Mom’s Memorial day…
When we awake, Sherman and I walk to the auto repair shop. This is a shop in town that a woman who lives down the hall from dad used to own. Her husband chose and trained the current owner. So, with a high recommendation to a local auto repair shop, I took Amelia there yesterday for a check-up.
On the walk down, I’m reading the eulogy and see other places to shorten it and still say what I want to say.
I’m having them look at Amelia for oil leaks. She’s has never lost any oil. From oil change to oil change she stays full. Then driving across Texas, the oil light flashes. I pull into a gas station to check and fill up gas. She’s down off the dipstick. Yikes! I get 2 quarts and put them both in. It’s STILL of the stick. SHIT! 2 more quarts and it is right on the line. I’m freaked. What could leak that much oil? Can’t be good. So, I check at the next gas fill. Down about a quarter. Next gas, off the stick. I get 2 more quarts. This time it fills her up. That’s a quart per tank of gas. But last tank of gas was just down a quarter of a quart. OK. I’ll keep watching. Next tank she’s still full of oil. Then we reach dad’s. Gas down to half tank, oil down a third. That’s the trail of sorrow that gets me to the mechanic.
They don’t find anything. There is no evidence of any oil leak or a blow of oil that a leak and wind from driving would create. The engine is clean. The undercarriage is clean. So, they assume I’m burning it. I ask how could I be burning a quart per tank and not see it. There’s no smoke from the exhaust. No carbon buildup on the exhaust pipe. Amealia’s running better than ever. Quiet. Smooth. Getting 22 mph on 55-75 mi roads. Never got more than 20 before starting our trip. I don’t understand… They don’t understand neither…
We all meet up around noon to do the setup in the chapel. Flowers. Photos. A few of her paintings. The guest book. Dad checks the sound system. The service is at 2. The pastor suggested we be there around 1 for people who are traveling. The first people arrive about 1:30. People from the retirement community. Closer to 2, people from their church begin to come. We hear stories from women in her Bible Study group. People who worked with her to support new pastors at the church.
I enjoy the people milling in the foyer looking at photos of her throughout life and at her paintings. Most people didn’t realize she’d been a painter.
2pm arrives. The pastor and one of the assistant pastors arrive. The assistant pastor had spent time with her at Towsley. She tells me that she would tell June stories about teaching Sunday School and June would laugh. The pastor checks with me that I want to say something. Asks my dad and sister and they say no. She asks if we want other people to have an opportunity to share a June story? We say yes.
The organ music starts and we all go in. The service begins. A welcome from the pastor. A couple of hymns. The pastor tells a summary of June’s life and her activity within the Methodist Church. She tells a sweet story. We sing another hymn. Then she ask me to come up to the podium.
I stood silent for a moment. Said, “I just need to feel being here and connect with the room and you.” After a few breaths and feeling my way into and around the room, I said, “When big things happen in my life, I don’t know what I think or feel right away. I sit quietly for awhile listening and feeling to the subtle breezes moving in the mind and body. I did this for periods over the last 3 days. Then I wrote, and wrote and edited and wrote. It was about 20 minutes, so I’ve shorteded it quite a bit for today.”
To and For Mom:
June Evelyn Drees was born on June 3rd, 1928. Daughter of Evelyn Lee Nirmaier, who was born on June 17th, 1906. Granddaughter of May Oser, born in 1888.
Through the unfolding miracle of life, she met Horton Matthews in high school and they began a life-long journey together. She became my mother during the months before I was born on September 14th, 1950.
We had a very tumultuous relationship. During my childhood, the fluctuations between the loving mother and the angry, belittling, and sometimes violent mother were beyond my understanding. I was self-willed and obstinate. To me, it felt like we were at war.
In the summer of 1969, I walked into a potters studio and my heart, mind and body exploded. This was something I HAD to do no matter what. It was not a choice. I was being called. After Christmas 1969, I moved to New Hampshire and became a potter.
In 1975 my older son, Eben, was born. In 1988 my younger son, Kazdyn was born. Having my own children began to frame things differently. At this time I was also meditating a lot and learning to see my thought patterns and feel my emotional patterns. The ways I’d survived by disassociating were beginning to heal.
In 1983, my dad gave me his old computer, an Apple II+, and I was off into computer land. Another realm that I HAD to give myself obsessively to.
Somewhere around this time, I began to see that I was not a miserable isolated person. That I existed in a web of relationships that spread through time: forward, backward, and sideward. That all of these difficult and easy expressions in my life were intergenerational. That I was the recipient of the gifts of my ancestors.
Life began to be easier. More full of wonder. More full of understanding. More full of forgiveness.
Today, when people ask me what I do and I say I’m a potter and a computer consultant, it’s not uncommon for them to comment that it’s unusual for someone to be good at both the artistic and technical. I respond that “I’m honoring my mother and father. She’s a painter and he’s an engineer.
I was here in August before I went to Vermont to do a 300 mile hike of The Long Trail with my dog, Sherman. I promised my dad that I’d come back to visit after the hike, before I went south for the winter. We were here a couple weeks ago and had made our way to New Mexico where we were camping with no cell phone or internet service.
I went into Deming on Sunday and saw the message that mom was in the hospital. I talked with dad and asked him to send me messages as changes occurred. On Wednesday afternoon in Silver City I saw the message that she was headed back to Towsley and hospice was being arranged. Later on the phone I was told that the hospice nurse thought she’d be gone in a couple days.
I said I was driving back. After a couple phone calls and checking the road and weather maps, I went back to the park where we were staying, gathered the few things that were on the picnic table and hit the road heading for Chelsea. I was hoping to make the 1500 miles in 3 days. Didn’t know if I’d make it before she died, but wanted to try.
Wednesday night I heard from my sister, Sharon, that she was gone. We talked for a bit and then I kept on driving until 11pm. While my metabolism slowed down I was going through old and new photos of mom on my phone. The one’s I liked, I forwarded to Sharon to be printed for this memorial. There was one photo in particular that grabbed me
It reminds me of all the best times we had together. It’s taken at Luddington Beach where we went on vacation many times. The energy here fills me with the happy, playful, loving woman who is my mother.
I slept in short spurts that night and had a number of mom dreams. While waking up I was in a seminar from years ago when a participant asked about her overwhelming grief since her mom died. She said it’d been a couple years and she just couldn’t get past the sadness and loss.
The leader said that his mother had also died a few years back and that he’d seen that she wasn’t gone. That she lived in him. That the best way he could honor her was by honoring the best in her that had become the best in him.
And then in a flash I saw the many gifts she had given me. And the measure of them that has been passed on to my children. The intergenerational web of life.
This is what I want to thank you for mom: These ways of being that are some of the cornerstones of my life. Upon and around which I’ve built this wonderful life I enjoy.
Mom, thank you for your love of art and beauty. For being a painter. I remember looking at art books with you. Going to museums with you. Watching you paint.
• And so, I am an artist. I am a potter and sculptor.
• And so, Both of my sons are artists. One an illustrator and graphic designer. The other a video editor and photographer.
Mom, thank you for your love of nature. I remember being with you at the beach. On walks. In the garden where you went for connection and solitude. Watching birds and small critters at play. Allowing me to run free in the woods and fields around our house on Blair.
• And so, Nature has always been my touchstone when lost in the deepest darkness in life.
• And so, I am am a long distance hiker. Basking in being alone — all one — with the natural wildness of this earth.
• And so, one son love nature, hiking, photographing, the other enjoys nature, but is currently engaged in family and work.
Mom, thank you for your love of religious questioning and seeking. I remember your search for a way to approach the unknowable that worked for you. I remember the ways you participated in this inquiry and shared yourself with others.
• And so, I have questioned everything. My search for an inner sanctuary began when I was 12. I’ve traveled through many traditions and disciplines to find my way to spacious quietness.
• And so, I shared books and experiences that were transformational for me with you and had wonderful explorations of their source and meaning. Many times being surprised by a conversation that I didn’t think you’d be willing to have.
• And so, both of my sons have this seeking for truth bug.
Mom, thank you for being determined to pass on to you children less of the human disfunction than you received from your family. You shared this commitment to me in a conversation about your difficult childhood and your anger and violence when I was young. This was the breakthrough of my being able to see you not as my mom, but as a human being with her own life. Her own intergenerational inheritance. Her own emotional struggles. Her own process of maturing.
• And so, I have spend tens of thousands of hours inquiring into the nature of human disfunction. Meditating. Praying. Thinking. Envisioning.Participating in Rituals. Reading. All to understand the ways in which I can release my unwholesome ancestral patternings.
• And so, You were successful in passing on less of the burden than you received. I was successful in passing on less of the burden than I received. This is the intergenerational nature of our spiritual evolution together.
• And so, both of my son’s are firmly in this inquiry. The best part of this for me is being able to have conversations about our families intergenerational patternings. The good, bad and ugly. That these are open, honest, compassionate conversation is intergenerational spiritual evolution in action.
And mom, thank you for your commitment to your families health and well-being. I remember so clearly you and Adele Davis. Her book out on the kitchen counter while you made drinks, snacks, and meals with an intent to keep us healthy. Blending egg shells in smoothies to increase the calcium. I remember your life-long interest in the latest research into health and disease.
• And so, I have experimented with countless diets and fasts. Some have had profound effects on my well-being. I ran a raw-food healing retreat for a couple years. I continue to explore the latest research on lifestyle medicine and healing. I remember us sharing what we were learning with each other.
• And so, both of my sons grew up with this information and in their formative years rejected it. Now as adults. however, they have found their way back to these practices and principles on their own.
Thank you mom. You have left this earth. Yet these gifts I received from you are alive and well. They have given me the context to have a life worth living. One filled with wonderful friends and family. With glorious adventure. With simple living, filled with love and gratitude. Thanks for being my mom.
I love you. Wyn.
The blessing for me in spending 3 days writing this is the opportunity to bathe in the wholesome, loving, life affirming aspects of June Matthews being my mom. The attention polishing the stones. The brain is wired to remember difficulty and pain before ease and pleasure. It’s self-preservation wiring. This has brought the life affirming aspects of her life and our life together into a sharper focus. At present, they are brighter than the unwholesome aspects. Another gift…
Sharing a shortened version of the above with the 50-60 people who were there was powerful. Saying it out loud. I could feel her presence in me while I spoke.
The family went out to dinner afterwards. Then everyone but Sharon drove home. She left the next morning after a couple post memorial items were complete and we had a chance to connect again.