<![if !vml]><![endif]>Elizabeth B. Lilley, d.
There are less-than perfect days in
Elizabeth B. Lilley
died of emphysema in
We received the call
at dinner time in
Amid all the necessary arrangements, one of life's most difficult duties was to respond to Dad's desire for a few words to be spoken at her funeral. The words are intensely personal, but "Mom" is a universal concept shared by us all:
When we were growing up, it was... "Hi Mom; what's for dinner?" or, "Hi Mom, I'm home from school ... going out to play ... see you later..."
My Mom, our mother, grandmother, wife, friend, has passed and we both mourn our loss and celebrate her life.
Gold miners talked of the "mother lode";
Generals talk of the "mother of all battles";
There is "mother of pearl," the "mother ship," a "mother hen" ...
...but we don't call any of these "Mom." Gold veins run out, battles are won or lost, but "Mom" is always, and special. We each get only one, and this graceful lady was the best. She isn't really gone. Because we are here, she is here. That's an honor, and a tall responsibility.
Mom's last moments properly belong to her and to Dad alone, a supremely personal time.
But, all the family visited with Mom over the Mother's Day weekend. She was physically weak, but very much "present." We had the opportunity to give her one of those cards with the gentle, wise (and fitting!) "Peanuts" comic-strip characters saying, "You're the greatest!" I am so glad we had the chance to say "we love you" once more, out loud.
There are heroes here --
As their 61 years of life together began to come to a close, Dad has always been there for her and for us, in any role, all day every day. Family, friends and neighbors continue to help and to care. And mom herself, with never any misconceptions about the outcome, had a strong sense of self:
"I can't be in charge any more; you'll just have to take care of each other."
When we would come to visit, a strong sense of us: “ ... my family all together..."
And throughout it all, her sense of humor, which sustained her and us together: " ... you tell me I am gentle and kind, but I can be a real rattlesnake when I have to!"
Mom is who you are when you just can't stop caring.
Mom, we love you. Our favorite picture is of you working in your flower garden; planting, pruning, shaping, helping things grow. It's a fitting image that extends to life far beyond those flowers. Your grandchildren Karen and Suzanne, and my sister Ruth and I share your heartbeat -- so strong in you until the fuel it needed just quietly ran out. Your presence influenced who we were, and now even in your absence, you influence who we are and what we will be. We can love, because you loved us.
Mom, things will never be quite the same again, but they will feel better than they do now. In time, we'll come to remember you by your life, not so much by your passing. We know now that you heard that glad shout at your journey's end: "Here she comes!"
... 'bye Mom; see you later.
Santa Barbara is home now,
but this particular return trip from
Almost exactly one year later, immediate family members gathered informally on what turned out to be Memorial Day to have some time at Mom's graveside. As we quietly remarked about the bright flowers and almost cheerful memorial holiday decorations and then fell silent for a while, nearby on a hill a lone piper played "Amazing Grace" for another family and their memories. Nevertheless, we knew he was playing for us, and that Mom used that perfect moment to let us know she indeed is all right.
Our world holds its breath as a good man departs. And before we exhale, deflated, diminished, we presume to hope: “It’s not really true – just a clerical error, or crossed telephone wires – a typo – the bureaucracy. But no: the bell tolls, and this time it unmistakably calls to him – to us.
We hold our breath for a while longer, quietly remembering, remembering…
Robert Lilley was the last of six children, in a family whose elders saw the end of the Civil War, the Gold Rush, and on forward to the Cold War, the Internet and beyond, he was born in 1912 and married in 1938. He leaves his children Ruth and me, his grandchildren, Ellen’s and my daughters Karen and Suzanne, and the great grandchildren of their Andy Harshman and Duncan Chalmers families. Betty Bouldin, his wife of 61 years, passed away just over two years ago.
He spent his 90th
birthday last February with us, and with the Harshman
family and first great-grandson
A good man by any measure I know. What words?
Trustworthy, loyal, helpful – you may recognize the Boy Scout Creed here. While Ruth and I were learning it, he was living it. He could make a simple purchase into a lifetime friendship.
Friendly, courteous, kind – When I came to
Obedient, cheerful, thrifty – Well, I guess Ruth and I were the ones who learned obedience! He worked hard and was respected and recognized for it. And, he quietly made a good life for his family.
Brave, clean and reverent – All together it adds up to integrity.
Dad, you taught us so much, just by living your life. I would have been honored just to know you as an acquaintance; for Ruth and me, growing up and growing older in your family has been our good fortune indeed.
Do we dare begin to breathe again? We feel so drawn-tight, still denying – willing this loss, this transition, not to have happened. But it’s time to turn the page; we now must tend the flame, and keep the light in the window.
He did not suffer in his passing; a mercy. But we are reminded of just how much he missed Mom these past two years. So he holds his breath for only a split second, in transit to that shore where he is awaited. “Here he comes!” must surely be the glad shout.
How do I find some words that are as special as he is?
All I can do is ask for a simple favor: “Dad, we love you. Please say ‘Hello’ to Mom and all the others for us. Farewell. See you later…”
There was an article in a 1939 Carbide News publication featuring Dad’s research group: