Discover more from Songs of Forgiveness
May 5/Full Moon
Our eulogy transcript full of Mom's own words.
As I promised in my March 28th post, included below are more words from Mom’s journals. We used her words to give us direction in the Eulogy we gave. It was amazing to be together in that space with all the people who loved her and love us. We were cared for by so many of our family and friends who showed up in so many ways. We heard stories we had never heard before, ate food lovingly prepared, showered with gifted food and flowers, were held in the arms of people we haven’t seen for ages, met in real life the people we only knew the names of before and spent some time in each others presence. As Nina, our beloved Death Doula and Ceremony Officiant, said “look around, you will never be in this same place, with this same group of people again.” In the words of Mom, “I am a lucky person.” See below for the whole Eulogy that Rachel and Becka and I wrote together. I’m also updating with a link to Mom’s Obituary.
Bringing Our Voices Together: Daughter Eulogy
Good afternoon. We want to take this opportunity, on behalf of our entire family, to thank you all for being here today—in this beautiful, historic chapel —to help us celebrate our mom’s life. We’d like to thank everyone who traveled to be here today, including those who traveled from as far away as California, Oregon, Arizona, Maine, D.C., Italy, the east coast - all over the country. I think it really speaks to the impact our mom had on people.
That's also been evident in the flood of messages we've received since mom’s passing. They've not just come from close friends and family, as you might expect, but also from those she worked with over her decades-long career in conservation, those she grew up with in Mankato, and those she's known more recently when she returned to living in Minnesota. So many have reached out with a kind note, a memory, a heartfelt message about how our mom affected them. And the words keep repeating: conservation hero, mentor, inspirational, visionary, elegant, a leader, laughter, and more.
Grief, as we have heard, is simply unexpressed love. There is never enough time to spend with those you love. As we understand, holding onto grief (or unexpressed love) rather than avoiding it, allows us to remain close to those we've lost. As we mourn our mom so deeply, we find comfort in that sentiment.
And this got us thinking about unexpressed love. For mom, unexpressed love was a foreign concept. Every opportunity she had - whether it be in person, on the phone, through letters, notes, or over text - our mom told us how much she loved us, how happy we made her, how proud she was of us, how lucky she was to be our mom. We are incredibly grateful for each of those moments, each of those expressions of love. It was this instinct of hers to express herself that not only created our life together, but created her career and also has allowed us to piece her back together after this long goodbye.
Alzheimer’s has been called the long goodbye.
That moniker could refer to this last period of time, starting last September, how many times we thought we were close to her death, but mom had her own time-line. In November we reached out to Nina, because we thought the end was near. Each time Becka visited, we were told by hospice Nurses, with experience, that it would be the last time she would see her. Still, Mom made it through christmas, made it much longer than expected. When Becka arrived for that final visit, Mom’s skin was breaking down, she could not persist long, they predicted 10 days, still she lasted a month.
That could be the long goodbye. That is enough to justify the term. But the long goodbye is the way they slip away while you are right there with them. You get wrapped up in the daily conflict of normal things forever changing and don’t realize what you are losing until it is long gone. And these past years, although Mom has been joyful and loving, and engaged in life. She has not been the mom we grew up with, slowly changing, repeating herself, lost in the anxiety of losing things, lost in a mind that is betraying itself.
Amazingly mom’s life continued large through most of these past 12 years since we saw the first symptoms. Thanks to Bill -
Becka: Will to most of you -with a shrug and a smile.
Tina: She traveled the world with him at her side. Life until covid: gym, road trips, mexico, the farm where she grew up, lunches with Grandma and Loren, volunteering for Open Streets, and Save Minneapolis Parks, biking and attending events of grandchildren. Meals, setting the table and filling the dishwasher. Committed to living life well and on her own terms. Even through the confusion of covid, life continued. Routines changed and she lost a lot—as did everyone. But still she relied on the stability of their devotion to each other. She was living, and well, only slowly losing words, relying more on pony-tails and headbands than her usual hairstyle, until she took a downturn the summer of 2021 and our mad grab search for services began when we began losing her in earnest.
Becka: In March, when Mom was put on FOCUS status through Hospice, I came for my final visit. A week-long visit stretched out to a month…
Together, with Bill,
supported by our hospice nurse, bath aide, and wonderful home health aides, we stayed at mom’s side until she died in the middle of a chilly March night. For a month, we had huddled around the hospital bed we had installed in the parents’ bedroom, singing her favorite songs, reminiscing, drinking tea, brushing her hair, reciting Mary Oliver and Robinson Jeffers and just holding her hands. By the last days, we had gone into full vigil mode. The caregivers cared for us with food so we could remain by her bedside. On that final night while we were all together, Nina alerted us to a beautiful crescent moon hanging low in the sky and venus cradled within it and we went to gaze at the celestial sight before heading to our places for sleep. I had volunteered that night to sleep in Mom’s room to make it easy to give night meds. I cracked open a window, and sat down to tell her goodnight, only then did Mom slip out. Finally freed of the disease that had been strangling her. Her energy filled the night sky with aurora borealis in her favorite places. The next day the newspaper reported “Northern Minnesota was at the epicenter of a rare aurora borealis display Thursday night that was so explosive …You couldn't take your eyes off of it.” The sky above her beloved Boundary Waters was lit up. “...evolved into a coronal display where all the rays gathered together to point upwards and meet in these crazy shapes: spiders, snakes, and eagles.” More reports rolled in from the East and the West, to rainbows in London - the sky was a thing of beauty following her death. The idea that she was flying free to dazzle us from the sky filled our hearts.
