Plain City, Ohio, Planet Earth
The Momarchy
Canine + 3 men
Happy childhood in Indianapolis; Raced Hobie 16 with my Dad for 7 years; World record holding National Catapult Champion; Graduated from Earlham College; Married my best friend; Junior high and high school Latin & English teacher; Wife of handicapable husband (11 surgeries related to rheumatoid arthritis); Stay-at-home mom; Author; Photographer; Lived too briefly in Minnesota north country (snow, dog sledding, wolves, and wilderness); Quaker activist; Environmentalist; Dog lover; Curious traveler; Men's volleyball enabler; Discriminating romantic film buff; Eclectic music lover; Friend of the world

APRIL 20, 2009 5:29PM

White shores are calling ~ You and I will meet again . . .

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Many of you know that my mom died 5 weeks ago, on March 14th.  I spent 18 days in Indianapolis with Dad, being there for support and transacting boatloads of burial, memorial, and financial business.  About 24 hours after I came home to Ohio, my younger son Andrew came down with the worst looking throat our doctor has seen all year--he had to have an immediate shot of cortisone and one of penicillin to keep his airway open.  It turned out to be strep.  The Thursday before Easter I went back to Dad's and ending up staying another 9 days.  The day I came home from the second trip (Friday, April 17th), my wonderful hubby Steve took Andrew back to the doctor because he was so tired and run down.  The doctor said he has mono, his spleen is enlarged, and no more volleyball for a while (including a huge weekend tournament this Friday & Saturday).  I'm still hoping that life will return to a calmer pace and that I'll be able to catch up on my e-mail and once again read your posts on OS (after I get groceries, make phone calls, and clean the house).  Writing and photography are ways I make sense of events in my life, so please bear with me as various aspects of my mother's death are my subject matter for the next few posts.  I'll eventually put up more photos of the amazing Weasel, and I'm keen to write about the phenomenal new Decemberists CD The Hazards of Love, a birthday gift from my older son (the guitarist) James.

My thoughts and prayers are with you as you ford the rough waters of your own life, and I hope you'll find a peaceful green shore where you can rest and enjoy the beauty and wonder of Spring.

Before Mom's graveside service, I asked Dad if he would think it odd if I took my camera.  "I'm taking mine," he replied.  As friends have observed, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Dad with Andrew pallbearers

My 86-year-old Dad and our 15-year-old son Andrew carry Mom's casket to the lovely spot she selected at Indianapolis' Crown Hill cemetery.


Behind Dad on the far side are Jim (the son of my sister Sylvia, The Wood Elf here on OS), and Charlie (son of my brother Alan).  Behind Andrew on the near side are Keith (husband of my brother's daughter Esther) and my brother Alan.

Our older son James was in New York City for the first time ever during his Spring Break from college with his girlfriend, whose cousin lives in NYC.  I told James that Grammie would have wanted him to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime trip and that he shouldn't cut his trip short to come home for the mid-week graveside service.  James was able to attend the Memorial Service and spend the weekend with my family.

Dr. Hamilton

Dr. Richard Hamilton, retired senior minister at North United Methodist Church and our family's pastor for 23 years, presided at the graveside service.  Dick Hamilton is the brother of retired Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton; both are renowned for their intelligence, compassion, integrity, work ethic, and tireless efforts to make the world a better place.  Dick spoke to us quietly and casually, as though we were a group of friends gathering for conversation and fellowship.  He spoke of the places Mom had lived and traveled, and wondered, for the first time he said, whether after death we will be able to revisit places dear to us during life.  Dick lost his lifetime companion, Anna Lee, four years ago, and must have been thinking of her too.


My brother suggested that we purchase a casket made by the Monks of St. Meinrad's in southern Indiana.  Dad & I selected a simple poplar casket, stained an attractive cherry color.  The funeral home that Dad chose to work with, Flanner & Buchanan, carried it.

Dad with rose

Dad has grown roses for 50 years and brought a single pink rose (store bought as too early for his) to the service.  My sister Sylvia is behind Dad on the right and her youngest daughter Emily is behind him on the left.

Liz singing

My brother Alan's youngest girl, Elizabeth, sang Grammie to sleep with the haunting and comforting song "Into the West" from The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King.  Elizabeth is studying history at Hanover College, where she receives a scholarship for her vocal talent.  She is wearing a necklace that belonged to her grandmother.

Here are the lyrics:

Lay down
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You have come to journey’s end

Sleep now

Dream--of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across a distant shore

Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away

Safe in my arms
You’re only sleeping

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?

Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come
To carry you home

And all will turn to silver glass
A light on the water
All souls pass

Hope fades
Into the world of night
Through shadows falling
Out of memory and time

Don’t say
We have come now to the end
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again

And you’ll be here in my arms
Just sleeping

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?

Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come
To carry you home

And all will turn to silver glass
A light on the water
Grey ships pass
Into the West

Benjamin & Charlie 1

My brother's son Charlie hands his son Benjamin crocus, scilla, and snowdrops from my dad's yard to place on the casket.  While the family scattered flowers, I played Irish Tenor John McDermott's unbearably tender "Danny Boy," a love song sung by a mother to her son,  on Andrew's CD player.

Here are the lyrics:

Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen and down the mountainside
The summer's gone and all the roses falling,
'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow,
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow,
'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow,
Oh, Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

And if you come and all the flowers are dying,
And I am dead - as dead I well may be -
You'll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an Ave there for me;
And I shall hear, though soft your tread above me,
And on my grave will warmer, sweeter be,
And ye shall bend and tell me that you love me,
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.

Benjamin & Charlie 2

Charlie gives Ben a handful of earth to scatter on the casket also.  My sister Sylvia is Catholic and I asked her at the end of the service if she said an Ave for Mom.  "Yes, in three languages," she replied.  She teaches French, so I knew two were English & French, but I had to ask whether the third language was Spanish or German, which she can speak passably, or Latin, from ancient masses.  It was Latin.  Near the end of this heartbreaking yet comforting tune, I bent and said, "I love you, Mom."

Dr. Hamilton with Charlie's family

 My brother Alan asked if we could end the service by singing the hymn "Blest Be the Ties that Bind," a traditional closing for United Methodist Women's Circle Meetings.  Benjamin holds hands with his Grandpa (out of frame), as Charlie and his wife Samantha join hands with Dr. Hamilton.

Joy and Esther

My brother's wife Joy and her older daughter Esther, named after my mother and my father's mother.

  Katie Emily & Michael

My sister Sylvia's oldest daughter Katie, who flew out from Oregon, and her youngest daughter Emily with husband Michael (far right).

Jim Sylvia Emily

Sylvia (in brocade) is flanked by all her living children--Jim, Katie, and Emily with Michael.  Emily is expecting their first baby at the end of May and looked absolutely radiant.  "There'll be one child born in this world to carry on, to carry on . . . "  Dad took this photo.

Paula and Ed

My cousin Paula (daughter of Dad's brother Jerry) and her husband Ed.

Dad taking photos

Dad taking photos with his impressive Nikon D-300 (we only have a Nikon D-200; as usual the ol' man is ahead of us in the photographic latest-and-greatest department).  Dad loves blue and bright colors and was glad that spring flowers were coming up when Mom died.

Flowers on casket

Another one of Dad's photos.  Dad's rose and crocus, scilla & snowdrops from his and his neighbors' yards.

The day before Mom died, she slept almost all day.  Sylvia sat near her, held her hand, and sang to her.  One of the songs she sang is "Too-ra Loo-ra Loo-ra, an Irish Lullaby."  Sylvia requested that the family sing it at the end of the service.  Here's a version sung by John McDermott, Anthony Kearns, and Ronan Tynan, The Irish Tenors.

Here are the lyrics:

Over in Killarney, many years ago
My mother sang a song to me in tones so sweet and low
Just a simple little ditty in her good old Irish way
And I'd give the world if she would sing that song to me this day

Hush now, don't you cry

It's an Irish lullaby

Oft in dreams I've wandered to that cot again
I feel her arms a-huggin' me as when she held me then
And I hear her voice a-hummin' to me as in days of yore
When she used to rock me fast asleep outside the cabin door.


Sylvia with Emily and Katie

Sylvia hugs Emily as she weeps during the lullaby that she had sung to our mother only five days earlier.  Katie completes this family trio.  Sylvia said Mom smiled a crooked smile and squeezed her hand when she sang to her on the last day of her life. Thanks for all your caregiving, sis.


Dad took this photo of my Steve, Andrew, me, Keith & Esther, and Joy.

Mary at graveside

Here I add the last bouquets of the flowers Andrew, Dad, and I picked.  This photo was also taken by Dad.

Flowers on casket

Charlie & Samantha brought the beautiful lilies.

  Family photo

Here we all are next to Mom's huge oak tree.  Left to right, front row:  Samantha, Steve & Mary (me), Dad, Sylvia, Katie, Emily & Michael, Jim.  Back row, left to right:  Benjamin, Charlie, Joy, Elizabeth, Alan, Esther & Keith, Andrew, Dick Hamilton, Paula & Ed.  Thanks to the Flanner & Buchanan representative for taking the photo of all of us.

