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Eulogy to my Mom

I’ve been out of touch the last few days, but am starting to get back into the swing of things. Spoke to a group of advancement professionals in Chicago earlier today and back in Raleigh now.

Because I don’t understand all the ins and outs of the advancement services world, speaking to the group was a little intimidating but I hope I challenged them to look at the world differently. To think differently. Ask them to reevaluate the way they do business, especially in the new environment that all of us in higher education are forced to deal with today.

That was hard, but saying goodbye to my mom was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I had to do that last Saturday.

How do you capture all those years of Love and emotions in just a couple of minutes. How do you say goodbye?

Thank you all for joining us today to celebrate the life of our mom, Mary Philomenia Blankley Hice. (May 15, 1926 – Sept. 29, 2010) Most of you knew her as Phill.

It’s a shame that it takes occasions like this to get us together, but we are all grateful to everyone here. Your support and caring means a great deal to Dad, me, Charlie and Janie, to the grand kids and everyone else who knew Mom. I know she’d be happy to see us all together, especially since she was not able to join in many family activities during the last years of her life due to the rheumatoid arthritis that was eating away at her.

She used to say a little prayer to help her during the tough times and I’d like to read that now.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannon change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.”

The thing everyone used to notice about Mom was her smile. She had the most beautiful one I’ve ever known, and no doubt it has been embedded in my mind since I was a baby and she first smiled down on me in the cradle.

Over the years her smile did not dim even though she was experiencing increasingly greater pain from the arthritis. Now, as I think about her, that smile helps take away the sadness and reminds us all about how much she loved us and everyone in our family. And how lucky we were to have her.

Mom’s beginnings were modest. She was a small town girl determined to make a big splash in life.

She was born in Akron, Ohio in 1926 and grew up during the Depression. She was an only child and lived with her mom and grand parents in Mill Creek, West Virginia, a small mountain town that I think has experienced snow at some time or another every day of the year – might be one reason she loved Miami so much — A couple of aunts and uncles were nearby.

She had a good life, despite the times. A loving mother — our Memie — and caring family. And her grand dad owned the local bank.

She graduated high school and attended Strayer Business College. When the war broke out she went to work for the Glenn L. Martin Company in Baltimore, Maryland building PBY submarine chasers. You might say she was a real life “Rosie the Riveter.”

Her mom was working in Washington, DC and after the war mom decided to move across the river to the big city and quickly found work at the Pentagon. She was an assistant secretary for General Omar Bradley.

Mom was a real beauty who wore the latest fashions – Dad said she had 50 pairs of shoes when they first met . . . and as recently as two weeks ago – and had a number of interests from her church to her pets, to her music and singing and to her family.

A few years after the war she met our dad, a dashing young fighter pilot who drove a convertible and had a penthouse apartment. They married in 1950 and she quit working and happily set up home in Puerto Rico, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Nebraska, California, Nebraska again and back to Florida where she and Dad have been ever since.

Mom and Dad were very much in love and remained that way for almost 60 years (their anniversary being the 2nd of December)

Mom kept a clean house, cooked great meals, and gave birth to me. Hey, now there’s an achievement.

Then, exactly two years later – to the day – she gave birth to my brother Charlie. My sister Janie was born on Valentine’s Day a little over two years later.

During our elementary school days, I remember we used to walk home every day for lunch. When it was warm outside, mom had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with cookies and milk. And she never complained, even when we showed up with friends. Even back then kids weren’t big fans of the school lunch menu, ya know.

When it was cold we had soup or Sloppy Joe’s.

I still remember her tuna casserole, meat loaf, spaghetti and fish sticks at dinner and the trips to “Minnie’s” for tacos every Tuesday night.

Mom was there when we came home at lunch and at the end of the day, always with a big smile on her face wanting to know how the day had gone. We watched TV together and talked as a family, and she made sure we did our homework before going to bed. At least she thought she made sure we did our homework before going to bed.

I can especially remember struggling in the early grades, and Mom helped me with constant patience until I understood math, English, and eventually everything else; I don’t know what I would have done without her quiet and graceful intelligence. She helped Charlie and Janie too.

When we moved to Florida in 1965, she jumped into the Florida lifestyle, but Dad and the kids always came first. She went to every football game and track meet, every band practice, dance recital, Cub Scout and Brownie outing, and every parent teacher conference they scheduled. She took us to Church and Sunday school, to the doctor and dentist. To the orthodontist.

Mom was always there for us. We came first in her life.

As I mentioned, our friends were always welcome in the house and they knew it. My mother would make us snacks and we’d hang out watching TV, playing in the pool, or listening to records. She even put up with the noise when I joined a rock-and-roll band in junior high school. (It was really Charlie’s idea!)

And lets not forget the cars. Best we can figure, close to 200 of ‘em over the years. Yes, she put up with the cars and all the grease and grime that went along with them.

And lord knows what she put up when Janie went through the teenage years!

Mom’s love for us extended to our friends and then as we got older to our wives and husbands. Mom always considered Sandy, Sharon and Daryl part of the family.

When Katy was born, Mom was thrilled to become a grandma, and she cherished that role and doted on Katy first, then Mary Cassie, Laurie, Kenny, Jenna and Kimberly – you’ll hear from each of them in a few minutes. Nothing made Mom happier than being with her grand children.

To our kids and Charlie’s family, she was Grand Ma. To Kimberly and Jenna, she was Babes.

There is so much more I could say about Mom, but none of it would be enough to capture the love she had for all of us. She was struck with rheumatoid arthritis when she was in her 60s and suffered with it until the day she died. Increasingly crippled and disabled by the disease, Mom never let that stop her from loving us or showing us that smile when we needed it.

I saw that smile the morning she died when our little dog Grits jumped up on her bed and gave her a big doggie kiss.

We all know how much pain she endured, but we also are buoyed by the spirit of her love and faith in us despite the odds against her. She was there for us whenever we needed to talk, or to just be together.

Whenever we had a problem, Charlie, Janie and I knew Mom would listen and give us her best advice. We didn’t always listen, but she always had an opinion. And one thing we could count on is that she would almost always be on our side if Dad wanted to do something different.

We all know it’s going to be tough with her gone, but I know she can still be there for us. All we have to do is shut our eyes and remember her smile and know that she is with us and always will be.

As the disciple John wrote (14:1-4)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Goodbye Mom.

We know you are in that place and that big beautiful smile is  smiling down on us.

We Love you!


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