderful hostess and she would have loved the fact that so many old friends of hers, and my sister’s and mine came to show support. The next morning, with her casket covered in tropical flowers and one of my dearest friends as the minister,  we had a beautiful and brief service. After a trip to the cemetery, we invited those that were there to join us at a favorite local Mexican restaurant. We had margaritas and tacos, we laughed and we cried and we enjoyed how once again, mom brought all of us together.

     I’m sharing this because we all find ourselves in this situation sometime. There is a way that we think we have to behave and sometimes that differs from what works for your family. I would never have thought that this is how I would spend the 13 days in May from my mother’s death until her burial. In truth, I might have thought it really strange if someone did it this way. But, it helped us. We were already a very bonded family, but we pulled together and did things in a way that my mother would have loved and I know that she was watching with a smile on her face.
 

17 comments:

kim said...

Sue, what a wonderful story and your mom would not have had it any other way.

susan said...

Sue-I don't think there is a "right" way to grieve. I think it is a tribute to your mom that she raised strong women with a sense of what is right for them. When we become mothers we do what is best for our children..no matter what. I bet your mom approved.

Jenny said...

Sue, this is a wonderful day of a celebration of your Mom's life! How happy she would be to know that you all celebrated her memory...and that in spite of your pain you sought the joy and not the sorrow in her passing.

Hugs and prayers!

FrugalMom said...

Sue, it sounds to me like it is the perfect way to honor your mother.

At my mother's funeral, I brought her old photo albums to the reception after the ceremony, and it was wonderful to see how everyone would smile and laugh about their memories with my mother.

Glenda/MidSouth said...

I think your Mother was probably looking on and smiling, loving the way her family handled everything.
Have a great week.

dee dee said...

Sue,
Thank you for sharing "your way" with us!
my best friend Elyce, was telling us about her will the last time we were together. Because according to the terms of her will, she chooses to be donated to science (whenever that time is), there will not be a funeral service. She however decided to write a testament and planned a sort of party theme around the reading of this document. It makes me smile to know her wishes are for us to "party" vs be "sad". So I really don't think "your way" is strange... but just the perfect way for you and your family. You are still my my prayers...
dee dee

Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

I think the family bonding you did was the best way to celebrate your Mom's life! Thanks for sharing Sue, I really admire how you all came together and honored your Mom!
Hugs, Cindy

Shellbelle said...

From what I've come to know about you and your family, this is just as it should have been.

I know I don't want my children to grieve and suffer when I'm gone. I want them to be thankful I was their mother and I don't want them to sit around crying. I want them to carry on with their lives and do fun things, just like you did. I want them to say, "mom, would have loved this!" Gosh, I miss my mom all the time, but I don't carry it as a burden, I rejoice that she taught me to love the beach and to love gardening. I feel her all around me because we had so many great times together.

I love that you wore hot pink and drank margaritas and I love that her casket was draped in tropicals. You didn't follow convention, you followed your heart and that is always a good thing!

btw, when I got here today and saw the Chihuly, I was stunned! I love his work and saw an installation a few years back in St. Pete. BUT, today tickets for his new permanent collection in St. Pete went on sale. Just another coincidence? I don't think so!

Hugs

Kathleen said...

We all grieve in our own way..no one way is correct.
My mom died on my 50th birthday. The funeral home was filled with people from my sister's Irish dance group. The noise level was unbelievable. We celebrated her life..unlike a few years earlier when my 18 year old nephew was laid out there..he was hit by a car...Very different atmosphere then, and rightly so. A life not lived out.
Celebrate her life..it is what she would want.

Gypsy Heart said...

Sue, there is no "right" way...as some of our elders held to. I think it was a beautiful way to bond as a family, take care of your dad and honor your mom's wishes. The bright colors and tropical flowers sound magnificent to me! I've asked my kids to not have a funeral, per se. I want them to have a huge party, everyone wear bright colors, have music that I love, lots of flowers, balloons and champagne! Celebrate the good ~

We did something similar when my mother passed away...beautiful flowers, Elvis' rendition of How Great Thou Art (she loved it!) and a casual gathering after the service. Both my brother and I spoke and what I shared were snippets of her mannerisms, sayings, habits and love of her family. The small church was roaring in laughter and that was so healing for all of us.

Thank you for allowing us a glimpse into your family and the lovely considerations of each one. You remain in my prayers!

xoxo
Pat

koralee said...

Oh I am so sorry to hear about your loss...I think you did a wonderful thing...your mom would of love it. Hugs and blessings to you all. xoxo

xinex said...

Oh Sue, I am so sorry you lost your mom but I am glad you celebrated this way. She would be smiling down from heaven seeing you and your dad going on with your lives....Christine

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Hi Sue
Well I think this is perfect... what you did was celebrate her life.. and also allow the family members to move forward and not feel guilt at enjoying themselves... that is so important.. so important for the younger family members too...

You know we had a terrible think happen to my nieces many years back.. and I remember thinking this thing can sink us.. or we can decide it is OK to smile and to be happy again .... I think your mum would have loved to see you girls in hot pink and orange... and I think you gave your dad support in the best possible way... .Here's to you my friend!! and to your mum!!! xxx Julie

Kerry said...

That made me smile...a wonderful celebration of a life...letting the living continue to live theirs in ways that mean something. And I love that you wore colour. And such a great combination of colours to boot!

Relyn said...

I love that you were true to your own family and to what works for you. We all grieve in our own ways. It makes no sense to try and fit the process into some kind of customary mold. And, I am quite sure, your mother would mightily approve of you loving and celebrating her life, just exactly the way you did it.

Angie said...

What a wonderful tribute to your mom, and very comforting experience for your family. I love the photo from the exhibit!

Sue said...

Sending peace and comfort to you and your family! Your mom must be very proud of all of you. She raised a wonderful family.