Posted by: Mark, Transforming . . . | November 23, 2011

My Mom 12/31/1923 – 11/21/2011

2011-11-23  5:35am

Hmm. While waiting for the WordPress App to open on my iPhone, I realize it’s been less than 30 hours since my Mom left us in the physical plane. Wow. 30 hours. And what a difference one moment can make. And 4 minutes ago I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about my Mother on this post and now my head is full of ideas and funny little moments she and I shared together and things she would say to me, and yes, times with her and my Father. Thanksgivings will never be the same. And I knew it 11 years ago at this time as we were learning about cancer with my Dad and all of his treatments. Little did I know then how learning about comfort care with him was preparing me for comfort care with her. I am clear I just want her to be comfortable and at peace.

What a woman. I can honestly say I never saw my Mother get mad in 50 years 3 weeks and 4 days. Never. I turned 50 3 weeks and 4 days ago and we celebrated it with her and all of my brothers and sisters and some of their families when we were all together about 6 weeks ago. Here’s a favorite picture of her during that fun lunch we all shared together.

I think she knew then that her time with us 7, always up to something, kids was coming full circle. A little slower getting to the lunch table and still laughing with us. A little less food on her plate and still playing along with us. A little more time dozing while sitting in her recliner and still knitting dish clothes for all of us. A little more grimace in her face as she maneuvered her way around and still the stoic, fun-loving Mom for us 7 kids and Grandma to my 10 nieces and nephews and Great-Grandma to my 7 Great nieces and nephews. A decision over Labor Day weekend to sell the house and move to assisted living and still playing along with and participating in our practical jokes with each other.

I love my Mom. And I love my Dad. And it’s amazing what I learned almost 11 years ago when I was here with my Mom and brother Mike on the day my Dad left this physical plane. And it’s amazing what I’m learning in just 30 hours since my Mom left this physical plane.

I can still hear her words and intonation when I would say “I learned everything I know from my Mother.” “Oh no you didn’t! ” with a slight smile on her face. This was usually after some crazy or silly shenanigans I’m always playing with her or my brothers and sisters. Where do I start? And yes, she would often fuel the fire.

For example, Susie always joked that SHE was the favorite child. Ha. I’d look at Joan and just say, usually within earshot of my Mother and always within earshot of Susie, “We’ll let her be delusional and let her think she’s the favorite but I Know I’M the Favorite!” So here’s where Mom comes in almost 2 years ago, Christmas of 2009 as I recall it. I’m not sure which one of my nephews was taking the gifts from under the tree and giving them to us when I hear my Mother loudly say to all of us, “Now wait. Mark and Joan need to open these two together.”. Which in my Mother’s language translates to “I’m up to something and I know you’ll all be laughing with me soon.” Well, the “Favorite Child Mystery” has been decided by Mom. My beautiful new ornament says “Youngest Child. Mom’s Favorite” I Knew it all along. I’ve known It for 50 years and Mom’s announcing it publicly. Joan’s beautiful new ornament says “Oldest Child. Mom’s Favorite.” What? And then my Mom, in her own little instigating voice announces that there’s a third ornament still wrapped under the tree for Susie who’s in Wisconsin celebrating Christmas with her family and that ornament says “Middle Child. Mom’s Favorite.” Well, the translation above is still accurate. We were all laughing together. I never felt my parents had a favorite. Even with 7 of us, I feel we were all treated the same, yet she played right along with us.

Another funny time with my Mom was during the weekend of a family reunion. As usual, I flew from Atlanta (GA, not Atlanta, IL) to Bloomington. I believe it was a Thursday morning. She would be waiting for me at the airport and then we would drive to Glenview or Milwaukee. Why we ended up on IL Route 47 instead of taking our usual I-55 to 294 and up, I don’t remember. And that part of the story doesn’t matter. Yes. You guessed it. Red lights behind me. Lavon in the back seat of my Moms car. Mom In the passenger seat of her car. Me driving it . . . and getting a ticket. I’ve often said “I still feel like I’m 26.” and here I was in my mid-40’s getting a speeding ticket driving my Mother’s car, and she’s with me. After the nice officer gave me a personally signed note (how kind of him to personally sign it) I pulled back  on to the roadway. In my Moms usual manner, she started chatting about something totally unrelated, as if we had just stopped for ice cream. Cool. I’m off the hook. End of story. Uh, what was i thinking? Two days later, mid way through the family reunion I was near my Mother when Susie walks up with a stack of play money. As she starts rolling off $20’s and $50’s and $100’s she says, with that grating, older sister, I heard you’re in trouble, tone of voice “I heard you may need some of this!” Busted, in public. Now I’m wondering if the play money was actually Susie’s idea or did my Mom give her the idea. Hmm. Oh yes. Another time when my philosophy of life is being played out and again, my Mom has her hand in it. “I don’t care if people are laughing with me or at me, as long as we’re laughing!”. This time I think my Mom was laughing With me.

