Eulogy for Rosemary

My mom’s memorial service was yesterday. Pfoutz Valley UMC was packed – it’s not a big church, but still, we had to bring out extra chairs. It was an altogether lovely tribute to her – we think she’d have been pleased and possibly even impressed.

My sister and I worked on the eulogy  together, and her husband was kind enough to read it for us, because we each knew we couldn’t get through it without blubbering. Here it is:

# # #

About ten years ago, we asked our mother to start writing down some of the stories and memories she’d like us to have. We asked her to include certain stories we had grown used to hearing, and to recount what it was like when she was a child. Lucky for us, she obliged, and we rediscovered the document recently. This made it easier for us to prepare a reflection of our mother’s life.

Mom was born on November 23, 1939, the youngest of five children to Pusey and Mary Losch. She arrived seven years after her next oldest brother, George, joining Doll, John, and Eleanor. She was delivered by Dr Harold Gelnett, the uncle of her future husband, Larry, in a small rural community called Pine Swamp in Juniata County.

Pusey moved the Losch family around a lot when Mom was little. After World War II, they moved to Millerstown, to a house with no electricity, plumbing, or central heat. They carried in buckets of water and wood for the cook stove, used a kerosene heater, and had an outhouse. As an adult, she would explain her extreme dislike of camping by saying, I did all of that when I was a kid because we had to — why would I choose to do that FOR FUN??

Despite spending her early years in a house with no conveniences, she had such fond memories of her family. They were a musical bunch: They all sang and played multiple instruments. They even had a family band! “Pop Losch and his Family” played for local square dances and had a live radio program on WKVA in Lewistown. Music continued to be a big part of Mom’s life, both vocal and instrumental, and she encouraged both of us in our musical pursuits — teaching us to sing harmony, starting us early on the piano, and driving us to private lessons. She sang and played in the band in high school. As an adult she sang in the church choir, and she played the oboe in the Greenwood Community Band.

Our mother was the first of her family to go to college, and was a proud graduate of Susquehanna University. Never one to squander an opportunity, she double-majored in Chemistry and Biology, and minored in English, and earned her teaching certificate.

Mom was a talented seamstress (she gives her sister, Doll, credit for inspiring her to learn), and sewed most of her own clothes and many of ours throughout our youth. She also loved cars, especially hot rods (there are three pages devoted to her cars in the memoirs she wrote). In addition to science, she taught internal combustion engines to three vo-tech classes full of skeptical boys in Reading. She loved the story about how she had driven our dad’s ‘59 Chevy, which had “trophied” in drag races, to work one day, and ended up drag racing, and beating, a car full of her vo-tech students, earning their respect for the rest of the year.

Mom and Dad married in 1963. Meg was born in 1967, they purchased a farm in Pfoutz Valley in 1968, and moved from Mechanicsburg back to the country. Betsy was born shortly after. We grew up near many cousins, aunts and uncles, and our grandparents, and were enriched by being part of this small, tight-knit community.

Mom was a volunteer with many local organizations. She was an active leader in this very church. She led Girl Scout and 4-H troops. She was elected to the Greenwood School Board and led the District through the somewhat controversial consolidation of two elementary schools into one. She supported Dad when he became a county commissioner. She and Dad liked to socialize—they had lots of friends and hosted their share of parties, from class reunions and Halloween parties to the monthly rotating gathering of the Card Club.

She spent lots of time renovating and maintaining our old brick farmhouse—painting, wallpapering, and refinishing furniture. She remarked, once you finish the last room, it’s time to start over with the first room! She also observed that if a married couple could hang wallpaper together and not end up divorced, theirs was a solid marriage indeed. (Mom and Dad hung a LOT of wallpaper.) She loved antiques and always let us know where a certain chair or serving dish had come from, so we would feel connected to our past. She also made sure we knew our genealogy. Though we moved away in 1985, our roots here run deep.

Shortly after Dad died in 1982, Mom returned to teaching, this time in the Harrisburg City Schools. She also got her Realtor’s license and sold real estate for a number of years. After Meg left for college, she sold the farm and moved herself and Betsy to Hershey, where Betsy finished high school. Mom was very proud of having put both her daughters through Dickinson College and took delight in having accomplished her goal of raising responsible, productive citizens.

