Friday, September 26, 2014

Subway to heaven

Here's my thoughts/rough draft for tomorrow's memorial...
" My mother's last 'secret' wish was to have a funeral that rivaled Joan Rivers'.
I think she got her wish.
I always wondered what would happen if you invited all of your Facebook friends to come to your funeral. Now we know.
If you're here today, you are part of one of three groups of people that Donas knew.
The first is, of course, her family. Her sisters, nieces, nephews, her EIGHT grandchildren, her five BEAUTIFUL daughters...her incredibly loving and supportive husband.
Let me tell you--she loved her family. She talked about you all the time. She knew everything that was going on in your life--and your kids' lives--and your neighbors' lives. She talked kindly about you and saw the best in each and every one of you.
The second group is her friends. LONG time friendships--some 30, 40, 50 and 60 plus years of friendships. And let me tell YOU--she loved each and every one of you! She talked about you all the time! She knew what was going on in YOUR life--and your kids' lives--and yes, your neighbors' lives made for conversation as well. She talked kindly about you and saw the best in you.
The third group of people here today...well, you probably met Donas in line at CVS last week. You've heard the old saying that she never met a stranger?! Donas was the epitome of getting to know every single person around her. If you DID meet her at CVS or the post office or you were sitting next to her while she was waiting for her dialysis appointment--let me tell you--SHE LOVED YOU! She knew all about you and your kids and your dog and your poor nephew who lost his home...She talked kindly about you and saw the best in you and most likely CALLED you to see if you were ok a few times since then.
I am sure you would agree...she took care of everyone.

In 1986, my mom went on a trip to New York City with us. William was running the marathon and my mom came along for the ride. First off, you have to imagine her in all her friendly glory--in a bright pink "Bum" sweatshirt on the streets of New York City. We'd get in a cab and she'd tell the driver, "Hello! We're from Southern California! How long have you lived in New York?" There was no way for me to tell her that she needed to be a little more reserved in New York. I couldn't do it.
I am sure you've all heard this story as she loved to tell it (and embellish it slightly--but I'm giving it to her at this point)--the night she got on the wrong subway and went off without us.
We had met our friend John Burkholder, who lived in town and he was taking us down to dinner at Seaport Village. We were all standing in the station, next to the subways, trying to decide which train to take and whether to get on the local or the express.
Next thing you know, we turn around and my mom had walked onto the train. We watched and yelled, but it was too late--the doors closed up and we began to yell, "Get off at the Brooklyn Bridge!!" You must know that Donas was laughing hysterically as the express train sped away--and poor sweet little just turned 4 years old Allison was crying--'Bum...Bum...come back!'
Honestly, it was hilarious...but this is WAY pre cell phone days and this was my mother on her own in New York City. We knew that she was on the express train and would (hopefully) make it there much sooner than we would and be there when we arrived.
The four of us got on the next train--the local--which makes many more stops and takes quite a bit longer--and did our best to calm and assure Allison that Bum was ok.
Again, I know most of you have heard this story from her...but as we pulled into the Brooklyn Bridge station--there she was in all her PINK sweatshirt glory. But let me tell you, she was not alone. There were three people standing with her.
Three people that she had met and befriended on the Express train to the Brooklyn Bridge.
We got off the train and Allison ran to her. She was still laughing and then stopped long enough to say, "Oh that was great! I got on and met Helen here! Helen has lived in New York City her entire life and she said, 'honey, don't worry...I'll get off and wait with you til your family arrives.'" The other two people--I can't remember their names but they might even be here today--stood there laughing with her and said, "We weren't gonna let anything happen to her."

Last Thursday I got a text from my dad saying that my mom was not doing well. He wrote, "There is not much future for the sisters."
I texted my sisters and my kids and my nieces and nephews and the majority of us spent the evening with Donas, Mom, Bum...
The doctors and nurses said that she would probably not make it to the end of the weekend.
She knew it. She accepted it. And she was ready for it.
Once again, she'd gotten on the Express train...and, if it was up to her, she was going to make the most of it.
She wanted to say goodbye to everyone. We sent out emails and notices through Facebook and connected with all of you...and, on Friday and Saturday had over 80 people come by the house to be with her.
Talk about a good death! One where you can practically BE at your own funeral! One where you know your days are numbered, but you can LISTEN as people tell you how much they love you and cared for you and how you made an impact on their life! We took photos with almost everyone...we posted photos and had HUNDREDS of comments on Facebook--of which we read every single one to her. (And, I might add...she told us all about what was going on in YOUR life as we read your comments to her!...have I mentioned that she LOVED you?)
After two days of non-stop visitors, she was finished.
She died a little after 3am Sunday morning.
But...just as she did on her very short ride on the subway...she made the most of her last few days on Earth.
I actually have pictured her as she arrived in heaven last Sunday morning. I can see her opening her eyes and seeing her brother Jim. I can hear her saying, "Hello my darlin'!"
I am sure she spent the last week catching up with her brother and her mom and dad and with Mamma and Nanny and Grand dad. I can see her talking with her friends Pat and Marguerite.
And, if she really gets her secret wish...she'll be talking with Joan Rivers...comparing funeral notes.
I can even see her reconnecting with Helen from the subway.
And, most likely, that lovely lady that she met at CVS last week...
Thank you for being part of our mother's life.


Mia's Cottage said...

That is awesome Julie! Very well written. I give you all the credit in the world if you are going to get up and read that to everyone. I wouldn't be able to last through the second sentence.
Prayers to all of you and your families! Your Mom has the best family!
Hugs... donna

Sweet Lu said...

Nicely written and nicely said today, Jules. You did a GREAT job with all the planning and preparing. Your mom would have been proud. XoXo