From the book "Broken Open," by Elizabeth Lesser.
"In our sleep, pain, which cannot forget,
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
Mary Ann "Brainerd" Held
We sent her with a secret tucked in the pocket of her jeans. For reasons, one might never imagine. We retold the story, over and over again. It was fitting that it was told at her funeral, by my cousin Rob. To me, it epitomizes who she was.
When growing up, my Mom often said Grandpa Brainerd was very strict. At meal time, you and your 3 sisters, and 2 brothers, had better show up on time.
It was my Mom's younger sister, given the job of going off in search of my Mom when dinner time neared. Off she'd run, looking in all the usual places.
But then there was that one time. When Carol ran home, having not found my Mom. Her Dad questioned, and she had no reply.
Where was Mary Ann?
Somewhere past the start of the meal, my Mom came running home. Grandpa very sternly asked, "And where have you been?"
Mary Ann, having experienced the sting of Grandpa's discipline measures more than once, knew she had to have the perfect answer.
So she carefully reached in her pocket and pulled out a dollar bill. "I was babysitting and I got this!" She exclaimed.
"Oh, well then, sit down and eat."
It was later that mom finally shared her secret with Carol. Just in case, she was ever late, mom ALWAYS carried a dollar bill in her pocket.
It was just a couple of years ago that my mom had me buy a notebook for her. She was making her funeral arrangements. But instead of just writing down what she wanted, she got busy on her phone. She called each person she wanted to do something, and asked. It was all written out in her notebook, what she did want, and what she didn't.
So she wore her favorite jeans. Her Hershey's Kiss necklace. Her Concordia College sweatshirt. She encouraged us all to dress casually and wear Maroon and Gold if we chose- although we didn't spread the word on that very well.
Still, Mom's service was filled with the kinds of things, and people, and stories, that shouted "this is So Mary Ann."
The beautiful flowers.
My hockey moms. Nolan and Colton literally beamed when they saw so many of our hockey families showing up.
My brother, Lee, in the middle, with two of his Concordia College friends.
Mom's first line of her journal said, "Rob to speak." No more needed to be said on that one.
My cousin Rob, has the gift of gab, one might say. Not only is he a story spinner, but the humor he infuses leaves you gasping for air as your sides split, while your face floods from tears at the same time. But he also ministers to you, because at the root of everything he does, is his faith in God, which he openly shares. Oh how he had us on the edge of our pews, soaking in all of his funny, wise and faith-filled words. I wish I had them to share with you. But what I do have is the memory of being swept up in the emotion of it all, along with the sound of the distinct crinkle of the plastic kleenex wrappers, getting a work out with all of our leaky eyes.
Because we needed faith in unfathomable ways. Our loss that week was double.
Because while my Mom, Mary, hovered near Heaven's doors…surrounded by my brother, Lee, myself, and Mom's older sister, Marlene... Rob said, "God must have been whispering "come," and not only did Mom listen and go, but 24 hours later so did Rob's stepdad- Ernie.
Yes, our beloved Uncle Ernie, went to be with Jesus, just 24 hours after Mary Ann did. Marlene, Mom's sister, and Rob's mother, lost her sister one day, and her husband the next day.
Ernie had sat in his recliner, watching basketball on tv, saying "this will be the last basketball game… of the season." But when Marlene went to awaken him for bed, Ernie's spirit had gone. And while none of us were ready for him to go, Rob's words brought comfort. Ernie must have heard Jesus saying, "Come."
Our family must have heard too. They came pouring in from all over, surrounding us with comfort and memories, and love. Friday and Saturday for mom, and Sunday and Monday for Ernie.
Back to mom's funeral service. Mom hadn't asked just one person to speak. Paul was one of Mom's supervisors at Concordia, and very much a kind and loving friend of Mom's for years, was also asked to speak at her service. Paul wove a story around the 5 things he had learned from my mother. He also had an understanding of mom's humor, and shared part of the retirement story they had done for her. In a training video they interviewed my mom many times. Then they cut the clip of the infamous words she shared over and over again…
Just stay busy.
Or something to that effect. I forget how many times they caught her saying it- but it was many- and so typical of my Mom.
We think in honor of Mom we may have to donate a plaque to Concordia Dining Services, in her memory.
The "Mary Ann Held- be busy- award."
Paul went on to pay a loving tribute to Mom in the simple and yet profound way she conducted herself in life.
After the service, as we lined up in our cars, with Mom leading the way.
We were struck by how the light lit up the beautiful flowers, and a white and warm glow hovered around Mom the entire way to the cemetery,
Then true to my Mom's heart's desire- her "boys" carried her to her eternal resting place- all wearing their Concordia colors. The newly appointed Captain of the Cobber football team, Rob's son, Eric- wearing his jersey, #9. Nolan wearing his Dad's #26 Cobber baseball warm up, Andrew- also a Cobber football player, Duane and Emil, two co-workers of moms, and then my brother Lee, also a former Cobber football player.
Despite our sadness, we stood as family, together, in honor of our Mom.
Her eternal resting place is beautiful. She is next to our Dad, and right by her Mom and Dad. Rick's mom is just a few rows over, as well as our nephew Hunter.
I've been rocked to the core with my Mom's loss. I'm still in the wee-early stages of mourning. I just know that my mom was a bridge to so many parts of my life I hadn't realized. And now its just me. And the loneliness that sneaks in, when you feel that abrupt disconnection, is truly the journey through "the awful grace of God." I am convinced- through- is the only way back to the light.