“You can start anew at any given moment. Life is just the passage of time and it’s up to you to pass it as you please.”
― Charlotte Eriksson, You’re Doing Just Fine
1,522 days since my last post. A new record for me, and one that I do not plan on breaking ever again! We’ll see. I have been considering getting back into blogging again for the last few months, and as I looked for some inspiration I came across the above quote from Charlotte Eriksson. I have been rather busy these last 50 months passing the time as I please, and one of the major life changes for me (in my case known as retirement) has given me the opportunity to come back into the WordPress community the last little while, look around a bit, see who’s still here from my last visits, celebrate the fact that many still are here, and contemplate doing some blogging on a more regular schedule now.
The passage of time between my last blog and this one is great, and I am somewhat tentative as I contemplate beginning again. There has been much to report and write about this last 1,522 days, with some of it being great news, and some of being not so great. It’s one of those not so great times that has brought me back to write, but the good news is that I have a lot of material now so I can keep myself busy with blogging as I fill in the blanks from the last 50 months …
2017 was a tough year for me in many ways, but the absolutely toughest part of it was my Mom getting sick the latter part of June with bladder cancer and then passing away in November. The thing I am most thankful for is the fact that I retired from my company on June 30th of last year, and that gave me the opportunity to spend the last four and a half months or so of Mom’s life with her in the hospital. I, along with my brother Jeff, delivered her eulogy that I had written at her funeral in late November, and I wanted to share that eulogy as part of my first post now that I have the time. And then I’ll be back here sooner rather than later with some follow-up writings to chronicle some of what has happened these last few years …
KEITH: Our Mom always told us to always do our very best, no matter what the challenge or the circumstances. My name is Keith H, this is Jeff H and we, along with our brother Brian, are proud and humbled to be the sons of the remarkable woman who the rest of you knew as your Grandma, your sister, your sister in law, your Auntie Dodo, your aunt, your cousin, your friend, or perhaps just Mrs. H or Doreen. Our brother Brian, as well as Jeff and I and our wives Marianne and Brenda, had the privilege of calling her simply, Mom. We promise, Mom, to do our very best today to tell everybody here a little about your life.
JEFF: Doreen Jean P began her life 89 years ago on January 9th, 1928 in Edmonton, Alberta, as the first born daughter of Muriel and John P. She was joined 13 months later by her sister Evelyn, and the two of them grew up and lived their lives in and around Edmonton with their Mom and Dad. Family was always important to Doreen, and these life lessons were instilled into her at a very young age when her Mother Muriel was bringing her up as a school child and her Dad John had to go off to participate in the Second World War.
JEFF: When the Second World War ended in 1945, Doreen was a teenager and in high school. After graduation from high school, she worked as a Comptometer operator for Swift’s meats. It’s funny to think today, that so many years ago, as a comptometer operator Mom was actually a “techie”. Then, in 1952 at a dance at the Rainbow Ballroom, she met our future Dad, Ken. Ken and Doreen were married July 18, 1953. Soon after, Doreen got the chance to start her own family with Ken, and Keith was born in June of 1954. A couple of years later, again in June, but this time in 1956 Mom and Dad welcomed our brother Brian into the family. Keith and I were talking earlier this week, and he was telling me that a strange thing about Mom and Dad that many of you may not realize, is that many of the significant life events that happened to them in their early years seemed to revolve around Keith’s birthday in June. Keith told me that they were always celebrating his birthday. Not really. Then sometime around “June 1961”, unbeknownst to everybody here in this room, Mom and Dad had an accident. The results of that accident, which afterwards came to be known in our family as the “happy accident”, resulted in my birth, Jeffery Alan, in March of 1962.
KEITH: My brother Brian and I were quite happy to have Jeff join us in our family, as it gave us somebody new to torment as Jeff grew older. Sorry, Jeff. Mom used to get so mad at us when it came time to do the dishes, as Dad would make sure that we all kicked in to participate. Brian and I hated washing the dishes, so when Jeff became older we made him wash and Brian and I would dry the dishes and whip the tea towel at each other and Jeff, who was helpless at the sink with his butt turned towards us. That tea towel always whipped so much better after it had dried a couple of dishes and the end of it was just slightly damp. Mom didn’t like when we did that. Sorry, Mom.