And what can one learn while writing their Mother’s obituary? Several things. And let me start with, I love my Mother dearly. If you’re offended by this, get over yourself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here “No one can offend me unless I choose to be offended.” She is laughing right along with us, especially Susie and me. Who knows? She may have known all along how I would take the hand she dealt me. (Susie and I were the only two in the room when she stopped breathing Monday night.). And let me add how each one of the 7 of us is taking on a particular piece of all the moving parts that need to be handled at a time like this. I happen to be the one taking care of the funeral home, which includes the obituary.

On the more serious side of her obituary, we all know how much she enjoyed knitting dish clothes for ALL of us. And I do mean ALL of us. So naturally, we included how much she enjoyed knitting dish clothes in her obit. But it was Susie who added “and she loved giving them away.” Susie reminded me how quickly she would give them away once they were done. Whether to the nurses in a Dr’s office or the dental hygienist or a neighbor or whomever. She always had several with her and she would be giving them away. She always had a big basket full for family reunions and made sure everyone who wanted one took at least one. I have a big smile on my face thinking about how many dozen I have in my own home and how I may be washing the dishes a year from now and she’ll be with me. And I can smile and laugh with memories. And yes, shed a tear or two as I am now, while writing this.

Now to transform from  tears to laughter. I’m not exactly sure when the idea came to me, so here it comes. Mom said it in the Christmas Gift 2 years ago. I’m the Youngest and I’m her Favorite. Susie’s the Middle Child and Mom’s Favorite. So, after the 3:00 deadline for the newspaper, I added one sentence (which happens to be the second sentence) to her obituary before getting the final edited copies to my brothers and sisters. “And only her two favorite children, Susan and Mark, were there to comfort her.” I just heard her say, with a chuckle in her voice, “Oh Brother.” And she just smiled.

This is how I will always remember my Mom.  A big smile on her face with an empty ice cream bowl and a cookie tin in front of her.

I suspect I’ll be adding more stories to this post in the next few days so stay tuned.  Please comment and share your favorite story about her or your Mother.

My Mom is a very special woman.  I’m hearing stories from others about her that I didn’t know.  How cool.

2011-11-23  5:45pm Sitting at Starbucks after the funeral home visit

So, as much as I can make fun and laugh at a time like this, I think I’m getting an idea of what it’s like to be a bit bi-polar.  I thought my sister would want to see her and make sure everything is just so.  Well, I admit it was me.  I had arranged for my sister to go with me to see her and make sure everything was in order.  When she said it would be ok and that I was the one who actually suggested she would want to see her, I realized it was me who wants to make sure it’s all in order. Even though I was with her Monday night at the hospital, the true reality set in when I actually saw her for the first time in the casket.  Ah Mark, remember what it was like 11 years ago with Dad.  So, I am missing her.  I’m starting to laugh at myself while sitting in a Starbucks writing this with tears streaming down my face.  And I really don’t care if anyone is watching.  And for those of you who know me well, that’s progress and proof that there is hope for the planet.  Another opportunity to be in this present moment and know All is Good!

I’m clear that I’m going to get pictures with my family in the next few days.  And I’m going to continue to write in my journal about the funny things we do together and do TO  each other.  Mom and Dad would want us to keep laughing and smiling and laughing.



  1. hello, dear mark, Favorite Youngest Child of your mother’s,

    thank you for sharing your beautiful stories of your mother. what a gorgeous, wonderful woman she was. and how lucky you ALL were to have enjoyed her for so long!

    i’m sending many blessings that the joy and love with which she knit each dishcloth will continue to knit you and your family together throughout the years. and each time you go to wash your dishes, you’ll be reminded of this, of course.

    sending love,
    nancy r


    • Thank You Nancy. I appreciate the reminder for us to continue to knit our family together. It’s 9:44pm and I’m still at Starbucks 15 miles from her house. I’m hearing the call of ice cream calling me home. Time to share some more laughs and possibly a few tears with my brothers and sisters and their families.



  2. What an amazing woman! I’m sorry for your loss, Mark. As you know, my Grandmother passed away and even though we both know your mother is still here in another form, it is still hard to lose someone. Sending many blessings to you and your family!


  3. Mark you have an amazing family…! I know when I entered your parents house they both welcome me with smiles. I rememer the one time I was there with my first born (5 yrs at that time she is now 23) and my second born (6 months old at that time she is now 18) your parents goggled them up. Your dad spent the whole time hiding Easter eggs with Leslie and played with her all the time we visited. Your mom held the baby…and rocked her to sleep, it was like they were there own. It was rare our paths would cross (after high school) for we both left LeRoy…but the few times we did see each other you have always been a positive, wonderful friend…and you have your mothers smile – please continue to share that smile with all….
    I know you will alway have your memories, your ice cream brain freeze, your peppermint smell – you mother made sure of that…i promise they will stay with you even 35 years from now (i know that for sure personnally). My heart, my thoughts, my prayers to the Burhke Family….
    ***oh yes Markie by the way I remember a time sitting in that passenger seat while a nice Michigan police officer give you HIS signature…what a collection of different state signatures you MIGHT have…lol –
    love you my friend…


    • Thank you So much for the comment Janie, for coming to the church today and for the flowers. You are Awesome. Selective Memory; when were we ever in Michigan together for me to receive a personally signed comment card???


      • went to a polish wedding – you knew them not i – such a long time ago. i also remember an aunt that made zicunni bread…LOVED IT


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: