EULOGY FOR MY MOTHER, THELMA "TYBEE" GOLDSMITH
My Father was known for his corny sayings. When his birthday rolled around, he would say, “Some people don't make it this far.” Happily the same can be said today for his wife, my Mother, who lived an equally long and healthy life.
I have come to bury my Mother AND to praise her. She, too, was a Lady of many words. But if I could use only two, the first would be "Unforgettable." My Mother was "Unforgettable."
On a visit to see her @two years ago, I took her downstairs to the fancy dining room. I positioned her wheelchair so she could look outside and have the sun shine on her face. As she leaned back and closed her eyes, Nat King Cole was suddenly heard on the radio crooning "Unforgettable. That's what you are." PERFECT.
My life long friends, some of whom are here today, have never forgotten her, either. Significant people from every walk of my life met her: Clubsisters from Peterson School and Von Steuben, Sorority sisters from The University of Wisconsin, co workers from Niles West High School, and hatsisters from Charleston. Even The Staff at The Abington, her last address, had kind words to say about her, as she started to fade.
Whoever met her, remembered her. I once bought her a pillow that said, “There is no one like my Mother.” It sat on her couch until she moved to her one room at The Abington. It now sits on mine. It is one of the few items I have, but it would rank among the most meaningful, even if I had received many.
In any case, it is the intangibles she gave me that are the most priceless. Just as I did for my Father, here is everything I learned from my Mother. I know she heard these words because I sent them to her a few years ago in lieu of a Mother's Day card.
SHE TAUGHT ME IF I DID SOMETHING WRONG, I WOULD GET CAUGHT
How did she do this? She told me she once borrowed her Sister Shirley’s new dress, without Shirley's knowledge. While walking downtown, one of the street photographers snapped her picture. She couldn’t resist buying the photo because it was so flattering. She got home before Shirley did and carefully put away her clothes. When Shirley returned, my Mother proudly took out the picture and showed it to her.
SHE INSTILLED A CONCERN FOR MY APPEARANCE.
What can I say? She hadn't liked her own nose, and she didn’t like mine. She nudged and nudged and nudged me to fix it. She didn’t like the alignment of my teeth; she made certain I wore braces. Then she didn’t like that some of my teeth were smaller than the others; she had them capped. I begrudgingly followed her wishes. Later on in life I heard the statement, “If you don’t think your appearance matters, you are wrong.” As with so many things, Mother, you were right.
Ultimately there was an even more important lesson in this “appearance” thing; it was the concept that IF SOMETHING CAN BE FIXED, IT SHOULD BE FIXED. Strive to be the best you can be…in every way.
SHE SEARCHED FOR NEW AND EXCITING THINGS TO DO.
It started with all the things she found for me: Things like learning to swim and dance and sing and play the piano and go to Chicago Symphony Concerts. She didn't have a car to take me to any them. She didn't have friends to carpool with. Instead she schlepped me on buses regardless of the lousy Chicago weather. What a trooper!
As a retiree, she found all sorts of things for my Father and her to do. They became role models....not just for me... but for their grandchildren.
They held part time jobs at Oakton Community College and worked there for years. I still have the full page article framed on my wall that appeared in the local newspaper entitled, “40 years and Two Children Later, the Goldsmiths go Back to School.” Their jobs were simple, but they came with the fringe benefits of being in a stimulating environment around young people
I am certain this activity lead to both of their long and productive lives and sharpened my skills in seeking opportunities. When I switch from Plan A to Plan B, and then to Plan C, I feel both of their influences at work.
SHE INSPIRED A LOVE OF VOLUNTEERISM
My Mother supported the Asthmatic Children’s Aid Society. She helped at Oakton's cultural events. She loved being Jewish and contributed to Hadassah, even served as Chapter President. She went to Israel and worked on a kibbutz in HER 60’s. In all instances, she received as much as she gave…showing me both sides to volunteerism.
I now lead what has been called “a volunteer brigade of stylish Ladies who are making a difference.” I credit my parents for being MY leaders.
SHE TAUGHT ME THE POWERFUL MEANING OF THE 3 LETTER WORD “TRY.”
She did it when I was 10 years old. How? She took a chance. She bought a raffle ticket for a cause she believed in... B’nai B’rith.
On the stage of the International Amphitheater in Chicago, in front of 1,000’s of people, out of a hat with 1,000’s of ticket stubs, HER name was read. She won a brand new Pontiac car, while all Goldsmiths won the gift of unbridled optimism.
Over the years, she continued to win dozens of prizes, ranging from lamps to ounces of gold. It was contagious: My Father started winning raffles. I started winning raffles; her grandson started winning raffles. We were not gamblers. We were just optimistic people who knew someone was going to win, and it just might be us.
This positive mindset goes beyond taking chances. Sometimes just PUTTING OURSELVES OUT THERE was good enough.
Once my Mother moved to Independent Living, she could have stayed in her room and simply gone downstairs for meals. She didn’t. Throughout the day she went to the activity room and enjoyed the Programs. Then she'd win prizes from drawings she didn't even know would take place.
One of my fondest memories is a visit where we played bingo. Out of approximately 20 people, we won close to half the games between the two of us. It would have been embarrassing, if it weren’t so darn reaffirming that when two Goldsmiths came to the table, we would win by a landslide; the others never had a chance.
Something similar happened her last year there. That time there were over 100 people in the room playing bingo. The first 9 games called for a simple line, in any direction. The last game, with the grand prize, required the whole card to win. Guess who did!
Even after she had her minor stroke, she went downstairs and won a $12.00 prize. Even after she moved to rehab, she won a candy bar. Here is the wrapper.
Of all these life lessons, I thank her most of all for encouraging me to take chances…to toss my hat in the ring….to recognize how LUCKY I am and how LUCKY I can be…
And that is the second word that defines my Mother...She was a LUCKY Lady. She lived almost 94 healthy years. She was married 66 years to a man who was healthy, too. She was loved by family and friends. She rode the moguls of life like the skiers in the Olympics, and took the GOLD every time.
Even today, I cannot feel her luck has run its course. She joins the many who she loved and preceded her: Her father, mother, brother, sister, and husband. They will protect her, once again.
My Mother was born with red hair, and she has died with red hair. In the beginning it was a mixed blessing because other children made fun of it. They would say, “Red head, ginger bread head. Here comes a white horse. HIIIDDE your head.
But she didn’t hide her head. She was proud of it. It was her identity. She even lived long enough to see how popular red hair had become.
It was, however, a hard color to maintain. One time, it came out purple. I almost said, “Mother, come on now. Who are you fooling? At least let SOME grey show thru.”
I am so happy I never did. She had to be who she was to the end. That is the best way to remember her after all.
Just as I began with a favorite quote from my Father, so will I end with a favorite quote from my Mother: “That's why they put erasers on pencils.”My Mother taught me we all makes mistakes. At the same time, she left the door open for correction and forgiveness.
I last saw her on her 93rd birthday. She no longer knew who I was. However, she knew we had unfinished business. She apologized for decisions she made that adversely affected relationships within our family. I accpeted her apology for I knew, like my Father before her, she had done the best she could.
Thus, I can be at peace, and she can rest in peace.
Today I tip my GREEN hat to a Mother I was LUCKY to have for 67 years, a Mother who is truly "UNFORGETTABLE."
Close your eyes, hear Nat King Cole
singing, and smile as you remember a lucky Lady............... Even if you don't
want to..... do it ANYWAY. There are things in this world that are simply the
right thing to do. She taught me that lesson, too. My Mother is gone, but she
will NEVER be forgotten.
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