KEITH: Meal times were always happy times around our house, and with three growing hungry boys it was always hard for Mom to keep food on the table, mainly because it was the three of us, her sons, who would devour whatever she cooked. I vividly remember one Sunday evening, Mom had prepared one of here wonderful Sunday meals. The TV tables were all set up in the living room in anticipation for the start of The Wonderful World of Disney. Mom had prepared the feast, set it out carefully in bowls and serving dishes on the kitchen counter, and as always, Dad went first to get his plate of food, followed by Brian, Jeff, and myself. Dad and the three boys were now in the living room waiting for Mom to arrive with her plate, but she wasn’t coming and would be late for the start of Sunday night Disney. It turns out that when Brian and Jeff and I filled our plates, we neglected to leave any food for Mom, so Dad made the three of us march back to the kitchen and scrape some of the food off of our plates and back into each of the serving dishes so that she too could have something to eat with us. To this day, whenever I can help myself and fill my own plate, there are two things I simply can not do. I can’t be the first to serve myself from a bowl of food, and I always have to leave a little in the bowl or on the serving plate for Mom. Sorry, Mom. And thanks, Dad.
JEFF: The middle years of Mom’s life were happy years as she continued to grow and nurture her family. Many of Keith’s, Brian’s and my friends remember fondly after our many hockey or baseball games when several of our team members would congregate back at our little house on 158 Street in Edmonton. Mom would cook up one of her feasts of chili con carne, or make up a big plate of “Samriches” for the hungry participants. Until we got to know her unique way of pronouncing the word, Keith and Brian and I always wondered just who this “Sam Rich” really was. Keith tells me that he and Brian figured it probably had something to do with me. And there were many times, when just the smell of her freshly cooked buns would draw our friends just at the moment they were coming out of the oven and ready to have that fresh butter spread on them. It was a bonus for us and our friends if the chili happened to be ready right at that time as the buns with fresh butter. Thanks, Mom.
JEFF: After her three boys were almost grown, Mom and Dad had several happy years and took up the fine art of camping. By this time, Keith and Brian were out of the house, and I think just around the time I was in junior high school, they bought a truck and camper and joined a trailer club and began camping. Mom loved camping, especially when they graduated to the 22ft Prowler trailer. That trailer was true luxury to her.
KEITH: Mom’s life wasn’t without its family tragedies or hardships. She was predeceased by her Mom and Dad (Muriel and John) who died a month apart in 1970. Tragically, her son and our brother Brian died in 1984, and Mom, and Dad, always struggled with understanding why that had to happen. Then, in 1997, Mom had a bout with what was eventually diagnosed as Diverticulitis, and Dad struggled for a month with trips back and forth to the doctors before they finally figured out why she was having so much trouble. She ended up in the hospital with the Diverticulitis, had a section of her bowel removed, and it was at this time they also discovered that she had a perforated ulcer. While in the hospital, and thankfully it was during one of the many times while Dad was visiting her, she had a cardiac arrest. Dad ran yelling out to the nursing station, the nurses and doctors came in with the crash cart and managed to bring her back successfully. When Dad went to pick her up on release from the hospital, he put on his tux that he always wore to lodge so he could go and pick up his girl. Mom saw him come in and before she realized that he wore his tux to pick her up, she thought he was going to lodge right after he dropped her off. She shouldn’t have been with us after that, but thankfully we got to have her with us for several more years. A bout with breast cancer a few years later meant that she had to have a mastectomy. Cancer paid her an early visit, but she beat it back with her cane. Mom was a true fighter.
JEFF: Mom’s love of her life, and our Dad, Ken, died in October of 2008. That was a very tough time for her, so many calls to 911 and so many trips back and forth to the hospital for her on the DATS system. Mom had never obtained a drivers license in her life. Keith and Brenda, and Marianne and I, were all extremely worried about how Mom would cope with Dad gone. After all, she had never obtained a drivers license, and Dad always did the banking and the financials. Mom would write the odd cheque of course, but she had never paid the bills. The four of us wondered just how she would cope and make out in the world with Dad gone, but she did just fine, and she amazed us all once again with her spunk and her ability to bounce back from personal tragedy. Way to go, Mom.
