Monday, February 20, 2017

Mom's Eulogy

Saying goodbye is, for real, the hardest thing I've ever had to do. 

It started with scattering Mom's ashes on Saturday. We drove up into the Catalina mountains. The clouds were ready to burst and the wind was howling. I just hoped we could get her scattered without much rain. 

We found a vista point that overlooked Tucson. It was perfect for her. You could see almost all the way to Mexico...had the clouds not been in the way. Mom would have loved this view. It felt right to put her ashes here. 

The wind was blowing like crazy. And the sky was threatening rain at any moment. We hiked down a bit and stood in a circle. Mom had a poem she wanted read. I knew in my heart there was no way I could read I gave it to cousin Bruce to read. After we all took a cup full of Mom and went our own way and had a moment with Mom.  I tried to say goodbye then, but no words would form in my mouth. She knew. I'm sure she knew. 

As I turned to walk back up the path, I got hit in the cheek with a rain drop. A big, wet, cold rain drop. Then another, and another. By the time we got to the top by the car, it was coming down hard. And it was cold. We posed for a quick photo and off we went. 

We stopped at a cafe to have a toast to mom...except we had nachos instead. Which she would have loved. 

Sunday we had her Celebration of Life at the Voyager. 150 of her friends showed up. It was almost standing room only...dozens of cookies were made and I didn't get a single one. 

The service was beautiful, it was long, but beautiful. No doubt Mom would have approved. We had a moment of open mic.  Never being sure if anyone would say anything, I was nervous about it. But person after person got up and expressed their love for mom. Each had a special little story. In fact, the Pastor told a story about when he knew he and mom would be life long friends. She had her gall bladder out and he went to visit with her. She SHOWED him her gall bladder. That became the joke of the day. Several people said they saw it...and a few were sad they had not. 

This Eulogy I wrote to be read at the service. The reader read it completely out of order and totally screwed up the flow...but the point got across all the same. 

Eulogy to Mom
Eulogy by her daughters, Jennifer Wraspir, Billie and Melanie
Our family would like to thank you all for being here today to celebrate the life of JoEllen, our mom. For those of you that knew JoEllen, she was not only the life of the party but often the reason for the party.  She used to always say to us kids "Don't be so serious, life is too short, just have fun".

We always knew what an amazing, generous and kind woman she was, and in these last several weeks since she passed, the outpouring of love and support has proven this to be true. Hundreds, (and that is not an exaggeration), of emails, texts, calls and messages have come to us kids. She redefined the phrase “social butterfly.” She’d be humbled at the outpouring of love, and yet secretly she’d be thrilled to know we were making such a fuss over her. Our one wish is that SHE knew she was so loved.

We probably don’t have to tell you our mother was a special woman. She embodied all of the attributes of a “perfect” mom. She was caring, thoughtful, hardworking, compassionate, loving, tough on us when we needed it and so much more.  It was so difficult to think of all of the words that described mom as a person and how much she meant to us. Our mom was our best friend, our idol and we looked up to her all of our lives. We swore as teenagers we would never turn out like mom. And now we’re proud to say we are our mother.

Mom was born on Nov 5, 1947 in Grant’s Pass, Oregon. She died on January 16th, 2017 surrounded by her family and friends. Her life, to put it mildly, was something else.

She was a career woman her entire life. She started working at the Boeing company in the late 70’s. She struggled in the “man’s world” of Boeing, but proved time and again a woman could do the job, and in some cases better than any man. She retired from the Boeing Company in upper management and was so proud of all her accomplishments during her time there. She would use her experiences there when giving advice to us as our own careers started taking off.

When mom and dad married in 1981, we added to our already large family, the even larger Wraspir family. We used to joke that we didn’t have a family tree, but a family hedge.

Mom cherished her family above all. And family to her was anyone from a real relative, to friends, to members of her community. Her house was always filled with friends and family. All of our friends called her “mom”, because she was like a mom to everyone. She would talk to anyone, and any dog, most likely she’d speak to the dog first…

She was the communicator for all of us. If you wanted to know anything about what was going on with someone in the family, you called mom. That’s not to say mom shared everyone’s secrets, but she was definitely in the know. And her family loved her back – tenfold. She was the one everyone called for advice because we knew she’d tell us how it was.  She was happy to dole it out and expected you to listen. And while we may not have followed all her advice over the years, we’ve discovered that she really did know what she was talking about.

Mom loved to cook. Together she and dad would try new recipes and taught us to be open to trying new things. Entertaining and having people to dinner was one of her favorite things. Any given weekend you could guarantee someone was coming to the house for dinner. And no one ever left hungry.

Mom and Dad loved to travel. They got the travel bug when Dad was transferred to Saudi Arabia in the late 80’s. That afforded them the opportunity to see the world. And see the world they did. Together they visited England, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand – to just name a few. And they traveled to every single state in the United States by RV. While they loved exploring other countries, they especially loved exploring their country.

The list of things mom loved is extensive. She loved to read, to sew, to quilt, to cook, and to play games on her iPad. She loved her animals. And she loved her Seahawks. If the Seahawks were playing you knew not to bother calling because you could guarantee she would not answer the phone.