Esther Margaret

Esther Margaret knew that Grandpa would approve of her blue and brightly colored dress.

Benjamin and Alan

Benjamin with his Grandpa, my brother Alan.

Joy and Sylvia

My sweet, fun, and wonderful sister-in-law Joy (aptly named) with my beautiful sister Sylvia.  Dad asked the women to go through Mom's jewelry, so many of us were wearing sentimental pieces which we had just been given.


My lovely cousin Paula, representing our beloved Uncle Jerry's family.

Charlie and Benjamin by Mom's tree

This magnificent oak tree is the reason Mom selected her gravesite.  When Sylvia's middle daughter Sarah died in a car accident in 1997, Sylvia selected a plot on a grassy knoll with large trees.  Mom decided that she wanted to be buried near a large tree also and traded in the mausoleum space Dad had purchased for this location.  Charlie and Benjamin admire Mom's tree.

  Three generations

Three generations:  my brother Alan on the right, his son Charlie on the left, and grandson Benjamin between them.

Benjamin in truck

Benjamin loves heavy equipment and his grandfather's truck.

  Mom's tree

Sleep in peace, Mom, beneath your regal oak.  I'm confident that in time you and I will meet again. 

I love you.

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Oh, honey, you need a hug! It's hard I know. My mom passed a year ago this month. I had been to Ireland with her twice as had my daughter. I had a friend come and sing Danny Boy at her visitation. Your funeral pictures brought back so many memories of how hard that day was, yet so much love abounded. You have my deepest sympathies. My father is also 86 and still grows roses... so many similarities... I am shaking my head in disbelief. What a beautiful tribute not only to your mom, but your entire family.
You have my respect and sympathies. Your post is a lovely tribute to your mother.
Very touching tribute.
Having heard a band called the Three Irish Chancers in a bar sing Danny Boy, several years before my father died, I knew I would be playing it at his burial service. I never knew it was a mother/son love song - just that he always sang pieces of it and I knew he would appreciate it.
Lovely family, and my condolences on your loss.
Wonderful service. Lovely tribute to your mother.
This was stunningly beautiful, arousing so many memories of my mom's funeral and my aunts' and uncles' funerals over the last few years. Thanks so much for welcoming me into your family for a few minutes. I wish I had bought a camera to my mom's funeral.

I am so glad Benjamin was there. Thank you again.
Hi Dear Ones.... Thank you for sharing your lives and love with us...Keeping you in my best thoughts and prayers....Nangramma
Condolences to you and your family, DogWoman...this was a lovely, lovely tribute to your Mom and to the day. You've done her proud, and made me cry ;) I hope everyone spends a few minutes on this post today, if only to be reminded of what matters. Thank you...
Tears in my eyes... Mary, you all give off so much life - in the physical realm and in the spiritual realm. I love that your Mom is beneath the regal oak - so much more life to give. I believe you will meet again too. Into the West, how I love that song. This is beautiful. Lots and lots and lots of hugs and warm wishes.
BBE, my whole family really appreciates trees from my father who raises fruit trees to my sister who finds strength and solace in them to my brother who had an artist make an emblem for a business he started out of an evergreen to me who studied botany in college. Thanks for checking in.

MAWB, thanks for your kind words and remarks about family similarities. To be honest, right now I'm not so much grieving my mother as I am concerned about my father. He seems to be doing well, but I think is finding life somewhat disorienting having been married to my mom for 60 years and having known her since he was 20. Nothing my sister or brother or I can do can replace having her in his life.

Mr. M, thank you. My mother was a lovely woman, graceful, refined, empathetic, and a friend to everyone she met. She could also be extremely stubborn!

Tim4change, PBS did a whole program on Danny Boy. It's about an Irish mother whose son is leaving for America. She knows she'll probably never see him again while she is living--she's pragmatic but also a loving and devoted mother. It's one of my absolute favorites and I like John McDermott's version best of any I've heard. Steve & I are hoping to take our sons to Great Britain in 2011 to celebrate their graduations from college and HS and hearing live music in a pub in Ireland is at the top of my list. Do you like the Chieftains?

Kaysong, it's always nice to have you stop by.

Redstocking, I was really nervous about taking the camera, but Dad was completely nonchalant about it. Our family is more than a bit eccentric. Benjamin's presence was a gift. Thanks for remarking about it.

Nangramma, we appreciate your thoughts and prayers as always. Hope you are doing well yourself.

