Memorial Service for My Mom – Beth Purcell in Wabash, Indiana

July 18th, 2023 – Post #90

I’m not sure why I’m so hesitant to sit down and write this. Maybe there is a sense of finality in posting the videos from the funeral service in my mom’s hometown that I didn’t have about sharing the one from St. Louis.

It’s been more than two months since she died, and I haven’t watched the footage from the memorial in Indiana. That span of time is such a blur. Technical difficulties kept me from dealing with the DVD, because I didn’t have a way to transfer that to YouTube, so I had to get it switched to an external hard drive, which somehow split it into seven chapters instead of one.

Rather than scramble to fix it and stress over technology I know nothing about, I think I will just post this like a miniature mini-series. That way you can take bathroom breaks.

Get some buttered popcorn – Beth would like that.

Each of the seven segments is about five minutes long.

I haven’t seen this yet, so I guess I will just upload the footage one by one and maybe share my reaction as I go. Feel free to skip ahead and pass my comments.

Here goes… I’m taking a deep breath here; unsure I want to deal with seeing this yet…

False start – I had more technicalities to overcome; but it helped me be less emotional seeing the framed thumbnails looking like a convenience store security camera, because of the angle and color scheme. I can just picture some shoplifter coming by in the background, swiping some flowers or something…

Maybe that’s not funny for something as somber as a funeral; but I think it would have made our Beth E. laugh. Okay, without further ado, here’s part one…

Part 1 of 7 – Memorial Service for my mom, Beth Purcell

Okay – so that was a very slow start… It cracks me up how slow we are to get settled into place. We’re like a herd of cats sometimes.

Here’s a little commentary:

The guy up front is Dave Phillips. He and his wife keep me fed on their leftovers a lot of times when I’m in Wabash – sometimes he even shares his chocolate, a sure sign of generosity. I’ve been known to take over his chair more than a time or two, just to see if I can get him to be grumpy.

For years, before I really knew him, I’d refer to him as, “The Funeral Guy”; because any memorial service I attended, he seemed to be the one speaking. I was on my way to his house, just a few blocks away, when my mom called me to tell me she’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, two years ago. He and his wife have been a comfort to me during this journey.

One of the stories that has been passed down through our family is that back in September of 1992, my grandpa, Woody (my mom’s dad), was at a funeral for his brother-in-law. Dave spoke, and after the service my grandpa approached him and said, “Do you know what you’re gonna say at my service?”

I can just picture Dave smiling and responding with the words I’ve heard rehearsed so many times, “Sure I do, Woodrow. I’ve got it all planned out.”

Grandpa Woody told him, “Well, I want it to be about trees.”

That night my grandma found Grandpa Woody on the floor. I can still picture my mom standing outside our bathroom door that morning in her pink bathrobe, looking like she needed something to hold her up. She could barely get the words out, “Grandpa Woody died last night.”

I could barely take them in.

Dave did the funeral for us a few days later. It was about trees, and there we were, all sitting in rows. He had little tree seeds in his pockets, which he hadn’t had the chance to plant back in his woods, where we loved to roam. My mom liked to say she was just waiting for one of those trees to pop up in the middle of the cemetery someday.

Okay, here’s Part 2…

Part 2 of 7 Beth Purcell Funeral Service – Wabash, IN – Grandstaff-Hentgen

In Indiana, we’d gather around the kitchen table and swap commentary on the who, what, how, and where – and especially the why. Our family is famous for the quote, “I don’t know why they’d want to do it that way – that’s not the way I would have done it!”, spoken in a nasally voice. But that’s a side note…

I just wanted to say, watching this makes me want to make my comments, the way we would have done around the table, especially my mom and her siblings. My cousins and I would laugh, and later repeat their expressions, and that’s one of the things I miss most.

As I watched this, I was humored to see that bug crawling across the screen and how that would have distracted my mom and amused me. She always referred to moths as “Millers”, which was ironic, since that’s her maiden name. There were times when I’d hear her from the other room, saying, “I hate you! You Millers! Get out of here!” I would be in hysterics, coming to see her swat at a moth, thinking it was good that no relatives bearing that name happened to be visiting. lest they think she was being less than hospitable.

Once, my parent’s house was going through a particularly long bathroom renovation, which was extended even more, because of a leak. In the midst of it, my mom suddenly exclaimed, “I hate you! Get out of my house!” I hope the construction workers realized she was yelling at a moth flying out of her pantry, instead of them. Either way, I’m pretty sure it helped speed up the process of their finishing date.

There were so many times when she’d already become unsteady on her feet, when I thought she’d fall, trying to clap a moth between her hands. I remember watching in horror once, about a year ago, as she stalked a Miller, bouncing off the oven and into the wall, nearly showering herself with spice bottles, in an effort to end its little life. I tried to tell her it wasn’t worth a broken hip to kill a bug; but she couldn’t help herself.

Even to the end, lying in her hospital bed on Hospice, she would fixate on those Millers, if one flew her way, insisting I kill it. I could tell just by her eyes, that she could think of nothing else, until her nemesis was annihilated.

