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Sincerely, Susan: Celebrating Life and Valentine’s Day

Susan E. Kendrick • Jan 30, 2019 at 4:30 PM

Dear Readers ~

Two weeks ago, I was proudly sharing with a friend how blessed I was that both of my parents were still alive. I knew that it was going to happen sooner or later, but I am just not sure that anyone is quite ready to lose a parent. Three days shy of her 84th birthday, on January 10, Mama succumbed to the Alzheimer’s that had taken control of her. She had not spoken or walked in years, but was still able to eat by opening her mouth like a little bird when the spoon was near her face and then chewing forever ... literally.

Daddy still had her home and, with the assistance of “his ladies,” they had a daily routine that kept Mama as comfortable as possible. Daddy continued to often tell her how beautiful she was and how much he loved her. I have never witnessed such love as that of my parents, who were my role models for a marriage. Their union was truly a love story that needs to be written one day.

Mama’s obit was the first that I had ever written. How do you do it when grieving so that it honors her memory? How do you do it so that nothing that was important to her is omitted? And, how do you sit with the funeral home representative and answer all the questions that inevitably need answering?

We had Mama’s Celebration of Life on her birthday and I had the honor of participating in part of that service. To begin, the packed church sang “Happy Birthday” to her. Four years ago, I wrote a poem that was put into a book I presented to Mama for Mother’s Day that year. Little did I know I would be using it for part of her eulogy. You may read it and view pictures at Lasting Memories ~ Elizabeth “Bibbie” Spires Kendrick or on You Tube: https://youtu.be/Zn3cfxQf-NE. You can also read it below my signature in today’s column.

Mama had many gifts. Knowing that Robert Kennedy had 12 children, my father once shared, “If I had all the money that Robert Kennedy had, I would have had 12 children.” Without hesitation, Mama responded, “Not with me!” She had a great sense of humor.

She had the singing voice of a songbird and LOVED to dance. She also had a great sense of activity and tolerance with love for all our friends. The Kendrick address may have been the most popular in the neighborhood because my parents had the most children but it was always full of adventures and Mama seemed to usually enjoy (or accept) them.

She was a great cook who loved her birthday and bridge groups. She was also resourceful. When an antique glass lamp shade that belonged to my great-grandmother, Floss, was accidently broken, she used S&H Green Stamps to replace it. Two weeks went by before Daddy asked, “Does that lampshade look different to you?” No comment. We have laughed about that for years.

My childhood was a happy one growing up within the four walls on Sunset Terrace in Forsyth, Georgia. My father worked for himself as Mama tried to juggle her active six kids’ schedules. And though my parents loved us Kendrick children dearly, their love for one another was evidently first in each other’s hearts. They kept their promise on their wedding day in 1953 to love, honor and cherish one another ‘til death. That is a remarkable example as I believe my former husband would have placed me in a nursing home at the first signs of dementia!

In closing, I will share two stanzas that I added to my poem on the morning of her birthday prior to the Celebration of Life:

God has you now
In His open arms
It wasn’t hard
With your southern charms.

We know that you are
Happy, healthy and strong
And will continue to watch over us
From where you belong.

May God bless you and especially those couples who have honored Him by lifetimes of commitment and love. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sincerely,

Susan

Susan E. Kendrick is a Sunday Stories columnist who shares her insights and Southern humor each month in Sincerely, Susan. To correspond with Susan, email her at [email protected] Below is Susan’s Mother’s Day tribute to her mom from four years ago, with the two new stanzas she added for the eulogy.

A little sister was born
To your big brother Jake
“Bibbie” you became
“Elizabeth” he couldn’t make.

Jacksonville, FL was your home
The daughter of Stella & Joe
Meeting friends at the beach
A whole weekend you’d blow.

Cigarettes were snuck
With your sorority sisters
Had your parents known
You may have received blisters.

A beauty you were
Became apparent very early
An athlete you weren’t
No, Mama, you were girly.

Miss Andrew Jackson High
Miss Champlain Lake
Mrs. H. C. Kendrick, Jr.
A HUGE undertake!

A Florida fan you were
Until you married Daddy
A Georgia fan you became
Whole-heartedly and steady.

To Forsyth you moved
When Daddy graduated U-G-A
“Where have you brought me?!”
You soon loved it and stayed.

“Jesus Loves Me”
You first taught me to sing
GOD, family, & manners
Were the most important things.

Straight from tricycle to bicycle
With your help
No need for a helmet
“Hang on!” you’d yelp.

Three girls and three boys
Six kids in all
Raising us may have
Begun your slow downfall.

For all the boo-boo’s
We inevitably would find
Your band aids and kisses
Put the hurt behind.

Before going to bed
We’d kneel & pray each night
You’d read, sing, say, “Sweet dreams.”
Then turn off the light.

“I love you,” was heard often
And gazing at stars under the trees
You, Mama, did not lack
For imaginative qualities.

Softball in the front yard
Basketball in the back
Grand Central Station
And you liked it like that.

Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts
MYF, Homecoming Courts
Debate Team, Cheerleading
4-H, One-Act Plays, & Sports.

Football and tennis players
You had reared
Some swimmers and basketball
For all of us you cheered.

“Have you made your bed?”
“Is your homework complete?”
“What time is the ballgame?”
“Where do we meet?”

“Have you cleaned your room?”
“Are the dishes finished?”
“Have you practiced your piano?”
“Your cake looks delicious!”

To the library you’d take me
In books my imagination soared
Thank you Bibbie’s taxi service
‘Til I finally drove more.

Our household was lively
Dining, dancing, & singing
In loud awkward harmony
You allowed fun while pretending.

Every summer in the station wagon
To the beach we would pile
“Are we there yet?”
Was asked w/ many passing mile.

The limit was pushed
Your humor was tested
Stray dogs, gerbils, & critters
But you rarely protested.

Parties we sometimes had
When you and Daddy left town
Upon returning home
We’d get a BIG frown.

Six red roses from our backyard
We’d pick on Mother’s Day
To church we’d wear them proudly
“How lovely,” people would say.

From the church to a restaurant
We may appear
“Your children are well mannered,”
You parents would hear.

We all grew up; married
All but one reproduced
A 3rd & 4th generation has followed
At Kendrick soirées we’re introduced.

Though the years took its toil
Your heart never waned
Only the Alzheimer’s
Has cursed your once feisty brain.

You will look at me now
And often giggle and smile
But the mother I knew
Is like a sweet child.

You’re still beautiful to me
But more so to Daddy
And precious to us all
We’re certainly not ready.

Please stay with us Mama
For as long as you can
Until GOD needs you more
In His perfect promised land.

God has you now
In His open arms
It wasn’t hard
With your southern charms.

We know that you are
Happy, healthy and strong
And will continue to watch over us
From where you belong.

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