Donna, you are much too kind. Death does tend to reorient one's priorities. I spent a glowing two hours with my college student son on the way home from my dad's on Friday. We sat outside in his dorm parking lot eating Graeter's Double Chocolate Chip ice cream out of the tub (I was bringing it home from a family Easter dinner in a freezer box) with all four of my car doors open blaring "The Hazards of Love" on my CD player on a perfect spring afternoon. Unfortunately, I forgot that I have my Subaru set up so the lights are always on and it was so sunny and glorious that we didn't notice that when I had turned the key far enough to power the CD, the lights were also on. So about three-quarters of the way through the disc, the music stopped and I was unable to start my car when I was ready to leave! Luckily, James' girlfriend has a car on campus and I taught my son and his girl how to jump a dead battery. It was worth it. I'll remember it as one of the best times I've had with my son.

Screamin', came to check out your photos and you'd already taken them down. Send me a message to remind me and I'll send you my e-mail in case you feel like sharing them that way. You NEED to listen to the new Decemberists album--kicking guitar!!!

Stacey, yes, peace is what we all need. Thanks for sending it.
I've been away from OS and did not know about your mom. My sympathies are with you and your family. You honor her well.

Peace and hugs.
I'm so sorry, Mary. It's quite evident from the photos how special she was to all of you. I never would have thought of taking photos but they're actually a moving reminder of a family's shared grief sure to be treasured some day. Wishing all of you much peace and comfort.
A perfect resting place. It will be even more beautiful in the spring.

And I'm sorry you're having sickness stuff. It's been like that here, too. One sickness in the family after another. I keep waiting for it to knock it off, but no relief yet.
Personally, I'm focused on the unbelievably apt image of Mary with a dead battery! The leave-it-all-out-on-the-field girl does have the admirable "que l'action soit ta vie" (may action be your life - Paul Valéry) credo going here. Be sure to recharge often, sis. Big girls can get mono, too (speaks the voice of experience!) so boil everything and take care.
What a beautiful post, Mary!

And the photos makes us feel almost as if we are there, too.
The whole thing is a lovely gift for your family.
Thank you for sharing it with us, too.
Beautiful post, Mary. I've been reading Cicero's "De Senectute" and find it full of wisdom. Here he quotes Ennius:
Nemo me lacrumis decoret, neque funera fletu
and comments:
Non censet lugendam esse mortem, quam immortalitas consequator.

my deepest sympathies for your loss, and what an absolutely beautiful way to remember her. your family is beautiful is so many way.s
pretend farmer, thanks for the hug! Glad to have you back on OS after an absence. Give all 50 (?) of your furry and feathered babies pats and hugs from me.

Lisa, thanks for the comfort. Yes, I was nervous about the photography at first, but it's my way of coping and my family is used to it, having had at least five generations of photographers practicing the art.

odetteroulette, yeah, sickness is a drag. Andrew is still tired. So far, I'm staying above water since being ill about a week after Mom died. Mom's oak in spring with new leaves should be lovely--I hadn't really thought about that yet. A nice image.

Sis (The Wood Elf), I've been going back to sleep after getting up with Andrew and walking with him out to the bus. Sasha (aka The Weasel) loves Andrew's bus driver and gets on the bus with him every day to see her. Brooke feeds Sasha a few Oat Squares (cereal) and lets Sasha put her front feet up on her lap and give her a few kisses. So it's worth getting up at 5:45 a.m., but nice to climb back into bed while I'm still comimg up for air. I'm working on taking care of myself too.

ktm, thanks for your kind words and I'm glad you enjoyed the photos.

Big Dawg, you're such a sweetheart . . . recommending my post to The People's Picks again. On the other hand, giving me Cicero to translate during the first half of my day is a bit rugged, but with a little help from my New College dictionary (and no online translator or phone call to my favorite retired Latin teacher), I make out the lines to be:
"Let not tears adorn me, nor let me suffer funereal weeping."
"Do not imagine death to be mourned, but rather the attainment of immortality."
Yes, I agree. Especially in this case, it was time for Mom to go. If I lost Steve or James or Andrew, the concept of immortality wouldn't prevent prolonged and profound mourning. Thanks as always for your kindness and comfort.

kmbearden, thanks for commenting. I have been blessed with a wonderful family and am happy to share them (eccentricities and all) with my OS family.
See, I knew a bracing cup of Cicero to start your day would "buck you up" immensely (the priests always wanted us to "buck up", for whatever reason :-)). And you scored an Alpha ++ on the translation!

You're also right of course about the age factor -- Cicero's writing "On Old Age" and specifically excludes young people. He was 62 -- some of us are getting there fast :-(.

Good to see ya back. Hope to see more of you.

May peace, love and confort be with you and yours.