The line of people appeared endless. I wanted to speak to each one, thank them for joining us as we honored my mother's memory, but I wondered how many more people remained in the line. The woman who approached me next had a familiar face, but I had to ask for her name. Not the first or last time that would happen.
"I love what you said about your mother. Please send me a copy of it."
Honored at her request, I agreed, wondering how to manage it. Yes, I had spoken during the service, but I worked from a list of key thoughts. I didn't write down what I said word for word. Plus, speaking and reading are very different. If I managed to put the words together as I said them, this friend of my mother's would be missing all of the nuances of body language, tone, and pacing.
I managed to compile a close version of what I said, and, since others have expressed an interest in reading it, my memorial to my mother appears below.
Please keep in mind, the nuances are missing. This wasn't written to be read. It was meant to be spoken, but it is pretty close to what I said.
Barbara G. Vogel’s Memorial Service
Delivered by Barbara V. Evers
Jan. 12, 2014
Mom, Grandmama, Babs, Mrs. Vogel . Each of you knew her by at least one of these names. For a moment, think about her and who she was.What comes to mind?
Maybe it’s her smile and laughter. She wore those often. She loved life and showed it through her joy.
Over the last few years, I learned that many of my friends saw her as glamorous.
Glamorous? Mom? After looking back over pictures of her, I can see what they mean, but to me, she was just Mom. You will get a chance to see some of those pictures during the reception later.
Maybe you think of gardening. Mom grew the most beautiful roses.
She was often known for spinning a story. She loved to stretch it out. In fact, many times Dad would end up saying, “Babs get to the point!”
When you think about Mom, it’s possible you think of her opinions. Oh, she had them. If you happened to mention something that Mom had a strong opinion about, you heard what she thought whether you wanted to know or not. She stood up for what she believed in.
Then there’s her generosity. Mom gave of herself willingly. In fact, we joked that after she no longer was responsible for paying her bills, many charities probably went in the red without her donations.
These are all parts of my Mom, but for me, when I think of Mom, I think of music. She loved music and sang snatches of songs as she went about her day. Sometimes they were silly songs like Mairzie Doats or Three Little Fishes. Sometimes she made them up. Or she sang crooner ballads or finger-snapping big band songs.
I have a distinct memory of her heading down into the basement to do laundry, singing this song:
Try to remember the kind of September
When we were young and oh, so mellow.
Over the last two years, Lisa and I tried to sing these songs to Mom, but we discovered we only knew pieces of them. So, we looked up the words. We discovered the lyrics Mom sang didn’t always match up to the actual lyrics. The lines from the song, Try to Remember, don’t appear anywhere in any of the versions I found. But that was OK. Mom fixed things to suit her, and we loved her singing around the house.
Then there was dancing. She would grab us and dance us around the kitchen. We especially loved the Tango. She provided the music: Ba brum bum bum, bu-bu-bu- bu-da! Susan and I used to beg her to dance the Tango with us because she would dip us. That was such fun.
No matter what Mom did, she made it magical. Especially, Christmas and Birthdays. I don’t know how she did it, but those days were so special. You were the star on your day. It was incredible. And it never was Christmas without her nutty fingers or sweet potato pudding. I just hope I can achieve even half of what she did.
Mom loved the theater, too. Before I knew her, she was very involved with drama programs, especially as a make-up artist. She told me how she made up her younger brother as a girl for a costume party, and he was quite beautiful when she was finished. Another time, she took a college classmate and made her up as an old woman. People stopped and opened doors for her, the make-up was so authentic.
I recently told Mom that I took her artistic abilities for granted until I tried to make a witch's hat for my daughter, Heidi, the Halloween when she was two. I tried and tried, but it wasn't working. How hard could it be? All you needed was black construction paper and tape. I finally called Mom, and she told me to come over. She made it so fast and made it look so easy, but she was always doing things like that.
I think Mom was the only person in our family, besides me, who wasn’t afraid of heights. So, she rode the Tilt-A-Whirl with me at amusement parks. That was something she shared just with me.
Mom grew up in Marion, North Carolina. She had three brothers and spent many enjoyable days at her Grandmother Hennessee's farm in the North Cove area above Marion. She would ride the train up there and spend the day with her grandmother, and sometimes even overnight.
Mom told us lots of stories about her childhood. Our favorite one was a Christmas story. In most homes if you say The Christmas Story most people think of the birth of Jesus or Twas the Night Before Christmas. Those were part of our Christmases, but our family had a third Christmas story. It centered around the year Mom wanted a little red scooter. A few days before Christmas, she came home and discovered her father had installed a wood stove in the fireplace. Horrors! How would Santa bring her the red scooter? If you ask any of her children, and most of her grandchildren, they can tell you the story.
She shot her brother, Bob.
I can still see my Uncle Bob pointing to a dent in his forehead and saying, “Babs shot me right here.” One night, after they had all gone to bed, her brothers, Bill and Bob, needed to go to the bathroom. Mom wanted to go with them because she was afraid to stay in the room by herself. They told her she couldn’t go, and they gave her a gun, probably a BB gun (remember this was the 1930s). They told her to shoot anyone who came in the room, and they set up a signal so she wouldn’t shoot them. Well, I don’t know if they really didn’t think she’d shoot or if they just forgot the signal, but they didn’t use it. And Mom shot Bob.
Their mother always made her children pick aswitch for their punishment. One time, Uncle Bill brought in a branch so large it was almost a tree. He laid it down on the table and smirked at his mother then sauntered out of the room. My grandmother grabbed that tree and whipped him from across the room. Reportedly, it was the worst spanking Bill ever got.
These are some of the stories she would tell us. Mom loved to tell us stories and we begged to hear them over and over.
She told me once that she wanted to be a brain surgeon, but that wasn’t a path women took back then. Early teachers discouraged her because she was a woman. She graduated from Limestone with a Bachelors degree in Sociology. Henry thinks it was a double major with History. We’re not sure, but I do know she got a degree in Sociology.
After college, she worked for the Department of Social Services in NC. Primarily, she went out to people in rural areas. The guys she dated wanted her to carry a gun. She told me some stories about her job, so I understand why they thought a gun was necessary. Maybe because she shot Bob, or maybe because Mom cared about people, but Mom refused to carry a gun. She saw everyone as an individual, someone who had value.
One of the things Mom taught me was my bedtime prayer. As I mentioned earlier, Mom changed things to fit her. You all know it: Now I lay me down to sleep.
Well, Mom changed the third line: If I should die before I wake
I don’t remember how old I was before I realized she had changed it, but I did ask her why. She said she couldn’t bring herself to teach a child to pray about dying. I like her version so much better and have taught it to my children and my granddaughter. It goes like this:
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
Watch me through the starry night
And wake me when the sun shines bright
Mom, I am sure the Son shone bright on you last Thursday, January 9, when you awoke new in heaven. We love you.