The Eulogy

Posted by on Sep 2, 2010 in Edwin Goes to Cooking School and I don't... | 7 comments

 

I am beginning this entry on September 1, 2010 and don’t expect I will post it until I have completed speaking words today not yet envisioned.

I have been asked by a dear friend to write and deliver her eulogy.  I received this request in an email from her last week and was left speechless holding my cell phone looking at her words.  I am not her closest friend, nor family, and perhaps that is the reason I have been awarded this incredible honor and privilege.  I do love her and have been completely in awe of the courage and wisdom she has shown since her cancer diagnosis about a year ago.  She is a woman who will see her youngest child start middle school just this week and has amassed facebook friends over the past months as if she were a first year college student – there is love all around her and yet I know the pain and disappointment persists. 

Tomorrow I am meeting with her to talk about her vision for these minutes of her memorial service.  I have done my homework; checked in with a minister friend seeking advice, read articles on-line and stayed awake night after night telling myself I am up to this, that I can and will do her proud.  She has faith in a God that I don’t know very well and yet today I hope that all of the gods, hers and mine and others as well, will assist us both through the coming days. 

Another day…I met with Mary last week.  She is now in a hospital bed, attached to oxygen and has lost many pounds since we last saw each other.  My visit followed the daily visit by the local priest and her home is lovingly tended by her sister, mother, spouse and 3 children.  Just walking in the door and I am reminded how much courage it takes to simply get through the day, and this is true even for 11 year olds. 

In visiting with Mary, I learn that she feels the area where we first bonded is around parenting – that "I get her", and that there is nothing more important to her than her children.  I realize, not for the first time, that our backgrounds have been much alike…multiple marriages, single parenting years, fiscal challenges, etc…and yet we have never spent much of our time together talking about our pasts.  We are future oriented women – celebrating today knowing it is what will create tomorrow.

I am still in awe – how do I stand before a church full of friends and family and appropriately honor her with my words.  Everyone who ever saw her with one of her children knows she is a great mom, that their needs came first, and second and third.  She worked full-time and I never saw her do anything to which she did not commit her all. 
 

Cancer requires a battle and she has risen to the occasion.  I found myself sharing with her my belief that if this battle could have been won, she would have beat it.  Does losing violate her every belief?  She spent so many days in chemo over the past year, so many hours vomiting and caring for herself when she would have preferred to care for others.  And yet there is great story about her stopping on the way home from a chemo treatment and buying groceries to take to her two boys who were running short on funds.  If she had to lay down in the back seat of the car to make this happen, so be it.  Her pride did not supercede her commitment to her family.

Another day…I am writing a little each day and it is difficult.  I am unsure about the John Updike poem Perfection Wasted to open, yet it seems to call me back time and again.  The closing is a given – Winnie the Pooh. 

Mary gave me permission to use her caring bridge entires and in reviewing them there is such power in her words and so much that reflects her character and life.  I want to speak for her, not only of her.  I do hope I can somehow find the talent and grace to do this well.  It is the least she deserves and the most I can do for her now.

September 18, 2010….the service was this morning and I have had a request to provide the text of the eulogy and this seems the perfect place.  For you, Mary, with love.

 

PERFECTION WASTED
And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market —
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their tears confused with their diamond earrings,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories packed
in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That’s it: no one;
imitators and descendants aren’t the same.
–John Updike
 
