Imagine the above is the front of my card. Now picture opening the card…
Today is your birthday. It’s always been such a special and important day for me, because you have always been so special and important to me. I’ve been thinking about this day all week. It’s not easy to know you’re not here to celebrate it, and to accept that I can’t call you or Skype with you. I can’t hear your voice outside my head. Mother’s Day was another bittersweet reminder of your absence. Cherished memories, and tons of photos helped immensely. The kindness and thoughtfulness of others did, too…the flowers, emails, messages and texts, from friends and family. And the endless love from your grandsons and son-in-law, especially. However, my heart longs for your presence in a way that I never understood before. What’s that quote;
“No one else will ever know the strength of my love for you. After all, you’re the only one who knows the sound of my heart from the inside.” ― Kristen Proby
Thinking of you today. Thinking of you every day.
Love You, Forever & Always,
I found this quote in my mother’s things. I thought how lovely it is:
“I will greet this day with love in my heart. And how will I do this? Henceforth I will look on all things with love and be born again. I will love the sun for it warms my bones; yet I will love the rain for it cleanses my spirit. I will love the light for it shows me the way; yet I will love the darkness for it shows me the stars. I will welcome happiness because it enlarges my heart; yet I will endorse sadness because it opens my soul. I will acknowledge rewards because they are my due; yet I will welcome obstacles for they are my challenge.”
— Og Mandino
What can I say about my mom, especially that I haven’t said before? I’ll go backwards maybe, as in we had to let her go quickly and shockingly suddenly. I’m not going to bother judging that, it’s what happened. I’ve had a lot of thoughts about how things could have gone differently, but none of it really matters, does it?
The fact that my sister and I managed to get to her the day before she died is both absurdly lucky, and also one of the most singularly, astoundingly just outcomes in this sometimes seemingly completely chaotic life. But we did. We thought we’d have more time with her. But we didn’t.
There were eight of us in her hospital room. A small group of the countless people who loved her. It was a room that was filled with love and loss. Bewilderment and shock, too. Tears trickled and flowed. We became each other’s strength.
We held a visitation at the funeral home. Many friends and family members came, and it touched our hearts deeply. We’d put together a slideshow and played music selected because she’d loved it, or it reminded us of her. A very dear friend overheard a conversation while waiting in the line as the pictures played on a loop:
A man standing in front of her said something to the effect of, “I had a crush on Rita, back in school.”
To which the man standing behind her replied, “Me, too. I really liked her, she was always so nice and sweet and pretty.”
My friend thought how touching and poignant it was to hear these two men openly reflecting, just before they were going to speak to my dad. There were many tearful hugs and true reunions, as there usually are when people come together under these circumstances. In true fashion it was a testament to the beautiful person who she has always been.
My Mom was kind. She was friendly, too. She really enjoyed talking to people, because she really cared for people. And she really remembered their particulars, I’m so glad to have gotten a good dose of this trait. Very approachable, too, that’s one of the ways she’s been described.
She always made a big deal about our birthdays. It was our special day. Then we all did it for her, too. I turned around and did it for my own kids, and they do it for me. She wasn’t one to be the center of attention, so her surprise fortieth was probably pretty painful. She grinned and persevered though. (Thanks Mom)
She was more comfortable with an immediate family dinner culminating with the proverbial little (it filled an 8 x 8 pan) coffee cake, a family recipe we used for all-occasions cakes. It started out the base for a cake with crushed Ritz crackers and cinnamon topping, removing that it was a little white cake we’d make frosting for it or put fruit on it.
One day after school at age 9 or 10, while making it just as she’d taught me, I managed to get my little hand stuck between the two beaters of the hand mixer! I’d plugged it in first before inserting them and turned it on just after the second click…so not exactly as she’d taught me? I had to tearfully hang my head in shame and slink over to the house next door in search of help. Never forgot not to do that again.
Everything reminds me of her. It’s been less than a year, but I think it will stay this way for me. It will just hopefully get a little lighter to bear, and I will be able to take solace in it, maybe.
It was my honor to write her obituary, though it was more of a eulogy, really. That feels like a very odd thing to state, and it’s not like I wouldn’t have done most anything to change the situation. In a way it was also the most difficult thing I’ve ever written. I was of course in shock, and would be for several more weeks or months. Looking back, it’s still mostly surreal. But that day I tried my best to do justice to the task. It had to be special and meaningful, and come from our hearts. It may be true in many ways that we don’t really know what we had until it’s gone, but she was loved and cherished so deeply throughout our lives that even though I always knew this day could be possible I could not even entertain the thought. It was unfathomable. Except it had arrived and I was tongue-tied and the pressure was mounting, there was a deadline. In the end was it just right, how can I judge? It had to be sincere. It had to be a little funny. It most definitely had to be sweet. It had to be truthful and factual.
It had to be special, like her.