JEFF: The final years of Mom’s life after Dad had passed, were sad and happy years for her. She missed her Ken terribly, but she immersed herself in maintaining contact with the old neighbours and friends from 158 Street, attending TOPS with her friends, and making new ones as well. She was always trying to lose that elusive few pounds, and TOPS became one of her truly enjoyable social outlets. Her final years were also spent with thrice weekly trips to the mall, often with her sister Ev, but often on her own as well. She told us she needed to get her exercise. I remember growing up, we weren’t allowed to go to the mall as kids to hang around. When I was finally allowed to go to the mall on my own, I had 20 minutes to walk to the mall, 20 minutes to be in the mall, and 20 minutes to get myself back home from the mall. Marianne and I and Keith and Brenda never limited her time on her trips to the mall, but then she was there for the “exercise”. If I had known that I could have used that particular exercise excuse, maybe she wouldn’t have limited my time at the mall like we didn’t to her. Sorry, Mom.
KEITH: Just this past July, while Mom was in the U of A hospital waiting to get the tumor removed from her bladder, Brenda and I managed to get her day passes on the first Saturday and Sunday and the three things she wanted to do were to go visit her sister Ev who also went into the Misericordia hospital on the same day, she wanted to go to her apartment and clean her drawers out, and she wanted to go to Westlawn Cemetery and see her Ken and her Brian. Mom told us as we were walking away from Dad and Brian’s gravesite that she told Dad that she wasn’t quite ready to join him yet. After we did that and then we took her walker out of the car and walked down a ways to visit her Mom and her Dad. As we were leaving her Mom and Dad’s gravesite, she quickly said … “bye Daddy.”
JEFF: Before we end, a quick story for all about a recent experience with Mom. We just have to add this. Keith and Brenda and Marianne and I had what is sometimes considered the unenviable task of going through Mom’s belongings and personal effects this week. We got to clean her drawers out for her. As many of you know, there can be moments of joy and moments of sadness when performing such a task. One of the things that we found was that Mom kept every greeting card, Christmas card, birthday card, anniversary card, and special note from anybody who ever sent them to her, dating all the way back to about 1950, when she was still a P. And there are a couple of you here today that were extremely prolific in your writing of special notes and little cards. You know who you are. Brenda and Marianne want to search you out at the reception to have a discussion with you. But don’t worry, I think they just want to give you a hug. Thanks, Mom.
KEITH: Well Mom, Jeff and Marianne, and Brenda and I and all your beloved grandchildren, Craig, Kevin, Bryan, Dylan, and Amy all want to thank you for being our mother and grandmother. Oh, by the way, I’m pretty sure all of you know this, but the grandchild Bryan who I just mentioned, is “little Bry with a y.” Sorry, Bryan. But not really. Our time with our beloved Mom, grandmother, aunt, sister, cousin, and friend here on earth has come to an end, but we want you to know, Mom, that a little piece of you lives on in all of us. And I guess we have to share you with Dad and our brother Brian now.
JEFF: Back in 2003, Mom and Dad had their 50th wedding anniversary, and there were many people there to help them celebrate. Of course they had each other there, and Mom and Dad were the centre of attention. Those of us who knew our Mom well, knew that she didn’t like to be the centre of attention, because she didn’t want anybody to “go to too much trouble.” Believe me, Mom, nobody here today went to too much trouble to be here at your celebration of life. We are all here by choice. But it was at their 50th wedding anniversary that her eldest grandchild Craig wrote a poem to help them celebrate, and there was a stanza in that poem from their milestone anniversary that is so very special. The final stanza of that poem is …
“Once upon a time … And they lived happily ever after. Fairy tale beginnings, storybook endings. Insert life in the middle.”
KEITH: When you really think about it, we are all so very lucky. Some of the lucky ones of us were there at the beginning of Mom’s life, while some of the lucky ones of us got to be here at the end of Mom’s life. To experience the dignity and the grace with which she lived her life, and with which her life ended. Cancer may have taken Mom in the end, but it didn’t defeat Mom, and most importantly it didn’t define her life.
KEITH: But once again, when you really think about it some of us were here at the beginning of Mom’s life, and some of us were here at the end of Mom’s life. And aren’t we all so lucky? Because it doesn’t matter whether you were here at the beginning, and it doesn’t matter whether you were here at the end of her life. All of us, every one here, and everyone before us who can’t be here today, were touched by Mom’s life in some way. We ALL got to be part of the middle of her life. And that’s where life happens. That’s where Mom’s life happened. In the middle. We are all so lucky. Thanks, Mom.
Until next time … K.