My mother was afflicted with one form of cancer or another for most of her adult life. She set her mind to defeating that, which she did, repeatedly. She was a multiple survivor. And when she learned that her latest cancer was incurable, her most selfish prayer was that she would live in health long enough to care for her husband so that he would never live in a nursing home. She set her mind on his care with determination and kept her promise to him, as she kept all of her promises.
This didn't surprise us, because my mother could do anything she put her mind to. This is a statement of fact. Anyone who knew her knew that she was a superb cook; a musician with a beautiful singing voice; a most excellent seamstress and craftswoman. She read voraciously. She solved cryptograms for fun. Every bit of craftwork or cookery she entered into the State and county fairs took home a ribbon. She managed the bookwork of her husband Terrel's farm. She taught classes at Clemson Extension. When she worked at Bendix and Amphenol, her job in quality assurance was to do re-work and correct other people's mistakes. She was so meticulous that she often corrected damaged screenprinting under a microscope, using a brush made of two hairs. I've seen her do it, and it looked impossible.
And when she did these things she made a point of showing you what she was doing, telling you how meticulous it was, and exactly how it was done. And you didn't dare ask her what's in a recipe unless you really wanted to know. People who knew her casually were sometimes put off by that. A woman that Mom worked with once told me that when she first met Mom she thought Mom was stuck up. That woman was Bea Barkley, who became Mom's very best friend, and who is in Columbia, unable to attend this service. She became Mom's best friend when she realized, much later, that Mom wasn't stuck up, she was teaching. There wasn't a thing that she knew how to do that she kept to herself. You simply could not be around her without learning something, even if you didn't know you were learning.
And she taught us that we could also do anything we put our minds to. She taught us that selflessness is its own reward. She taught us how to suffer with dignity and grace, and without a hint of self-pity. Toward the end, Peggy asked Mom if she was scared. Mom said, "No, not at all. I'm impatient, and God is dragging his feet." With her very last breaths, she taught us how to die... with faith, and hope, and joyous optimism.
As I said, she could do anything she put her mind to. This is a statement of fact. I don't know how long I will live, but I will begin and end every day very proud that, of all the things she chose to do, she chose to be our mother.
Monday, March 24, 2008
The best woman in the world is dead.
My mother, Lillian Norma Rosenbluth Cribbe, died at 1:30AM on Saturday. She was, quite simply, exactly what a woman was intended to be. I was privileged to deliver the following eulogy this evening: