Monday, June 19, 2006

For Julia, June 19, 1999

It was sunny and warm this morning, so I decided to have breakfast on the deck. As I sat there with my coffee and the Globe, listening to the catbird chatter away and watching the robin patiently and stoically sitting on her new nest, I remembered another warm June 19th when I sat on the deck to write down some thoughts about my mother who died that day. When her time came, Julia was at home in New York, comforted by the loving care of my sisters. We knew the end was near but, as luck would have it, I was with my own family in Massachusetts when I got the phone call. I spent a few moments that day recording these thoughts that I shared with those assembled for her funeral a few days later. Few mother-son relationships are perfect, and we certainly had our issues, but I thank my mom for helping to teach me love for the natural world and how to find pleasure in the simple things in life.

For Mom June 19, 1999

Julia was my mother and I hope that I, and all who knew and loved her, can help ensure her immortality by remembering her good qualities and emulating them in our own lives and passing them on to others.

My mother lived a full life, and was witness to so many changes. She was born during the First World War, helped scratch a living from the dirt and lived to see a time when people can cross oceans in hours, and communicate around the world at the speed of light.

She came from such humble beginnings. She was born to newly-immigrated parents, and spent her early years on a farm where they were so poor they didn’t notice the depression.

She was truly representative of the Greatest Generation and even in adulthood faced challenges that most of us in my pampered generation can only imagine. She buried her first still-born child at home. Her second child, Lynn, was born when our father was thousands of miles away in the Pacific and my mother raised Lynn alone for two years burdened with the knowledge that her husband may never return. She raised two more children and worked side-by-side with Al to build two houses and renovate another. I recently heard the story of how Julia went up on the roof to hold an umbrella over Al’s head to keep off the rain as he nailed the final few shingles onto their Ayer Lane home. She pursued a passion for travel - even literally around the world - and visited places I can only hope to see.

Through it all she was a faithful companion to her husband and a devoted nurturer of her children. Even though the three of us grew up in tumultuous times and found ourselves in lives that she may have found truly bewildering, she was always remarkably non-judgmental, accepting and supportive. I will always remember how she sat in the synagogue for Jackie’s Bat Mitzvah and David’s Bar Mitzvah with comfort and pride as if she had spent may days there. She often came to watch - and in her motherly way, worry - as Nancy and I suffered through one of our triathlons.

She gave us all she could to get us off to a good start. There were the big things: She saw to it that I was able to go to the college of my choice. When I wanted to buy my first house at what now seems such a young age, she was there enthusiastically to be sure I was making a good choice and to make it possible. And the little things: (It’s funny what things stick in your mind.) I can still remember when - in the midst of my early obsession for backpacking - my mother and father drove me to the bus station to see me off on one of my solo hikes. She had packed me a dinner - the last real meal I would see for days. That night when I finally found the trail head alone and in darkness, I settled in for the night looking forward to dinner. Only then did I discover that I had left the bag on the bus and wondered who would find the bag with the neatly-wrapped sandwiches, juicy fruit and special treat. (She even packed a napkin.) I remember feeling sad - not that I was going to be hungry - but that I had lost something she had made just for me in her special, loving way. All in all, she was always there to help me do the things I most wanted to do.

Her humble beginnings taught her to appreciate the simple pleasures: the comfort of a good cup of coffee, the escape of a good mystery novel, the beauty of a spring flower, or the satisfaction of a good meal. I think she remembered the entire menu of every restaurant she ever dined at.

My mother was frugal but not cheap. She always ate the broken cookies in a new package first and always ate the heel of bread herself…because she wanted to save the best for someone else. She had a waste-not-want-not attitude that I like to think would make her proud every time I re-use a tea bag or when Nancy turns the ketchup bottle upside-down to get the last few drops. But she also knew when it was time to enjoy herself…whether it was getting a good deal on a set of fine crystal or enjoying herself to the fullest on her latest travel adventure.

My mother never got old. Yes - her body may have failed her, but her mind and spirit never did. She fought the good fight with unflagging courage and without complaint. And right up to the end she was dreaming of one more trip with her unique youthful enthusiasm.

In the end - the true measure of a person may be in how much they are loved. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank Vicky and Penny, Donna and Lynn for loving my mother enough to make her final wishes come true and send her on her final Bon Voyage with comfort, dignity and grace.


At 1:31 PM, Blogger robin andrea said...

What a beautiful portrait and tribute to your mother. You bring her alive with your love and sweet remembrances. She sounds like someone I would have liked knowing, although we may have had to decide which one of us was going to eat the heel of the bread!

In the Jewish tradition, we put a stone on the grave, and it has become customary to mark it in comments like this:

A truly lovely remembrance, MojoMan.

At 11:08 PM, Blogger LauraHinNJ said...

A very sweet tribute; thank you for sharing it.

Comfort, dignity, and grace - we should all end our lives so richly.

At 1:22 PM, Anonymous This bloggers daughter said...

That is one eulogy I will always remember. I recall how choked up you got when you read it, and I didn't think you would make it through. I think it was at that time I truly realized how much you loved your mother. It's sometimes hard to imagine your own parents loving someone as much as I love you. I'm glad your memories live on so clearly!
Love you! Jackie

At 2:09 PM, Blogger MojoMan said...

Hey, Jax! All the way from California! Did Mom put you up to this?

Just kidding! Nothing could mean more to a father than to know that he has the love and respect of his daughter. Your kind words are greatly appreciated, especially since they're coming from the true writer in the family.

I love you, too! I missed having you here with us on Father's Day.

At 10:01 AM, Blogger Endment said...

This is a beautiful tribute! You make her seem so very warm and real. As robin andrea says a person we would have liked to know.

On another note you asked about Haiku rules please see:


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