Well here we are People, the 11th crapiversary of Mom's stroke.
Traditionally I write about Mom's milestones, accomplishments, miracles, joy, struggles on this day.
But not this year. Today I will share about her gathering. Her celebration of life. And yes, no joke, it truly was a celebration.
NOTE: As I write this I grieve the pictures of which I didn't take. I just didn't have the chutzpah to run around capturing moments. I was truly trying to be part of the moments. At times I thought "I should get a picture of that" and anxiety would run over me with "Will I miss a picture moment? Will I be able to capture it all?" and I just surrendered. I got pictures here and there but not the breadth of what I wanted. And that's okay. Jim Parker said he would send me copies of the pictures he took, I'll share those later.
Mom's gathering was celebrated in the upper room of Paul's Country Market, owned by Paul and Mary Hess, beloved members of the generous German Baptist community that has so loving enveloped Mom and Dad over the last 11 years. We decided upon a small variety of finger foods to keep things simple. We decided upon no table clothes. We decided where the pictures, guest book, food and drinks, and video screen would be placed. And then the preparations began.
Paul prepared by scanning a gazillion pictures of Mom throughout her adult life to create a slide show to share.
Dad prepared by airing out his "uniform" in which he wears for any occasion other than everyday life; grey slacks, soft blue shirt that makes you compelled to say "ooooooooooooo" and his everyday blue suspenders.
I prepared by washing, drying and matching 50 pairs of Mom's crazy socks to be given out as favors at the gathering. I was uneasy about this decision until Paul and someone else mentioned giving away Mom's socks to the people who loved her. And you know what? Most people could be seen with a pair of socks hanging out of a pocket or purse, most people enjoyed looking through the bin to find just the right pair for them, most people had a smile on their face when discussing the socks. This is exactly why Mom wore crazy socks, to make people smile. And Mom purposefully wore mismatched socks long before it was trendy. I believe it was to make people stop and think "Is she really crazy or did she plan that?"
Mary Hess prepared by labeling the serving dishes of what food would be placed in them. This is something Mom did when she was having a gathering so when it was time to get all the food out at once, she didn't have to worry about in which bowl to put it. Even better, she could task me to do the job cause the labels would lead the way. Mary Hess's labels warmed my heart.
Doris, Elaine, and Jennifer prepared by creating crazy hats to wear. Mom had a vast collection of hats, so well known that Sheila, Mom's oncology nurse, once gave Mom a hat she had bought saying "I saw this and thought 'Peggy would love this'". (NOTE: I called Doris, Mom's beloved chauffeur and friend from the Manor, the evening Mom was dying and asked her to come. She came. She brought tea and water and a bible. She helped me. I am forever grateful for Doris.) Nothing says "A Celebration of Life" than a bunch of ladies wearing crazy hats.
Family came from Roanoke, Virginia,
and friends from Woodbine.
I've been to a German Baptist funeral. It was very reverent, beautiful, holy and peaceful. I was not sure how this community would react to our version of grieving, our rendition of respecting and celebrating the life of a loved one whom has died.
The room was filled with white bonnets and black suits. There was laughter, crazy socks, and cookies passed around and placed into purses. The German Baptist friends most near and dear to us wanted to meet extended family, wanted to grow in knowing who Mom and Dad where before the stroke, as most of them came into our lives after 9/30 11 years ago. It was a glorious time.
I was tickled that Mom's close friends from the Manor could come to celebrate Mom's life...and choose some beloved socks.
Paul and Mary Hess live right next door to their market. They have a fun playground that the grand kids and cousins, who along with my in-laws rode 6 hours round trip to support us, enjoyed romping on.
We grew up just a quick walk through the woods from the Thomas family. I could start a whole new blog about the Thomas/Loyd adventures through the years. They drove 3 hours to celebrate Mom's life.
Rob Thomas, far right, flew from Colorado for the day. To celebrate Mom's life. That's some powerful love, right there.
My best friend from high school flew in from California. My friend of 35 years and his wife, and now my dearest friend, (and Mom and Dad for that matter) showed up to celebrate Mom's life.
Elaine, sweet Elaine. I'm gonna say Mom's best friend from the Manor. Elaine sat next to Mom at meals. She would cut her food, laugh with her, cry with her, watch TV with her, be silly with her. Mom would make this grumpy cat face to communicate, well, a variety of feelings. Elaine has been perfecting it, I'd say successfully. I could leave the Manor to travel home with a lighter heart knowing that Elaine was there with Mom. God bless Elaine.
Here's Elaine with Paula to the left, she used to sit on the other side of Mom at meals. Between them is Jennifer, truly one of God's angels on earth. Jennifer, a care provider at the Manor, loved Mom like she was her own mother. Jennifer is near and dear to my heart. I could leave the Manor to travel home with a lighter heart knowing that Elaine was there with Mom. God bless Jennifer.
This is where I struggle without the pictures. I want to name each person that was there. I want to tell the story behind each relationship. I want to convey to the world how special Mom was to so many people. I was completely overwhelmed with the crowd that showed up that Saturday. As I expressed this to Don while standing under a tree out back, he put my overwhelmedness into perspective. "That room isn't just filled with people, it's filled with love," is what Don said to me. Completely changed my outlook. The day was crushing and glorious and filled with love and joy and crazy socks for all. Cause nothing says "A Celebration of Life" like 50 pairs of crazy socks.
On our ride home that evening, the rainbow appear once again, letting me know, all will be well.
And you know what? All WILL be well. cause people are out there, wearing their crazy socks and bringing some joy to themselves and the world.
All WILL be well. Cause I printed up a gazillion of these pictures of Mom in lieu of prayer cards that the funeral home would give out and a bunch of people took them. And I will never know where all those pictures may land, but I feel confident that people will laugh a little when they see it.
God bless you, Mom, for bring such joy and love to so many.