I didn’t realize that it had been December that I had last posted. It really wasn’t intended, but life happens. And, death happens too. In late March, my mom had what we discovered was a small stroke. No big deal, right? It affected her speech a little, but a week later it threw a blood clot. Once her doctor discovered that, she didn’t like what she saw, so they sent her for some scans. In mid April, mom was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer. Two weeks after that, she had another, more thorough scan, and they confirmed the diagnosis, and she had another small stroke which put her back in the hospital. She was in the hospital for a week, until she said ‘enough’ and set up hospice. She went home on May 22. On May 27th, surrounded by my dad, my siblings and a long time family friend, Robbie Ann Creed Maxwell, passed away. I was an hour and a half away, driving on Hwy 190 in Louisiana. I left Florida that morning at 5am, and hit two slow downs that probably equaled an hour and a half. My brother had called and said that her breathing was getting slower and I insisted that he put the phone on speaker and take it to her. Mom hadn’t really been conscious for two days, but I wanted to to say good-bye, just in case. I told her that I was on my way, but still an hour and a half away, but that if she needed to go, she could, that she had been the best mom, and that I loved her. That was the last time I would ever talk to her, as fifteen minutes later, she passed away. This whole thing has been so surreal and happened so fast. I don’t think I’ve fully processed it and I don’t know when that will happen. One thing I was able to do for her was to give her eulogy at her funeral. I wanted everyone to know the mom that I knew and I think writing it, and giving it, gave me a chance to say good-bye in my own way. The following is her eulogy as written. I did make a few changes to the intro on the morning of the service and on the fly, so that isn’t included, but I hope you can get a sense of who my mom was, and I hope you get a little bit of a chuckle.
Life Lessons from Mom
As I driving here from Florida, I had a long time to think back on Mom and things that she has taught me. Some are probably obvious, and some not so much, but I thought that I’d like to share them with y’all today. Now these aren’t your typical Lessons from Mom, but they were lessons from my mom, and while she may not have said these things outright these are a few things that I have learned from her.
- It’s ok, to not make your roux from scratch, and recipes are just suggestions. I can’t tell you how many times I called mom and asked her for a recipe and she say, “well, there really isn’t one, I just made it up. Well, maybe there’s a little of this, and add some of that.” Ok, not much help mom, and after I decided to make my first gumbo ever, I called and asked her about the roux and how to make it. She said, oh, just get a box or jar of roux. Who has time to stand in front of the stove?” I was shocked, but I have never made a gumbo roux from scratch–She was right.
- It’s never too late to try something new, and maybe invent an alternate personality. Mom was over 50 when she and dad started the Village Voice and then went to work as editor at The Chronicle. It was only then that I realized that mom had a gift of writing, especially humor. When the Marva Stewart letters showed up, I knew that she had a talent for writing. I laughed all the time about Marva’s antics, and I laughed even harder when Mom told me that some people didn’t know that she was actually Marva. So if you didn’t know, *Spoiler Alert* Mom WAS Marva. All this shows me that age is just a number and it’s never too late to change directions.
- Use your talents. Mom was so talented, and could, decorate, cook, draw, write, and play the piano. I can’t count the number of times that Mom helped out by decorating or cooking for a wedding, a baby shower, or a birthday. Unfortunately, I did not get that special touch that she had and I was always on the phone with her trying to figure out how to make something look the way “Robbie Ann” would make it look. She had that touch that made something look a little extra special. She believed that anything could be fixed with a glue gun, a hammer, some duct tape, and a little ingenuity.
- A bad hair day, month or year could be solved by a wig, or two. Mom loved her wig and wiglets. In fact, after I told my friend Chip that she had passed, he went to her Facebook page and even though they weren’t friends,he could see her profile photos, he said this:
I cracked up as I scrolled through her page and every photo, photo after photo after photo was a new hairstyle. I just thought, a southern Steel Magnolia she surely was. “ when I informed him they were wigs he said Well, I wondered how it went from long to short to almost pixie and back to long again! The thing is, I never could figure out what was a wig and what was her real hair sometimes!
5) Never leave the house with makeup and always wear lipstick because you never know who you might run into. She’s absolutely right. Everytime I leave the house without makeup, I run into a student or a parent and whenever I fail to wear lipstick to work, at least one of my students will ask “Mrs. Clark, are you feeling ok?” and I swear, I can always hear my mom laughing at me.
And finally, number 6 and maybe the most important:
6) Life is always better with a little sparkle. Mom loved anything that sparked, twinkled, glittered or flashed. She was always impeccably dressed down to her jewelry. She didn’t believe in the ‘take one piece of jewelry off “ rule before you left the house. Chances are, she added one! But that was mama, and it all worked. I would look ridiculous, but mom had a sense of style that was just her. I’m sure everyone has heard the saying “She leaves a little glitter wherever she goes. “ Well, that was true of mom, and I know that she has left a trail of glitter for us to find her later, we’ll just have to look for it when the time comes.
I love you mom, I hope you’re having coffee with Aunt Eva and Deva, Uncle Mike, Uncle Chris, and Grandma and Grandpa Creed and remember every now and again to throw a little glitter in my way.