Today, obviously, is a tough day. Mom was our hero. I confess I am a momma’s boy. It is hard not to be. What do you say about someone who played such a large role in your life? Words won’t do it. I know the best thing will be to honor her by how we live the rest of our lives.
As we talked among ourselves as siblings we came to the conclusion that mom made every one of us feel like we were her favorite. I, of course, wondered how she kept it a secret from everyone else that I was actually her favorite. She spread herself around so that whoever needed her the most she was there for them and she did so seemingly without effort.
She made choices, hard choices with few regrets. She bought and sold property, helped out with college, helped pay for cars and insurances, and horses and broken refrigerators and braces, and did I mention horses, all the while working– it seems– always two jobs. Bookkeeper and waitress, somewhere.
Up until very recently she would say, “build a bridge and get over it”, whenever she was tempted to complain or whenever one of us would complain too much. (The last year or so this saying had been replaced by “I’m not complaining but explaining”) How could you argue with her? When our dad’s first two restaurants failed and they moved a half dozen times, what did she do? She built a bridge and got over it. When he died at 41 from cancer leaving her with six kids without an easy one in the batch, she built a bridge and got over it. When she was pink- slipped from her job shortly after his death and had to double up on waitressing, she built a bridge and got over it. When money was tight, and it very often was, she just worked harder, built a bridge and got over it. And speaking of money, who could get more out of a dollar than mom? Wow. Her only vices were shoes, and QVC, whose stock dropped dramatically at the news of her passing. When Hawk took ill and went into a nursing home and then when he passed and she was alone again, she built a bridge and got over it. She joined Kiwanis, collected soda can tabs for Camp Sunshine, and worked the refreshment trailer for fund raisers. Later in life when given the diagnosis of the autoimmune disease CREST, she built a bridge and got over it. After she broke her hip 18 months ago she refused to be beaten, she built a bridge and got over it. That was mom — that was Phyllis. Grit and determination.
Two things really stand out for me the last days of mom’s life. One was a meeting we; myself, Boni and Susan, had with the Nurse Social Worker from Hospice. At the end of the meeting in which I think through tear stained eyes we all glared at her and maybe freaked her out a little, she remarked that we all got our blue eyes from our mom. It reminded me how amazing my mother’s eyes were and how they jumped out at you even through her glasses. That was mom — that was Phyllis. A second thing that stands out to me happened just a few days earlier. She and I had a tough conversation about money. She said in exasperation, “I wanted to leave something to my kids” meaning of course, money. She tried so hard to make that happen. She left us with no debt or regrets and in reality she left us with something that’s so much greater for us. She left mom, Phyllis, as part of us. We are who we are because of her. So as you drive by Watson Automotive and Auto Sales on Route 7 and ask where my brother got business sense? The answer is “that was mom — that was Phyllis. As you see my sister Boni and her husband Stan with all her kids and grandkids and more grandkids gathered together and wonder why she has such a strong sense of family, “that was mom — that was Phyllis.” As you notice my sister Susan displaying compassion for others and reaching out to help, please know that was mom — that was Phyllis. As you look at the plants that my sister Alice plants and the green thumb she obviously has and the love and joy she brings to it, please remember, “that was mom — that was Phyllis.” As my sister Patti adds to her life dogs and horses and animals wherever she is, don’t forget “that was mom — that was Phyllis.” And if perchance I should change the world even just a little bit chasing my dreams, always be aware that “that was mom — that was Phyllis.” If all of us seem so optimistic, maybe always believing the glass is half full not half empty, shake your head and know “that was mom — that was Phyllis.” And should you come across any of us and you speak with us and we look at you with those penetrating powerful blue eyes that are a part of us, know for sure “that was mom — that was Phyllis.”
Mom loved it here more than anywhere else. Aside from a few hospital stays over the last 30 years, she was almost always here. She loved the beauty of the flowers she had planted and the flower boxes. She loved the sound of the ponds and little fountains she had made. She loved her wood stove and her fireplace and the front porch and the back porch and the pool and the horse and the dog. Oh the dog, he was her best friend — and the big pine tree and it’s shade and, of course, the comfort and security of being in a place she’d known for over 50 years That’s why she came home for the last days of her life. When the options were presented to her she asked for a little time to make her decision. A few hours later she said to me, ‘I want to go home.” So we made it happen. Make no mistake, it was her decision. She always sought to live life on her own terms. That was mom — that was Phyllis.
Today our mom is truly home. Our homestead is special, but heaven is spectacular. Flowers and ponds have their beauty, but they can’t compare with the place mom is now. She is in the shade of the tree of life, beside the river of life which is bright as crystal flowing from the throne of God. After she drew her last shallow breaths of earthly air, her next sensations were the smells of the celestial city. She awoke in the presence of God. She has been united with family and friends who have gone on before. Her sufferings are no more. They have been replaced with a joy and contentment never matched here on Earth even here at 194 Main Street. CREST is healed, so too, is the wound on her leg that wouldn’t go away for over three and a half years. Healed also are her broken hips and the broken heart that sometimes comes with living on this Earth for 89 years with two husbands and eight kids.
Best of all she has seen Jesus, her Lord and Savior, and He has wiped every tear from her beautiful blue eyes. Today, if she could come back, even to her beloved home, she wouldn’t. She knows we are in good hands and that her work on Earth is done. Besides, now she gets to wear shoes and dance and …. you get the picture. If she could, I know she’d stop by Heaven’s gift shop and buy a bell or two and grab a post card to send to each us. On them she’d write not a goodbye letter but a simple familiar greeting. It would say “This place is beautiful, wish you were here, take care of each other, see you soon, love Mom.”
Our journey is not by sight but by faith. God’s promises are true and real and can be trusted. So, trust them we will. We will write our remembrances of her and ring her bells in her honor waiting for the day when OUR faith becomes sight….