Mom shared with us the high value she placed on accurate grammar, spelling, and punctuation. She loved wordplay and crossword puzzles, and treasured a good pun and quick wit. She was a good writer. She wrote a few clever poems, of which she was quite proud, but the best one was “O, the Cussedness of Winter.” We have included it in the program.

No one hated cold weather as much as our mom did. She put significant effort into her extreme dislike of winter, and rejoiced each year on the Winter solstice. So just imagine her delight in February 2007, when after meeting Bob Fried, he invited her to spend as much time as she wished with him at his place on Florida’s Gulf Coast! She jumped at the chance and, much to our surprise, was on the next airplane out of Harrisburg on a one-way ticket.

For the past ten years, Mom and RJ had a lot of fun and made many memories. They enjoyed talking shop about cars and real estate, went on cruises, visited the beach, hosted dinner parties, attended concerts, went out to eat, attended family reunions, and fed the wild birds and the deer together. RJ even accomplished the impossible and got our mother to ENJOY CAMPING! RJ, Mom loved these years with you. We will forever be grateful for the comfort and companionship you brought her, and the fun you two had together. We know your friends in Harrisburg and Fort Myers will be sorry to hear of her passing.

Our mother is survived by five grandsons. Seth, Ross, Eli, Jae and Kisung, your grandma — or “Bammy Rose” — was so delighted by you. She took immense enjoyment from watching you grow up.

She also leaves behind her sister, Doll, her brother-in-law, Troupie, and her sister-in-law, Annamae. In addition, our dad’s sisters, Anne and Cathy, loved her like she was their own sister, and please know, she returned the sentiment many times over. She was proud to be a Beaver through marriage and grateful to have been so thoroughly welcomed into this family.

Before there were daughters or grandsons, there were a whole lot of nephews and nieces who looked up to their Aunt Rosie. We know you share our loss. Beyond her immediate family, there are in-laws, step-relatives, and countless friends, neighbors, colleagues, students, and classmates whose lives she touched.

In the memoirs she wrote, Mom recalled that she experienced frequent illness in her childhood. She had pneumonia 10 times by the age of 4, and her parents hadn’t been able to get their sickly daughter to church to have her baptized. One time when she was very sick in bed, with her mother by her side, she had this experience:

“Jesus appeared in the room. I sat up in bed and held up my arms the way a child does when she wants to be picked up. I said, ‘Mother, there’s Jesus!’” Our Grandma Losch, fearing her baby was going to die, made arrangements to have her baptized at home. Mom wrote, “From then forward, I knew I was His….It would be an understatement to say that I am grateful it happened.”

Well, Mom’s life came full circle, as pneumonia was the thing caused her final hospitalization in July. But we believe it’s likely that she saw Jesus just as she had as a child, waiting with outstretched arms to welcome her into Heaven, where she joined her parents, her in-laws, her first husband – and our dad – Larry, and her siblings, Eleanor, John and George.

# # #

Edited to add: Cousin Mary “Mame” Miller and her daughter Nikki also made lovely remarks at the service. Both of them mentioned Mom’s pro-level talent for shuffling a deck of cards, and Nikki remembered her Aunt Rosie teaching her how to shuffle. So it was especially fitting that that old deck of cards I discovered? I left it to be buried with Mom’s ashes. You know – in case she needs to set up a quick round of Solitaire.

 

Take me out to the ballgame

We went to see the Washington Nationals last night. I lucked into four tickets through work, so Steve and I brought Seth and Ross. It was hot and steamy and sticky, almost unbearably so, but we were very brave and (mostly) stoically suffered through it until the middle of the 8th inning, at which point I could stand no more. Yes, I realize it’s July in DC, and don’t mistake my discomfort for surprise that the weather conditions were what they were. It’s just… yuck. So, Steve and I retreated to the relative comfort of Metro’s air-conditioned cars, leaving Seth and Ross to return at the game’s end (the youth have a higher tolerance for discomfort, apparently).

It was a pretty typical ballgame: I spent way too much on a red Nationals tee-shirt. I bought my oldest son beer. (!!) I explained to him about tipping the concession guys working the stands. We ate hot dogs. We got frustrated as the Nats fell behind by like nine runs, then excited as they rallied to beat the Marlins, 14-12. We cheered for the guys on top of the dugout to lob a free, rolled-up tee-shirt our way and made noise when the stadium signs demanded we do so.