Rita Margaret (Anderson) Skinner
May 15, 1948 – June 29, 2015
Rita was raised by her grandparents “Papa” J. Frank Anderson and “Mum” Flora (MacEachern) Anderson, and her dear aunt Dorothy “Dot” Anderson, later Licastro; as well as growing up with her life-long cohorts from down on Elm Street Extension in Truro, Nova Scotia.
After completing Success Business College, she began living and working in Halifax. Upon returning to Truro in the early seventies she went to work at the Department of Lands and Forest, later at the Colchester Historical Museum, and then with Town of Truro, where she started out at the Business Improvement District Commission, but retired from the Parks and Recreation Department in 2010.
Rita married her high school sweetheart, Bryan. Over the years they remained in the Truro area, but traveled to many places as far away as New Zealand. Nova Scotia has always been home though; recently at a beautiful spot by Angevine Lake near Wallace.
Together they started their family; they would become the great loves of her life. Rita and Bryan had two daughters; first Raina (Matt Morton, Charlottesville, Virginia), an aspiring writer, and then Jena (Chris Alexander, Vail, Colorado), currently tackling graphic design, among others. Both girls reside in the U.S., and Rita loved visiting them as often as possible.
One of her greatest joys in life has been being ‘Gran’ to Raina’s two boys, Cameron and Callum. She was so proud of both of them. Cameron, who obtained his Masters in GIS (ASU), and is currently working in Charlottesville, VA. And Callum, who she just recently saw graduate high school, and who’s about to start university for Engineering (JMU) in Virginia as well.
Rita was truly “a funny little rig”; this was one of her most oft used phrases that she frequently used to lovingly describe her daughters, who were just as often “cute as a bug’s ear” to their momma. The joy she got from her grandsons lit her up to her core.
With her gentle, kind soul she cared for everybody, and happily talked to everyone, including strangers. She had many friendships, both old and new. She also had many adventures with her co-conspirators: the threesome of Ruby (and lil Sapphire), Pearl and Emerald. Rita was truly known as one of the nicest people in the world…just ask anyone who knew her.
She loved her extended family, had a keen interest in genealogy, and took great joy in co-hosting a family reunion, summer 2014; helping to arrange a family get-together after many years.
Blessed with the voice of an angel, she loved music & singing, regularly breaking into song. Apparently born with a bright green thumb, her other children were her flowers, and she took great joy in her beautiful gardens. She was naturally creative, had an artistic flair and a fabulous sense of style.
She had beautiful handwriting and believed in the power of the handwritten note. She rarely forgot a birthday and loved to make people feel special. If Rita was your friend she was your most loyal confidant; ready to lend an ear, a shoulder and a modicum of sound advice.
Rita was a fantastic cook, and she fed her loved ones from her heart for more than forty-five years. She avidly drank her fair share of tea, enjoying her “cuppa”, this was a secret to no one. In the last few years she took such delight from time spent at The Magnolia Continuing Care Community (Nursing Home) in Enfield, playing Scrabble and Rummy with the residents.
She loved to laugh; possessing her own special sense of humor that was adored by her family and friends. Listening to her kids and grandkids quoting comedic lines from movies was her preference to the film-version.
Rita had a zest for life and she embraced love and light, right up until her death from pancreatic cancer. Only something insurmountable could have robbed this world of our Rita; wife, mother, grandmother and friend.
We believe her purpose on this planet was simple, to love…and that she did.
*I must say thank you to my father, sister, husband and her friends who helped; added bits, proofed and edited it with me, and even brought me the above photo. It was the first time I’d ever seen it. I’m sure that it would be different now, but on that day it was written like this.*
At the end of her personal, and fairly detailed, tribute I added something very significant to me. Perhaps you remember the 1970 Western Adventure Movie LITTLE BIG MAN starring Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, & Chief Dan George, among others? I know she was a big fan of this classic and especially it’s cast. *Important to note that in 2014, Little Big Man was deemed “culturally, historically, or a statically significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.* Now I find myself wondering if she’d read the novel by Thomas Berger, that the film was based on?
I don’t know. Of course it doesn’t really matter, what matters to me is that I know in my heart that she would love these words from a poem written by the unforgettable Chief Dan George. I’d first found them just weeks before she died, seemingly randomly, and my first thought was that I was looking forward to sharing them with her. I’m certain she knew them; they are quite well known. But I never got the chance, however I did post them to a dear friend’s Facebook after she lost her beloved grandmother. So when the job of writing her obituary was given to me, they came right into my mind and although I knew I was already writing a costly and wordy near-essay, it just felt so important to have these words, in their entirety, at the end. Everyone, including my father, agreed. They are truly lovely. Truly. Lovely.
My Heart Soars
By Chief Dan George
The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.
The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.
The faintness of the stars,
the freshness of the morning,
the dewdrop on the flower,
speaks to me.
The strength of fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
And the life that never goes away,
They speak to me.
And my heart soars
Raina K Morton May 15 2016