Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Tribute to Jean Marie

My long delay from blogging is due to the passing of my dear mother, Jean Marie Koch who went to her eternal reward on April 19, 2015.

As you know, I spent a lot of time with her over the past few years despite living in two different cities separated by a 6 hour drive. I don't regret a moment of it. I moved up there last summer to help her after a fall. When someone asked me how long I was going to be in Marquette, my mother answered for me saying, "Till death us do part." That was my mother! She had a dry, ironic sense of humor. She had no problem professing untrue statements about anyone, including herself. She had a bad habit of telling people that I "took" things that she had given me. She gave me her gas grill saying that no one would ever use it up there again since she was on oxygen. So My husband and I wrestled it into the truck and got it home. Next time my brother came up and wanted to cook some burgers on the grill she said. "I haven't got a grill, Cindy took it." All of my relatives thought I was a thief. It would have been more precise to say, "I gave it to Cindy to take home since I hadn't used in more than 2 years."

These are the type of things that I now look back on as being laughingly typical of my relationship with my mother. The photo above is the last picture I ever took of her, and it's also the last time she was ever outside of her apartment. We put her in the wheel chair and wheeled her out onto the porch one warm day in April. Less than a week later she died in her own bed. She didn't want to die in a hospital, she wanted to be home with family in the next room.

In fact, she was insistent on doing things her way. She planned her own memorial service, chose the music and the food. She told me she wanted to be cremated and her ashes buried in Ann Arbor next to her husband, my dad.

I once came across a book on how to write screenplays that said if you write the words, "The Desert, Dawn" on the top of your screen play be aware that sometime in the next 5 years you will wake up in a trailer 25 miles outside of Flagstaff Arizona at 3 A.M.

I thought of this statement many times over the next three months as I planned my mother's interment. This is what her grave ultimately looked like the day we finally put her in the ground, about 3 months after her death.

Note the prevalent color theme?

I officiated this non-secular event. We had already had the memorial service in Marquette, and a priest presided over that, so it didn't really matter. Jeff and I decided to just leave it loose. I came up with a poem to read about strong women, and Aunt Norene wanted to play a piece of music that she and my mother both loved. Before the ceremony, my cousin Kim asked me how Mom and Dad met, since Mom was from Marquette and Dad was from Dixboro. So I told the story about how mom came to Ann Arbor to get a job at a beauty salon. She had a roommate by the name of Dory Burdick. Dory was dating this guy named Nellie Rose who had a buddy that had just gotten out of the military. This guy was a local boy who had served in Korea and Japan during the Korean War.(See his scrap book here). Nellie suggested Dory bring her roommate along on a double date thinking they might hit it off. That's how my parents met.

Mom spent half of her life in Marquette, beginning and ending, and half her life in Ann Arbor, the middle. So My brother and I decided that it felt right to leave half of her in Marquette. This is where we left her.

The Pavilion on Presque Isle in Marquette was one of her favorite places on Earth. Don worked there when they were first together, a kind of easy retirement job. It was right up his alley, he could putter around and dead-head the flowers in the garden and sweep the building, and in between talk with the people who wandered in. The man dearly loved to talk and had that easy manner that could talk with anyone. Mom would take him his meals up there. They spent many happy hours there. But we didn't actually leave her ashes in or around the pavilion. We put them out on the beach in front of the pavilion at the edge of Lake Superior, and poured a bottle of Grand McNish Scotch over them as well according to my brother's wishes. So here is her view.

Mama, we miss you! We miss the parties you loved to throw. We miss your bright face, and your weird sense of humor, and your ability to keep us young. After all, you could reduce us down in age to the single digits. And you needed to do that because that way you could keep telling people you were only 39 yourself! I love you, Mama!

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