Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My Mother, My Dear Mother...

1938 - 2014

Here is an excerpt from her eulogy:

Judy was born in Portland, ME [...]. Raised mostly in Hartford, CT, she spent a lot of time with relatives in Maine. She often spoke of her grandmothers, Nana Bea and Ma Curry. She lost her beloved brother, Jimmy when he was just 20 years old. They had a very special bond and throughout her life she shared her many memories of him.

She wed her truest friend and the love of her life, Quintin, in 1956. From 1958 to 1963 they had 3 children – James, Charles and Quinci. Judy always said she knew she wanted to have a family of her own.

Who She Was to Her Husband and Children

She was a survivor, of circumstances in her youth over which she had no control.  She took control of her life at an early age and created a life and family for herself.

She made our house feel like a real home.  She made curtains for our bedrooms, painted the rooms of the house vibrant colors, did paint-by-number paintings to decorate our walls.  When her kids were young, she would read magazines and get ideas for Christmas decorations. She could perfectly recreate anything she saw in those magazines, making glittery and colorful hanging mobiles above the stairs, decorations around door frames, wall hangings, paintings of Christmas scenes on the glass of the front storm door... she transformed our house into a magical Christmas Land!  We kids were “wowed” by her artistic talents; it seemed like she could do anything.

In the summer, she planted beautiful flowers, morning glories up the sides of the front porch, a rock garden with portulaca in the center of the lawn, Easter Lilies and Jack-in-the-Pulpit in front of the house, and she grew all sorts of indoor plants. She had a green thumb, and taught us kids how to grow things, too.  She and dad worked on the vegetable garden, giving us a bounty of vegetables in the summer, with enough to can for winter.

She always prepared delicious and balanced meals for us, and friends were always glad to stay for supper whenever they had the chance.  She also loved to bake.  As we got older, she insisted that we do our share of housework, such as showing us how to cook simple things, mend our clothes and do laundry. It wasn’t until we moved out that we realized she had taught us how to take care of ourselves, helping us to be self-sufficient and independent.

Judy had a rich sense of humor, even exchanging pranks with her kids and laughing when others may have scolded. Her love of animals and appreciation of nature have always been an important part of who she was.

She could be shy and retiring, a bit of a recluse, but when it was necessary to interact with a lot of people (as in the hospital), she would rise to the occasion, and be very sociable.  She used to knit afghans and sweaters for people, with bright colors and interesting patterns, and give them away.

She created a lot of beauty in our lives that we took for granted, thinking that's just how life was supposed to be. Then we went out into the world and found that it's not always that way. Someone has to be doing it, to be making that beauty.  And fortunately, we had a good example from our mother as to how that is done.

“She was my wife, and our mother, and we loved her, and to us the world was a better place just for her being in it.  Just knowing she was there was a great comfort, and her absence now is sorely felt.  We miss her, because she was a part of us, and still is, and always will be.”
She was suffering from pulmonary hyper-tension and a calcified heart valve. She underwent surgery to replace the heart valve, but her lungs were too compromised, and she did not recover from the surgery. She was removed from artificial life support on June 11th.

We had the funeral in September, and buried her remains in a family plot at a rural cemetery in Maine. I went back for the funeral, and haven't blogged much since. It's been a lot to take in. My sister read this poem at the burial ceremony:

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep
Do not stand at my grave and weep.

I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Of course, I cried when she read that poem. So did she. The service ended with a Baptist Minister reading a variation of the Consolation Prayer, which felt both devastating (as in "This is it") and comforting (even though I am not religious). Then the box of ashes was buried.

As much as we say things like "Mom will live on forever in our hearts", it's still not the same as having her here on earth with us. Getting used to that is the new reality.

The movie "Rabbit Hole" dealt with the topic of grief caused by the loss of a loved one. I remember one scene, where an adult daughter (Nichole Kiddman) who has lost her son, a small child, in a tragic accident, asks her own mother (Diane Weiss), who had also lost a son, if the pain ever goes away. Her mother says no, but...

That is perhaps what people mean by the phrase "time heals". I have a feeling that it's going to be a lot like that.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Is the nearly extinct Northeast species of Republicans being brought back from the brink?

I once did a post about the demise of New England Republicans. It seemed like they were gone for good. But could it be they are making a comeback?

Return of the Northeastern Republican
[...] Republican political operatives say the gains the GOP is set to make are due to a convergence of causes. There is the fact that in the wave election year that 2014 seems poised to become, the party could win in even the most unexpected of places. There is the fact that in many of these states Democratic legislatures are entrenched, and voters are looking for a counterweight.

And finally, there is the fact that most of the culture wars have reached a stalemate. In Massachusetts, for example, Baker is running as a pro-choice, pro same-sex marriage Republican nominee. Other Republicans are similarly downplaying these hot-button issues of old, and pollsters say most voters see them now as settled matters. And so if two candidates are a wash on matters of civil rights, why not go for the guy who is going to cut your taxes?

“Republicans have just been putting together a more coherent message of change in New England,” said Will Ritter, a Republican political operative who worked on a number of statewide races in Massachusetts. “The Democrats’ message is what—‘Hey, it is not so bad?’ People look to candidates who have a business background, or at least have conservative underpinnings, when it looks like budgets are going off the rails.”

The major question for the Republican Party going forward is what all these Yankee newcomers will mean for its direction. The GOP has been at odds with itself as it tries to decide how to appeal to a diverse and changing electorate, and some Republicans think a handful of new voices from states not necessarily of the reddest hue could help the eventual 2016 presidential nominee.

“It takes a lot of Democrats to elect a Republican in one of these places,” said John McLaughlin, a Republican pollster. “You can’t win otherwise. You broaden your base, you broaden your message, it shows that you really want to get things done. And we need do to that, not just racially but demographically.”
But will the Republican party welcome these blue-state Republicans, or will they shoot themselves in the foot (again!) by declaring them to be RHINOs and try to drum them out of the party with social issues litmus tests, insuring that the Republican Party remains small, with only limited appeal to a small minority of the vast demographic of voters? You can be sure that the latter is what the Democrats are hoping and praying for.