Thursday, September 28, 2006

Eyleen

EyleenLast week my mother, Orrie Eyleen Gill Edwards Brent, gently passed away at home. She was 87. She never liked her given first name, so she never used it. She was a bit spunky; she was Eyleen.

My sister and I were looking for a photo of her for her obituary and ran across this one. We had never seen it before but thought it perfect.

An obit can be found at the Richmond Times-Dispatch or here.

Below is a slightly improved version of the eulogy I managed to get through last Sunday.
Almost 60 years ago our family moved to Chase City. We did not know anyone; we had no relatives closer than Richmond. We were dreaded "come here's." But the people here - and especially in this church - embraced our family and Chase City became our home. We thank you.

After our father died, which was 25 years ago but seems sometimes like the-day-before-yesterday, Chase City welcomed our new step-father John Harper Brent. Some of you know that he was mother's high school sweetheart before she met our father. You welcomed him also, making their years together here truly Golden. We thank you.

Over the past year we were blessed to have wonderful ladies who looked after mother as her health declined. They entered our home as employees; they left as family. We thank you.

Most of us embody a set of contradictions. These contradictions are often the foundation of personality. Some of mother's contradictions you may know... and others you may not.

Mother's first priority was always her family. She did her best to spoil her children & grandchildren, with some success I might add. But while her family knew her as a sweet, loving mother and grandmother, we now understand that she had a secret life after we left home - a substitute teacher in the public schools. At least some of her students remember her to this day as Sergeant Edwards. Others have described her as "tough but fair." She would have liked that.

My sister and I never needed to subscribe to the local paper to learn what was going on in town. We had our mother. Mother was our connection to the Chase City Grapevine. I am sure you have heard of it. You may be part of it. But as much as she valued her role passing on the local news, when her hearing began to fail she refused to wear her hearing aid. We know how much she enjoyed conversation and her participation in the "talk of the town." Why she didn't want to use her hearing aid remains a contradiction - a mystery - to us.

Hair. Our mother seemed to have an abiding interest in hair. She was always getting her hair "done" or "fixed." I never had the courage to ask what that really meant. But it seemed to make her happy. Back in the 1960's she developed an interest in my hair, specifically its length. That interest continued into the 1970's. And the 80's. And the 90's. I have fond memories on my visits home of her trailing around behind me with scissors, just to give me a little trim.

Once you got her out of the house, mother loved to travel. She and Harper instilled the love of foreign places in my daughter, for which I am truly grateful. But mother's best trips were those that brought her back home. Malindi learned that lesson also.

Mother collected cookbooks and read them like novels. She warned my sister and me of dire consequences if her collection were to ever end up in a yard sale. And we believe her. She occasionally tried new recipes. But no matter how much they were praised we never saw them again. Like many good restaurants, and some not-so-good, mother had a menu that seldom changed. I still dream of lime congealed salad, with mixed fruit.

For some reason mother married not one but two electrical engineers. Dad graduated from UVA and Harper from Virginia Tech, both in 1940. It is good that mother was not much of a sports fan. She must have influenced my sister more than she knew. Sue married a Virginia Tech engineer, class of 1973.

Mother was a child of the depression and the privations of World War Two. She squeezed every dime and seems to have never thrown anything away. If you would open any closet in our house, look under any bed, or visit our basement you would understand. Our father and Harper were the same way. But unlike them mother was also a World-Class Shopper. Our father would talk of driving mother to Heaven - his term for Miller & Rhodes and Thalheimers. Mother's prize possessions then were her charge plates - for those who don't remember, the forerunner of credit cards. And how many people do you know that could recite their Sears credit card number by heart?

Shopper she was, she enjoyed most shopping for others. If there was one trait she had that I will always remember it was her desire to do for others. She seemed especially concerned that we were all well fed, very well-fed. And after the blood thinner she was taking often made her feel cold, she was concerned that those around her were cold also.

My sister remembers the time last winter when mother was in the hospital quite ill, flat on her back and hooked up to all sorts of machines. She asked Sue, "What can I get you?"

My nephew Kevin and his wife Heather remember the last time they saw Mother. She asked if they had eaten breakfast.

I remember the last thing Mother said to me two weeks ago. As she was being helped to bed she stopped to ask if I was OK. Knowing she would not hear, I just nodded, smiled, and gave her a thumbs-up sign.

So mother, this is for you. (Thumbs up)

2 comments:

Malindi said...

i can't wait til you have something happy to blog about. . . surely it's right around the corner!

Sandy McCoy said...

Bibb...I wish I had your way with words. I think your mother would have loved this!