We feel like we could spend all day speaking about mom. She was an amazing woman who taught us a lot. The most important lessons were not verbal; they were in her actions. We know we are the people we are today because of her influence and guidance.  She always worked hard, complained when she needed to and was there when you needed her. She was our mother, but also our best friend. We will miss her every day for as long as we live. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Always on my mind

I miss her.

I miss my mom.

I'm trying very hard to not be sappy all the time on FB, but I find I want to talk about her daily. She was such a fantastic woman (and complicated, and difficult, etc) that I feel like the world has lost someone special.

This week was all about preparing for her Celebration of Life in Tucson. I had to finish her eulogy and man that was hard. Writing a eulogy to express how much you loved her, what her life was like, and just what the world would be missing now was one of the hardest things I've written. I'll post it here eventually.

I also put together a photo movie to show at the Celebration. Oh boy...that was hard. And yet somewhat cathartic. I was mostly ok until I put the song mom wanted to it. I Can Only Imagine by MercyMe.  And boy Mercy Me was really what I was saying...the tears that came out were intense.

On Saturday of this coming weekend, we'll be scattering mom's ashes in the Catalina mountains too. I've assigned a family member to figure out where to do this. I'll assume that too will be difficult.

I keep telling myself that once I get past this coming weekend, and the last trip to AZ, things will get better. I do know that's not going to happen, in fact it may be the absolute opposite.

Yesterday, I met with a representative from the Neptune Society and officially signed up. The Neptune Society is a company that takes care of all the details related to your cremation. Mom and Dad had purchased the same plan and it was sure nice to just make one call and let someone else who knows what they're doing to do it. The added benefit is if I were to pass outside the US or some place other than home, they take care of that too.

The idea that I didn't have to worry about that was a great gift from my parents. I can only imagine that when my time comes, that I can give the same gift to my loved one.

It wasn't an expense I should have taken on right now, but I figured no time is really going to be a good time.

Monday, February 06, 2017

24 New Things

One of my goals this year is to do 24 new things...meaning something I've NEVER done before. I did this back when I turned 40 and was hard pressed to get 40, In fact, the day of my birthday that year I was at number 39. I was stuck. My office mate at the time, tossed a trisket on the floor and said, "Have you ever eaten a trisket off a dirty office floor?" #40 was hatched.

This time, I'd prefer to not put my life in my hands by eating a food item off the floor of my office. So I figured I need to do two new things a month to get my 24. I'm already behind.  I've only charted two new things. One I'd rather not have at all, but life is dealing lemons this year.

First New Thing
Being an executor of a will and dealing with someone's estate.

Second New Thing:
Home food delivery.

It's this second one, I'd like to discuss.

I polled FB to determine which of my friends had tried any of the hundreds of companies out there offering food delivery. The responses were all over the place. I had a couple of requirements that I needed the company to have.

1. They had to offer a 2 person serving option. Most offer 4 or more servings.
2. They had to offer a low cal and/or low carb option
3. They had to offer enough options for each week

After some research I ended up with Home Chef. They had everything I was looking for.

I've had about a half dozen means from them. 2 are delivered each week. All of them, so far, have been fantastic and super easy to cook. I've added them all to my cooking blog, so go take a look.

The nay-sayers are asking why I would spend "so much money" on such a frivelous thing. Here's the thing, it's not frivilous. I'd be spending the $$ on groceries anyhow. In addition, I'm not wasting as much. They deliver EXACTLY the amount you need to make the meal. I don't have, what I call, useless leftovers hanging around. In the long run, I think I'm saving money by not tossing out so much food.

The other thing this is doing for me is it's getting my cooking again.

I've cancelled the service for the next couple of weeks as I'll be traveling to Tucson again. But as soon as I get back, I'm back at it.

Parisian Bistro Steak w/ dauphinoise potatoes and green beans

 Steak Wellington with roasted carrots and mushroom demi-glace

BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

Friday, February 03, 2017


I'm a bit stunned that it's only been 3 weeks since Mom passed. It feels like it's been a lifetime.

I'd love to say things are "better" and in some ways they are, but truthfully it's like I have a second job. Dealing with closing an estate is a lot of work.

I've been uncovering interesting things with Mom's world. Most have made me slightly disappointed in her not feeling like she could talk to us kids about what was what. But whatever. It is what it is.

I've booked my flight to Tucson for the last trip and Celebration of Life. Her friends there are doing all the arranging and I really don't have to do too much. I was momentarily bothered by decisions they were making without checking with me, but then I realized this Celebration is FOR them, not so much for me or our family.

I'm working through the list of things to do. Learning a lot and feeling stressed over getting it completed.

As for me, I'm doing ok. I have my moments and find I really am not liking nights. When I lay my pillow on the bed is when my brain starts to miss mom more than ever. I start to think of things like, "I can't call her to tell her what goofy thing Linus did today." Or "I can't call her to bitch about work." Or I can't call all.

It dawned on me the other night that death is, in fact, final. I knew this logically. And when I say it out loud it sounds ridiculous, but the realization of it is just heartbreaking.