Thursday, November 30, 2017


The news came in on a phone call from my youngest sister, two days before Thanksgiving. My mother had passed away, silently in her sleep. Her caretaker at the assisted living facility she'd been living at for the past five years had gone in twice to check on her thinking she just needed a little extra rest. Her dementia had left her without her words and taken away much of who she was. The real Florence would have been up way before her caretaker, made her bed, cleaned the kitchen and ironed the dish towels without thinking that maybe just a cup of coffee and donut might have sufficed. She was a ball of energy.
We all knew this day was fast upon us but it still came with a jolt and a tear.  We had spent more than a decade watching the woman who had raised us lose the bits and pieces that defined her. She finally ran up against the one thing that could slower her down.
Her funeral was this past Tuesday. As her oldest son I had the honor of doing her eulogy.
Each of us siblings had a similar story to tell about our Mom. At least once during each of our childhood school days in our grade school or junior high cafeteria we'd end up being the recipient of one of our Mom's favorite practical jokes. She'd have packed a piece of fake fruit along side our peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Some of her fake fruit would be just realistic enough to fool us for that split second before we took a bite sending our tablemates into hysterics.  Returning home she'd try her best to control her laughter but there was no mistaking the shaking of her shoulders as she swallowed a giggle at what she'd done. Being a prankster was just in her DNA. There was a part of her that never left Neverland. The smile on her face that sat between her pair of deep-set dimples was rarely missing and everyone who ever had the pleasure of meeting our Mom couldn't help but smile back.
At a restaurant with strangers or working the counter at the Milk Depot or Light Haus her warmth and humor were the tools of her profession. Sorency could change a day of drudgery to a laugh out loud moment that made your cheeks hurt and your heart burst with undying loyalty. She instantly became everyone's best friend.
No one knew this more than our Dad. Our parents weren't outwardly affectionate; they were German. They didn't walk around hand-in-hand or shower each other with the typical outward displays of affection but there's photograph after photograph capturing my Dad with a look of complete devotion, his eyes brimming with love for our Mom.
Just before my Dad died he bought my Mom a new wedding ring, one he couldn't have afforded when they were first married. We buried him clasping her old ring in his folded hands so he'd never loose the touch of her.
I know my Mom considered herself to be just a little ol' farm girl with not much of an education. She suffered from malapropisms. She could never get it straight exactly where we lived. It was always Heritee Heights rarely was the correct Heritage Heights a part of her lexicon, but she was so much smarter and creative than she gave herself credit for. She was bold. She didn't settle for average or the norm. When we were young she decorated our living room in pink and black with bold floral drapes inspiring us all to step outside the norm and expected. Every year she came up with a new design for felt ornaments for our Christmas tree that she'd sit sewing together after the rest of us had gone to bed. She was industrious. She took in ironing because she could never sit still. She cheated mercilessly at Euchre and laughed with delight every time she got caught. She was generous to a fault selling her blood at donor banks month after month so she could buy us extra gifts for Christmas.
With dementia the process of leaving is stretched out, sometimes painfully. My father's heart attack took him from us without the opportunity to tell him how much we loved him. With my Mom we had to watch as she slowly slid away forgetting our names and losing her ability to speak but she never lost her smile. I'll miss not being able to kiss her forehead, or laugh at her mispronunciations. I'll miss her joy of the holidays. I'll miss her German Sweet Chocolate cake. But she left all of us a traveling suitcase filled with goofiness, a sense that being different is better than being average and that all of us are special and no one is exempt from a good laugh.
Here's the rooster, here's the pullet and here's the hen. Now what did I say this was?
I know my mom isn't resting in peace, she couldn't, but she's out there baking Christmas cookies, charming strangers and down on her hands and knees playing with the world's children, teasing them and giving them a little tug on their noses with her little pullet joke.


  1. The most beautiful eulogy ever. Thank you Lee!😙

  2. Lee, I never met your beautiful mother but reading this stunning eulogy, now I feel I know her. I love what you wrote, capturing the heart and soul of a woman who loved you with all of hers. I am so sorry and I send you, Rick and Emmy my love and prayers. What a beloved son you always will be. Hands on, Mary Lou

  3. With tears in my eyes I read this wonderful tribute to an amazing mother. I wish I could have known her. I am so sorry for your loss. All mother's aspire to have their child love and respect them this much. Sending you, Rick and Emma my love.

  4. Been catching up on NYC and Europe but this is the real story about real life. Both my parents had varying degrees of dementia and it is hard to watch someone disappear without leaving. This is a lovely tribute and the perfect read to end my night. Have a wonderful time in Italy etc.