But the most important thing I need to record here is that last night, at long last, I finally got the answer to something I’ve been wondering about for 22 years. You see, when Seth and Ross were babies, I would sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” while I rocked them to sleep. The song is short and sweet, I knew every word (if you know me, you know that’s not always the case), and it worked like a charm. And, we were big baseball fans, so it made sense.

As I rocked and sang, I thought to myself, I wonder if someday, many years from now, my adult offspring will be at a baseball game and, during the seventh inning stretch, will start singing the song, then experience an overwhelming urge to go right to sleep, there on the spot, like some post-hypnotic suggestion or something. It was a funny image, to me, and I had mostly forgotten about it until we stood up in the middle of the seventh last night. At last, here’s my chance, I thought! Ever vigilant, I was ready to catch one or both of the grown men who still call me “mommy” if they crumpled and passed out in a dead sleep, but I tried to play it cool so they wouldn’t catch on.

Well, friends, I am here to tell you that the answer to the question is NO, they were not overcome. Nobody who was born in the 1990s went to sleep in row T behind the first base dugout. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit disappointed. C’mon, it’d have been funny! On the other hand, their persistent consciousness did save us all from mild embarrassment. It felt… anticlimactic. Womp womp.

As we sat back down, I told them the story. They pretended to be amused. Oh, that mom of ours, they probably thought, exchanging knowing glances and rolling their eyes as I looked in the other direction. That’s completely silly and would never happen in real life. She is such a piece of work.

Hey, I am just continuing in my own mother’s tradition. I’m almost 51 years old, but she still likes to tell stories about funny things I did or said when I was little. It’s what moms do. So get used to it, boys. We’ve only just begun.

 

 

Deck the halls, now make it disappear

MAYBE IT’S JUST ME, but lately, I get as excited to undecorate after Christmas as I am to decorate right after Thanksgiving. Oh, there have been years where I could barely stand the thought of dragging the “big Santas” up from the storage room, but once I unbox them, I’m always happy I did. And this year, in my new place, they hold a place of prominence I didn’t have in my last house:

IMG_2933
My Santas, displayed atop the peninsula that holds the gas fireplace.

A few years ago, I was feeling grouchy in December, and came *thisclose* to just not digging out the Big Santas. Why get them out, I thought, when in three weeks I will have to spend another half-hour putting them away? So I told my kids, and they said, WHAT?? YOU HAVE TO GET THEM OUT!! So I did.

When I was a kid, my mom mandated that the Christmas tree come down on New Year’s Day. Ornaments repacked, gifts put away, all traces of the holiday gone. I remember dreading the chore. It meant the Christmas fun was over, and January’s bleakness had arrived.

Mom? I get it now.

This year’s tree is my first-ever artificial tree. It holds many of our favorite ornaments, collected over the years. It also features two new Christopher Radko ornaments that Seth got for me, since I made sure Curt got the three we had before, to hang on his own tree. I was moved to tears that Seth remembered the name and shopped to find a good deal, and selected two he thought I’d like – a Santa, and a church.

IMG_2934
See that red thing on the left? It’s a fancy Christmas tree storage bag. With wheels.

As much as I loved this tree, and as much as I’m dreading going down to the garage to get the storage boxes and lugging them up all 30 steps, then back down again, I’m ready for Christmas to be over. It was a really nice holiday this year, but it punctuated the end of a challenging year – not personally, but for the country. The “WTF IS HAPPENING” vibe persists, at least where I live, and the feeling of watching a slow-motion train wreck and being powerless to stop it wears on even the hardiest soul. I am looking forward to a new year, even if the fresh start is symbolic.

I have always differentiated between Christmas decorations and winter ones. As such, I think I’ll leave this display up for a while:

IMG_2935
Silver and red: They aren’t just for Christmas.

And yes, that *is* an as-yet-unpacked moving box that has has there since March, thanks for noticing! But after the tree is stowed away, I’m unpacking that box and placing its contents on that cart to the right. For now, anyway. Until I think of a better idea.

As I write this, there are guys outside with leaf blowers, removing the dusting of snow that fell overnight from the sidewalks out front. I am grateful to be inside, next to my warm gas fireplace, which now works (thanks, Steve!), instead of blowing snow off of my driveway and front walk, which is what I’d have been doing a year ago. The joys of homeownership were many, but so were the annoyances, and snow removal was one of them. In this season of my life, I am grateful for what I had before and even more grateful for what I have today. I have a sense that I am exactly where I need to be at this moment.

Come at me, 2018. I’m ready for you.