Tag Archives: funeral

Honoring My Aunt Joan

18 Mar

I was reluctant to write a post about the very recent death of my Aunt Joan, my father’s sister. She requested and had a very small funeral on March 13, one day after her death—there were just 10 of us. I’m sure she did not want to draw attention to her demise from emphysema.  My sister and my aunt and cousins (from the “other side” of the family) shared sentiments and sadness via phone calls and e-mails as we grieved. As I thought about her and our relationship, I recalled mentioning her in a few posts and even giving her a spotlight when I wrote about my Other Mothers . I soon felt compelled to share my thoughts about her and honor her with a post.

After a complicated kinship with my aunt: living in the same neighborhood for most of my childhood, sharing holiday celebrations, family feuds that lasted years, we settled into a comfortable and reciprocal relationship. After my father died, I could not wait to sit with her and make sure I knew details of his childhood and early adult years. At age 23, I was eager to have adult conversations with my dad, to get to know him on a different level, but it was too late. Aunt Joan was the perfect substitute. And, she enjoyed reminiscing.

We continued weekly phone conversations until just a few weeks ago. While I was growing up, she had the unfortunate distinction of being obstinate. She did things her way, the right way. As her disease progressed, she seemed to become more mellow and positive. And, she gave advice with compassion and without judgment. If I told her I was frustrated with my son’s random and unruly behavior, she told me how my cousin acted as a child and what she did. She provided that “motherly wisdom.” When she told me about some strange health issues, I asked her if the doctors conferred with each other on her medication. She later credited me with saving her life because the doctors had mistakenly prescribed medications that should not be taken together. I provided that “daughterly care.”

While she was distraught over my mom’s illness and death, she did not heed my mom’s request that she quit smoking. That remained a sore point during my mom’s last few years. Her diagnosis of emphysema 8 years ago gave her no choice but to quit smoking and shocked her into the reality of what she had done to herself. I am glad she did not choose to be angry at herself and instead just accepted the fate she brought on.

A few weeks after starting my blog, I told her about it. Honestly, I was nervous she would be offended that I chose to write about my mom and not her brother. Since she never became comfortable with technology, I printed and mailed her the posts I had written. Her response overwhelmed me—she loved what I was doing. She immediately understood the need I had to explore my bond with my mom. Her mom, my Grandma Lena, lived to be 93 years old and she still thought about and missed her every day.

So, another void opened with this passing of one of my “other mothers.” I almost did not write about her and now I can’t stop. This is just my point, we sometimes wait too long to think about people who have been a part of lives forever and the impact they have had on us. Yet, it is never too late to appreciate them—and even write about them.

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Another Celebrity Inspiration: Clive Davis’s tribute to his mom as he eulogizes Whitney Houston

20 Feb

I must first admit that I was glued to the television yesterday to watch Whitney Houston’s funeral. For the past 8 days, many people, famous and not, have praised her voice and her songs.  Ever since she entered the music world, when she and I were both 16, I have been entranced. I was more obsessed with following her funeral than with many other celebrities who have died. Perhaps it’s because we share our age and New Jersey that I am particularly intrigued by her. I thought it was really neat that we were pregnant around the same time and years later her daughter attended the same day camp as many children from my area. I love the story one friend told about Whitney following the camp bus to make sure her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, was okay.

While watching and listening to the songs and speeches during the funeral, I thought of Whitney’s daughter and mother. And, then, Clive Davis gave a speech filled with deep understanding. I was struck when this older, very famous, successful and powerful man spoke about his mom dying at the age of 47, when he was a teenager. He said, “I’ve felt my mother’s guidance and she’s helped me throughout my life.” He told the audience and emphasized to Whitney’s daughter that his mom is always with him even to “this very day.” In sharing his personal history, he comforted Bobbi Kristina in a warm and endearing way. This motherless son expressed exactly how I feel as a motherless daughter.

It is a tribute to incredible parents that they can continue to guide us after they have died. Instead of letting anger or defeat get in the way, Clive Davis, a destitute orphan, found his mother’s voice inside of him. Without parental support, he attended NYU and Harvard Law School on full scholarships. He spoke about being a father figure to Whitney and, after reading about him, it seems like he has taken that role with many artists.

During this eulogy, he spoke directly to Whitney’s daughter advising her to always be proud of her mother.. He told her to remember that “She’ll forever be looking after you and will never let go of your hand.”

I love that thought—that even after your mom has died, she will hold your hand. That, in essence, is what I feel and why I write this blog. I am grateful to have had an incredible mother who, I feel every day, is looking after me. I hope that you feel the same or can create that feeling with someone in your life.

 

Citations:

“Clive Davis Biography – Facts, Birthday, Life Story – Biography.com.” Famous Biographies & TV Shows – Biography.com. 2012. Web. 19 Feb. 2012. http://www.biography.com/people/clive-davis-20740991.

“Whitney’s “raising the Roof” in Heaven, Clive Davis Says – Celebrity Circuit – CBS News.”Breaking News Headlines: Business, Entertainment & World News – CBS News. 18 Feb. 2012. Web. 19 Feb. 2012. http://www.cbsnews.com.