Our last month altogether gave us time to gather and to say goodbye. We celebrated all the time we had with her since she retired (so much longer than we expected). We felt gratitude that she didn’t sit back and wait for death but instead turned to family and friends. And many many adventures with the love of her life. We had time to look at old pictures and rediscover her journals and writings. and we thought back to a time before Alzeihmer’s. It allowed us to grieve all that the disease had taken and to celebrate her — the complete her. — Her journals, in particular, allowed us into different stages of her life. She eloquently wrote about her career, her childhood, her partnership with Bill
Becka: the importance of her friendships and mentorships, and being a mother and grandmother. It was then, that she began to be pieced back together.
We decided, together with Bill,
Becka: that we wanted to share this experience with all of you who admire and love her. So it is through her own words, we will tell the rest of this story.
The first selection was a letter and invitation to her retirement party, delivered to her best age-old friends and family. She describes her biggest motivations for her lifelong work and what got her to this point in time. Mom retired from The Nature Conservancy in 2012 shortly after her first diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment.
With all the gratitude that I can express, I want to be explicit about one more and really the most important motivation for my life work. I have loved nature and the experience of growing up in the woods and fields in Minnesota. I have to say that I wish, as I always have, that my father, Charles Harrell Loe, could have lived to have been a part of my life and a supporter of land conservation in the last few decades. Though he died so early when he was only 50, I have always thought of him as an inspiration and have remembered his presence and his statements about the value of farmland and woods, and the products of that land that meant so much to our family. Instilling that ethic and the amazing continuing strong family connections and regard for the land that my mother, Glenna Loe, has nurtured, has been a foundation beyond compare in giving me direction and perseverance.
Besides all this background I am grateful most of all to my husband and best friend, Will Baudler, without whom I could not have been as involved at every level, traveled as I needed to, or cared for our family as needed—I am so lucky and what an amazing partnership we have had!!! And of course, I must include in my thanks all my admiration and gratitude to the three amazing daughters who have had enduring patience and support for a mother who was not always in physical contact because of working travel, but who in spite of the challenges, they had faith that I loved them beyond everything else and grew up as wonderful women with great values and commitments to their chosen careers and their own families and children.
Our next selections were from a notebook we found from a writing class that she attended. At the time of the class, she had read her work aloud to us, so I knew her words were full of details of her growing up life, friends and school, and was eager to find it and reconnect with her voice. Once found, we discovered so many stories. Of Grandma sewing Mom’s confirmation suit out of
“pink plaid light wool. She was being so great to sew it, but I think the 12 year old me was driving her crazy. She asked me and my brother to go to the ravine across the plowed but unplanted fields to the woods where there were may flowers and sweet williams that we could put on the table. My brother and I took a shortcut across the muddy fields and I found myself sinking – deep!”
Tina: Where she proceeded to lose her boots. She wrote of her first friend in the one room schoolhouse, “Lorraine High who lived one mile from Carol Loe”, and “riding bikes to the highway to sit on the sign” with her cousin Linda. How the whole family helped Grandpa practice when he returned from Auctioneer School.
“He practiced his chant and had me and the rest of the family bid on furniture items while I sat at the kitchen table doing my homework.”
Tina: And also stories of Grandpa’s worries, every time she was sick. And to counter that, Grandma’s calmness. One thing I hadn’t realized it included was more details on the loss of her sister Susie at such a young age.
Becka reads: “My sister had leukemia when she was 9 and I was 18 in college. My parents went with her to Rochester – Mayo Clinic, but she died after a few months. I was visiting her with my parents when she passed …. We three drove back together - I had to exit the car to throw up.”
Rachel: It was from this early experience of loss that her life philosophy arose. She often spoke of how lucky she was. As in her retirement letter when talking of Dad
Tina, Will (smile)
Rachel: where she said “I am so lucky and what an amazing partnership we have had!!!” Even when looking for parking spots, she paused to be grateful. And her inclusion of this statement, “I’m a lucky person,” often seems simple, just a passing thought, like so many others. She said it, in a lighthearted and often even pithy way. But it was a profound opportunity to count her blessings and remain grounded and never take a moment of her life for granted. It was a life-long mantra that repeated through her most thoughtful moments. In almost every journal we found, she made reference to her luckiness. Her 50th Birthday Journal, a gift from the lovely ladies, she wrote in September 1998 on a solo hike up Mount Tamilpais, where they had recently moved.
