Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 8, 2016
A day Mom would have loved
It was a typical hot June Kansas day with the sky mostly clear. Every now and then, a warm breeze provided a bit of relief. The Flint Hills were green from recent rains and the harvest of golden yellow wheat had begun.
Sister Gaila, her husband Humberto, their girls Gabriela and Larisa, daughter Katie and I were in Burns, the village at the edge of the farm where Gaila, brother Dave and I grew up. We were there to celebrate Mom's life. Daughter Mariya, her girlfriend Miriam, Dave, his wife Linda, their son Paul, his wife Rachel and their children and other family members and friends gathered later at the Methodist church.
The day was for family members and friends who had been unable to attend Mom's March service in Manhattan to say "goodbye."
We were the first to arrive at the church. We placed a photo of Mom, her urn, a vase with silk flowers and another vase with fresh day lilies, peonies, mums and daisies from her Manhattan garden at the front. We added photos from Mom's life and a Swedish angel on a table in the foyer.
I had planned the service using notes Mom had left in an envelope marked "my obituary information." Mom's bouts with breast cancer, lung cancer and heart problems had made her more acutely aware than some of her own mortality.
I hadn't met the pastor before, but I needn't have been concerned. Pastor Jim seemed like a kind, gentle soul, and he assured me multiple times that he would do whatever had meaning for the family.
Family friend Sandy was the pianist and a quartet from the Eden Mennonite Church sang "In the Garden," one of the songs Mom had requested. Katie sang "Amazing Grace" per her grandmother's request.
Among the Scripture verses was Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that begins, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens."
The pastor invited anyone to share memories. I read what Dave and Gaila had written and shared my own recollections. Dave remembered Mom's patience when he was a teenager, her passion for her family, church and clubs and her perfectionism with her art and gardens. Gaila recalled her independence, her strength and her adventurous side. I spoke about Mom and Dad's unfailing support during tough times, such as when my first husband died and during my life-threatening illness in 1997, and how engaged in life Mom was right up to the end.
Paul talked about Mom's faith and Rachel said she was inspired by Mom's independent streak that came out in her daughters and granddaughters. Rachel added she could always count on Mom having Pepsi, Cheetos and Oreos.
Mariya shared memories of Mom's grandchildren. All mentioned visiting the farm and how Mom brought out their artistic nature, always having colored pencils and sketch pads for them to hone their skills. Other recollections included how Mom liked to send greeting cards for all occasions, how she wore pink lipstick and nail polish whenever she went out, and how she loved to watch "Wheel of Fortune" and the Bob Ross painting show.
Darwin, whose family was the first to rent our farm house after Mom and Dad moved to Manhattan, said he was somewhat intimidated by Mom's detailed lists of what to do with the septic tank, propane tank and water, and where and when she planted various flowers and bushes.
But he said he and his family always enjoyed the folks and were so happy on the farm.
Our babysitter Diane recalled Mom's lists of things to do with us kids. Her sister Peg remembered the folks' patience when we girls hosted slumber parties and their mother Marie talked about helping Mom with ironing and what good neighbors and friends the folks were.
Mom's former pupil Marvin said he enjoyed Mom as his first grade teacher, and a neighbor Stan said the folks were always good stewards when the rural phone line needed repair. Sandy said Mom was one of her best customers, buying wheat weavings for family members and friends throughout the years.
Long-time family friend Tom, unable to attend, had written his recollections which the pastor read. Tom spoke about enjoying his visits with the folks and added they inevitably ended up at the kitchen table or on the swing eating cookies or ice cream.
The reminiscences continued at the Burns Community Building, where the church women served sandwiches, salads and the largest array of cakes I think I've ever seen. Relatives and friends shared stories that made us laugh and cry.
After, we drove to the farm to scatter some of Mom's ashes on the field north of the barn. We had done the same with Dad's ashes after his death.
We then drove to the Burns cemetery. The gravestone was another of Mom's artistic projects from some years ago. Wheat and sunflowers represented the farm, a school bus recalled Dad's years as a driver, an artist's palette told of Mom's love of painting and a school bell symbolized her years of teaching. In the middle is a ring with Mom and Dad's marriage date and the words “Parents of David, Gloria, Gaila” at the bottom. Dave put the urn into the ground and then we each took turns with the spade.
It was a day of family, friends and familiar surroundings - the kind of day Mom would have loved.
Top photo: some of those who gathered in Burns: top row: Dave, Humberto, Gaila, Rachel, Paul, Mariya and Gloria; middle row: Linda, Gabriela, Larisa, Paul's children Erynn, Sydney and Chase, Katie and Miriam; front row: Gabriel and Dominic; bottom photo: Gaila, Gloria and Dave in the Burns cemetery.