Okay, enough of that. Here are the scriptures Dave shared:

Psalm 23

(A Psalm of David.) The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and
I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Psalm 100

(A Psalm of praise.) Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.

Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and
not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

My mom could still repeat that Psalm, even when she could barely speak and couldn’t remember for sure where she was.

Matthew 11:28-30

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

I think one of the main reasons I feel a sensation of relief that’s stronger than my sadness is the knowledge that my mom is finally at rest. She truly labored, even unto death. To look at pictures from those last few hours, and see the contrast, after her soul had left her body, and the peace upon her face, helps put things into perspective.

Last night, I removed the oxen yoke from over the fireplace that my parents bought from a secondhand store back in the early seventies, when my dad graduated from law school. The knotty pine and mantel look so empty. I feel like I’m in a foreign place.

Lifting that yoke down from the hooks in the ceiling gave me a picture of the yoke of this world’s To Do Lists being lifted off of my mom, and I’m thankful she can finally be at rest from all of her labor.

Along with that, as I look at the surroundings of the living room, without my mom, or her hospital bed, I think back on the many times when I didn’t know how we could manage much longer. There were sometimes when I was just plain scared to stand up, because I felt like my heart would give out, when it would be skipping beats from lack of sleep. The realization of knowing I couldn’t keep caring for her (with that kind of intensity) was a sort of severe mercy that made letting her go less painful. I felt it was crucial to her care that I outlive her, and yet I didn’t think I could survive that pace too much longer.

Okay, sorry to be a distraction – back to the video. Here’s Part Three, where he was talking about comforting one another in the grief process…

Part 3 of 7 Memorial for my mom – Beth Elaine Miller Purcell of Kirkwood, MO in her hometown of Wabash, IN

To give a little more background, the shawl my mom is wearing was made by her cousin, Marilyn Moore, who had also made one for my mom’s mom, Libby, which she wore in her casket as well.

Part 4 of 7 Beth Purcell of St. Louis, Missouri – Funeral Service in Wabash, Indiana – May 2023
Part 5 – Beth Elaine Miller Purcell Second Funeral Service – Wabash, IN May 2023 – Dave Phillips of Friends

We were in the habit of singing with my mom this past year. The song, “Be Still My Soul,” which is a hymn that has a lot of meaning to me. I didn’t know if she was familiar with it; but I remember the way it blessed me when she gasped out, somewhere during the first few lines, “That’s my song!”

By the way, when Dave refers to the Stouffer Sisters, he’s speaking of my mom’s mom and her sisters, who used to gather on their family’s porch next door to Dave’s (before he lived there) and sing together. Dave was often invited to our family reunions, and I believe the last time the last four Stouffer Sisters made an appearance, they were wearing white shirts, that set off their white hair, and read a true-blue statement, “Born in America a long, long time ago.”

Part 6 – Beth Elaine (Miller) Purcell Funeral Service – Be Still My Soul – Grandstaff-Hentgen May 2023

One day just before my mom passed away, she spoke of how she really hadn’t cried. My sister assured her that it was okay to cry, and my mom responded she knew that; but just couldn’t. It was just a short time later that my mom’s sweet friend, Perry, showed up with her little boom box, a Ziploc bag of CDs, and a playlist of songs she wanted to share with my mom.

I think the first one was “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus”, which must have struck a chord, because my mom began shedding tears at the sound of those words. She wasn’t one to complain of her suffering; but Jesus knew what she’d been through.

Part 7 – Beth Purcell Memorial Service – May 2023 – David Phillips – Grandstaff-Hentgen

So that’s the service. Afterwards, we drove to the cemetery, following the course that runs by the house my mom was raised in, along with the places where both sets of grandparents lived.

To see a video of the beautiful setting where my mom is buried, you can click here. It’s literally surrounded by a Psalm Twenty-three type setting – a serene, green pasture.

Afterwards, we gathered for a meal, which included some of our favorite family recipes, and more stories. I think my mom would have had a good time at the gathering.

I’d like to especially thank Paula Gray and Joanie Younce for helping to coordinate the meal. It was a special gift to have my mom’s childhood Sunday School teacher, Joe Howard (who is now in his nineties), helping, too.

Everybody pitched in, which was a gift, because we were so worn out. Looking back now, it all seems like such a blur.

Life doesn’t seem to have slowed down much. There was a lot that got neglected during the course of my mom’s care. I still feel like I’m in catch up mode – working on writing projects and planning the final stages of my tiny house build. My dad is planning to sell the house and drastically downsize, so that’s been quite a project, considering they’ve lived there longer than I’ve been alive. In the meantime, I’ve been going back and forth between Wabash and St. Louis, trying to get my bearings in both places. Hopefully things will slow down soon, so I can have more time to catch up with people.

I want to thank you for all of the love and support you all have given. Much love, Jody

Jody

I'm not sure what to say here: I once got second place in a dog-look-alike-contest? I know how to fold a fitted sheet? I'm pretty much a poster child for social backwardness - at least as far as social media is concerned; but I have some stories I think I'm supposed to share and am attempting to do that here, in this space.

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