Becka reads: “I do not know who RS is but I am seated on his bench. He ‘touched our lives as he passed this way’ – 1928-1982. At 54 will I have earned a seat like this one? I want to think I would be remembered in a beautiful place by worthy people who care about the things I do. I am happy with my girls as my legacy, but beautiful places – I want to play a role in saving them too. This hike is more about beauty and appreciation than physical endurance at 50.” …
Becka reads: “My mom is in her own happy time, but she called and we are as close as two very different women can be. What happens next is not as important as what has happened until now. I feel the completion of a lot of work and a new era beginning with my girls in the front end of the action. That’s good.”
Tina: It was Rachel’s Oral History paper, written in 2002 for her feminist class, that made this philosophy come so clear to us. They spent the evening talking while lying on Rachel’s bed at her Santa Cruise house. Rachel wrote in her paper, “Since I can remember, she always told me that she was a lucky person. I did not know exactly what this meant, until the end of our talk when she told me that
Rachel: "if I died today I would have had a terribly rich life, that's why I'm a lucky person."
Tina: That statement, “If I died today,” was the crux. It could have been as easily herself as her sister who died, she was lucky to continue living. And likewise, everytime she encountered a death or a milestone in her life, she took stock, finding gratitude for all that she had and all that she attained. During her years after moving to Minnesota, they went to the Mayo clinic, to monitor the progression of her condition. On the day that she and Bill
Tina: Sat across from her doctor together and she got the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. The doctor was upset and Mom walked around the desk to give him a hug and said, “I’m a lucky person.” We now know what she meant after this month of being immersed in her words, that she paused there to tell him, and to take stock herself. Her life, as she found herself in that moment in time, was enough. One of her writings we will share is a letter to Rachel when she was solo hiking in the Canadian Rockies. It was written to Rachel, in a particular place, in a particular time, but it could have been written to all of us.
Becka reads: Alright, I know I am sending you too much. Don’t carry it all, ditch it, give it away, but I’m a libra - I just couldn’t decide. I know the travel book is especially heavy, but I like the stories and it seemed appropriate. I got it when Tina and Becka were both traveling. Also Gary Snyder is a great enviro poet, kinda old now, but relevant.
Becka Reads: I sure miss you - and it was so great to hear your voice - of the thousands of times I have talked to you on the phone, it may have been the best - to finally connect that is. I am sorry you are having a hard time with loneliness. I know you are very emotionally vulnerable, and it makes me sad and worried. But I have faith that you will get through this well - you are strong and brave, and I am very very proud of you and love ya tons! My heart is with you every stop of the way. XXOO duck
Rachel: That stylized duck that you see on your program was ever present. She included it on postcards and cards and notes left on the kitchen counter and we wish we had saved more of them.
As we mentioned, unexpressed love was a foreign concept to our mom. I always knew she was always my biggest fan. I still remember the earliest soccer games and she would be yelling the loudest ‘make a point’, new to the sport but with the greatest enthusiasm. Later, in college, she and my dad would come to all my games (even if it meant driving four hours after work). I could always find them in the stands in their matching leather jackets.
As we grew older, our relationships with our mom deepened. I didn’t quite fully understand her job until I accompanied her to a campaign event in Park City, Utah while I was in college. As I watched her enter and effortlessly ‘ work the room’ and watch with wonder from afar. She blew me away - her confidence and warmth. She loved her career. She loved the people she worked with and had a deep passion for making the world a better place for the next generation. She was a power for good. She said…
Tina reads: the “best thing about my life is that even though I may not have been the mother who was always there when you guys came home from school or president of the PTA, I feel like all of my daughters have come out with the right values and that you’re each going to live a rich life. My life was rich because I have been able to do what I wanted and I feel as though it has rubbed off on you guys. I choose to do something I care about and I would choose it again a hundred times over.”
Rachel: We are so proud of our mom - she provided us with the best possible role model. She was our hero. Our mother defined her own boundaries, and claimed her own path. She was a lucky person.
Tina: We are her lucky daughters.
[Rachel and Tina walk down.]
Becka: The next song Give Yourself to love was one of Mom’s absolute favorites. And it is no surprise- People were everything to mom and she loved BIG! I have a clear vision of riding next to her on highway one with the top down and Kate Wolf turned all the way up. Singing along, happy as clams. Enjoying the California coast. We all have a memory like this. We sang Give Yourself to Love to her so many times in the last year and it could often find her when nothing else would, so we invite you to sing along, joyously as mom would, and think of your love for her and for the others in your life.