I stopped sending mom a weekly letter earlier this year. I was told the letters sat in a stack, unopened and therefore unread.
So, a week ago today, October 7, I treated mom’s eulogy as a final, albeit indirect, letter to her.
No doubt mom is wondering why folks would take the time to be here on a Friday morning, but to Ralph and me, it is a sign of what Barbara meant to you, not just to us and our families. What she doesn’t have to wonder about is the reception she got from dad, who welcomed her with a “I’m sure glad you’re here.” That’s as it should be.
Mom was homemaker, but that tag came with an asterisk. She was mother, spouse, sister, friend, volunteer. The easy part today is to put our collective finger on the essence of Barbara. To my twin and me, she was a wonderful mother. To four grandchildren and three great grandchildren she was the grandma every kid hopes to have, even if in these past few years she didn’t get to know them as well as she might have liked, or them her. To most of you here, she was a friend, the kind who stood with you and by you. And above all, she was a wonderful spouse and companion to our late father.
For the two of us, she was caring but not doting, supportive without being overbearing. You know, raising twins, especially two over-active, occasional knuckleheads like the two of us had to be an ordeal. When we were kids playing hockey in the basement or roughhousing throughout her house, I would wonder why she would say, and in a pleasant tone of voice no less, ‘why don’t you boys go outside?’ In that vein, mom practiced a sort of flex-discipline. Ralph and I had plenty enough leash to play, explore and grow. When we got off track or had trouble with the difference between right and wrong, she pulled the leash, always gently and never too hard but a tug nonetheless. You never recognize it as a kid, but mom was teaching us the larger lessons of life to be caring, considerate and respectful. Just as she was.
But there was another angle to mom that still has Ralph and I chuckling. Those of you who teed it up with her at Miracle Hills golf course were likely on the receiving end of another of her teachings; her competitive streak. Ralph and I got a full dose of it, but in a good way. We knew no game of horse in the driveway with mom was ever done as long as she had at least one letter left. Her two handed set shot was killer. When we played softball in the makeshift diamond she helped carve out of a cornfield behind our house on north 63rd, you could count on mom to get a base hit. On the golf course, no putt was ever given. When we played pitch at the kitchen table, she was all in. But when the games were done, she was mom all over again.
This past week, my brother and I have had a lot to talk about in terms of Barbara, and we spent considerable time pouring over decades of family photos and memorabilia. We came across the pictures you’d expect; the two of us in matching outfits when we were peanuts, family vacations in Colorado and elsewhere, and mom’s own younger years with her parents Hank and Mildred, her brother Henry and her sister Patty and their families.
But as the stack of family photos grew, so did a second pile of pictures. In this stack went photographs of friends. Once Ralph and I flew the coop, friends became a focal point for mom and dad. There were pictures on cruise ships, group shots at parties, pre-golf poses on the first tee in California and Hawaii plus lots of other unidentifiable occasions. This is what mom loved; time with friends who were essentially her extended family.
I don’t want to overlook mom’s sense of volunteerism, and that includes her time spent with the Women’s Circle here at Dundee. I don’t know how many events such as this she served at or the volume of refreshments she helped prepare and serve, other than to say it was a lot. The thing about such volunteerism was that she never really talked about it; she just did it. Same for being a volunteer at Clarkson Hospital. She didn’t tout it, she just did it. That was mom’s way. So went another life lesson for us.
Now that she is gone, mercifully reunited with her friend and husband Ralph, it is up to the rest of the Bradleys, Bensons, Andersens and Pommers to take Barb’s quiet lessons and live those in our own lives. Easier said than done to be sure, but a worthy goal in itself.
So we want to thank you again for being here, not in sadness but in the joy of knowing Barbara at all. Thanks be to God.