 
Mary Rahm was my friend. I loved her, I admired her and during the past many months I have lived in awe of her courage and perseverance.
Some of you have been a part of her life for a long time, since grade school, high school, birth. I’m a late-comer to Mary’s magic, having met her in 2006 shortly after her marriage to Matt. We commiserated recently that it seems as if we’ve known each other forever. Somehow we bonded almost immediately…and I don’t know how we so fortunate as to experience this, to feel understood and appreciated by each other almost immediately. And I know, by looking at all of you, that it is not me who possessed the magic to make this happen. 
There will never again be a Mary like the woman we mourn, honor and celebrate today.
Mary and I have life histories that are much alike – some disappointments, the challenges of single parenting, many dreams left unfulfilled – and yet we rarely discussed this – we spent our time chatting about our children, our spouses, and our work. We recognized day-to-day life to be filled with joy and frustrations and laughter and even developed a secret language to communicate the status of our day as working managers together – all in one word: GEEZ!  Even 3 years after our working relationship ended I would see her name pop-up in my email in-box and the entire text of the message would be this one word: GEEZ! I would laugh and imagine her diligently working through whatever the day’s challenge was to an equitable and successful resolution, as always.   During her treatments, there were many GEEZ! days.
In discussing the past 15 months of her life – the challenges of one course of treatment after another-  always hoping for a better result, she shared with me this: “in my book there wasn’t any other way to go”. 
 And, of course, it wasn’t about fighting only for herself…it was about her children, Tony, Brad and Tori, her spouse, Matt, her parents, her sisters and the rest of her family. Mary asked me to remind her sister Linda and her mother Dorothy that they have been her “angels here on earth” during her battle. And Matt, you made her feel beautiful and special every day throughout this journey.
In talking with Mary a few weeks ago, I asked her what was most important for me to share on her behalf, and it is this, in her words…NOTHING MATTERS MORE THAN MY CHILDREN.  
“It’s all been about giving them a big push on the swing of life”.
Matthew would concur, “Her passion and commitment were her children, and they always came first.”
There are a myriad of stories about Mary living this value too – stopping on the way home from chemotherapy to drop off new shirts and groceries to the boys; counting not the days, not the hours, but the minutes until Tori would return home. Anything Mary needed was always last on the list and her wants were so modest…a night with a hot tub, a lunch on the water in Wayzata, a ride on a beautiful day. She knew the true value of happiness and passed this on to others. 
Mary had so many gifts and not least among them was the ability to make everyone and anyone feel valued and comfortable. This included her family, friends, co-workers and I’m sure even people in line behind her at Target.   The opticians that worked with her at Northwest Eye would tell you that she never turned down a request for time off to spend with their families – Mary not only lived for her own family, she respected and honored the same for everyone else.
Mary Ann Justin, a friend and optician who has known Mary for many years shares this: “Scheduling for 12 opticians there wasn’t a time when Mary could not accommodate our needs when it came to family matters. We were like family to her.”
On July 23, 2009, Mary made her first entry on caring bridge and this and facebook quickly became her lifeline to those of us not present in her day-to-day life as she took on her battle with pancreatic cancer. Not surprisingly, the very first word of Mary’s very first entry is “Thanks”…a thank you to all of you for your thoughts and prayers and the army of hope she was feeling around her. In the midst of chemotherapy 3 days a week and radiation in addition, she continued to provide her updates – August 12th, 2009 – “Thanks again for all your love and support.” 
April 6, 2010: “I find my strength in the support of family and friends and the saying “ALL WILL BE WELL”…thanks to my friend Rosie for sharing this saying with me and for helping me to remember that.”
May 19th: from the U of MN hospital awaiting biopsy results…”Thanks for checking in on me.”
June 23 – nearly 2 weeks following a party to celebrate her 46th birthday — In this post, she spoke to each us with these words: “I want to tell all of you to take time to appreciate the little things along life’s road and to never take things for granted. We are all in the same boat rowing down life’s long river and the boat gets smaller and smaller, so do it now, don’t wait!”
Her last caring bridge entry, August 18  – I’ve decided this is my last entry so that I can concentrate on the life I have left. God Bless you and yours…he has a plan…and ALL WILL BE WELL.               (Big hugs from Mary)
In each entry, I can envision her smile…more than anything else, we find ourselves recalling her smile – it rarely left her face and on those wonderful occasions when it morphed into laughter there was nothing better. At work, we would giggle like children at our silly errors. At lunch, she would beam from ear to ear telling tales of the kid’s latest news. And how could we not smile at receiving one of her infamous corny forwarded emails with photos of kittens stuck in glassware, dogs with their paws on the remote control and polar bears in all sorts of predicaments.
Being in Mary’s life was like being admitted into a secret club where everyone was kind, everyone was loved and nearly anything was possible. I loved her and knowing her made me a better person. I loved being in her company. I lived in awe of her courage and optimism. There will not be another person with Mary’s own brand of magic and yet she has taught us that ALL WILL BE WELL. 
I leave you with a favorite reading of Mary’s, not from John Updike but from someone perhaps much wiser, Winnie the Pooh, and in her honor, I ask that we all lift our heads and smile. 
 
“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together..
 
there is something you must always remember.
 
you are braver than you believe,
 
stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.
 
but the most important thing is, even if we’re apart..
 
i’ll always be with you.”
Winnie the Pooh
 

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