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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Celebration of Life for Rose Ann

The service to celebrate my mom's life was held yesterday afternoon in the church where she had worked for 23 years, counseling people through difficult times, and building up the women's ministry there.  The church looked beautiful.   Several bouquets has arrived before we had, and I especially touched to see the beautiful basket of flowers that the American Women's Club in Stockholm had sent.  What a lovely gesture of support and love from my world across the ocean.
It was a packed house and a real reflection of who my mom was.  It was hard to accept that she wasn't present in earthly form to share this wonderful time.  When it was over, I wanted to talk with her about it.  I must admit, it is still a bit surreal for me to get my hands around the reality of her being gone.  But such is the nature of grief and loss.  Still, I am comforted by the surrounding present of family and friends, both near and far, who walk beside us now.  I missed Doug so much yesterday and I know he missed us.  We spoke with him just prior to leaving for the church and I could see his longing to join us.  We had to accept that we just could not get all the moving parts in place in order for him to come.  The service was video taped so hopefully we will find time to sit down and enjoy it together upon my return to Sweden.
The pastor's beautiful message was centered on Psalm 118:17: "I will not die but live,  and will proclaim what the Lord has done."  Our hope does not rest in this earthly life but is fixed on the eternal place that God is busy preparing for each one of us.  He has welcomed my mother with open arms and I'm sure there is great rejoicing in heaven even as our tears fall.  Two other families who have lost children in their lives were present at the service and I assured them that mom was in heaven now, gathering all the kids who left earth prematurely, including my brother Bill, their kids and Doug's sister Debbie, loving them up, assuring them that all is well.  
The reception following the service was a beautiful array of food that the church provided.  Mom loved strawberries and someone had provided this beautiful centerpiece filled with chocolate dipped berries.  The reception gave us a chance to visit and reminisce about the special person that Rose Ann had been to each person gathered.  I loved seeing childhood friends who drove in from Orange County and was deeply surprised and touched when a former student from North Park, a young man who I had mentored and worked closely with while he was in college and then hired to assist me in campus ministry after he graduated showed up at the service.  He had taken the red eye from Chicago to LAX, drove to Palm Springs, got in at 4.00 a.m. on Friday and then was flying out Friday night at midnight to be back at work on Saturday.  It was a gesture of great love and friendship and I was grateful.  We were able to share a couple of hours together after the service before he had to make the trek back to LAX.  
The only bummer in the whole day was that the church's projection system went down and the words of the hymns could not be projected.  Mom picked great hymns: Because He Lives, Amazing Love, Day by Day and with Each Passing Moment, and Children of the Heavenly Father.  We ended the service with To God be the Glory which is what my mom's life mantra was all about.
I was privileged to share the tribute and while it was tough at times, it was a great honor and I really loved the opportunity to celebrate my mom in this special way.  Here is the text.

When Pastor Mike invited me to share today, he said, “Now Jodi, I want you to take as much time as you'd like to and share exactly what you want to.” I replied by saying, “Wow, Mike, that's a pretty dangerous invitation for a preacher!” But seriously, I am deeply honored to be able to stand here today and share some of my thoughts with you about Rose Ann or Mrs. Moon as many of you affectionately called her...wife, sister, aunt, friend, counselor and of course to me, mother.
Here's one of the more remarkable thoughts that I considered when I began to think about what I'd like to share. We knew a lot of folks from a variety of walks of life would be gathering for this celebration of her life. And as I considered the multi-facetted places from where people would be coming, I was struck with a profound truth. Each person here today probably at one time or another felt like they were perhaps the most special person on earth because of something mom had said to them or done for them. It seems likely to me that all of us here today have known that incredibly personal touch that only Rose Ann could render to another person. She could make you feel loved like no other. She could help you retain your shattered faith like no other. She could touch the hurt in your life like no other and somehow give you the strength and the courage to come through it all, a much better, deeper, well-adjusted person. I should know this. She did these things for me for 52 years.
But in addition to her being this amazingly caring person, Rose Ann was also a bundle of fun. I am so thankful that both my parents loved life and were into having fun! We loved to play games, tell jokes, have a good laugh together, or head out on adventures. We did not have a lot of money but through my parent's creative use of resources, we sure did have a blast together as a family. Dad worked at Disneyland, so we got to there for free, several times a week! We had general admission passes to Angel stadium so 2-4 times a week, we were at the ball park. We loved going to the beach and camping and fishing. Mom couldn't stand to sit still, unless of course, you put a fishing pole in her hand. Then she could sit for 12 hours in one spot hovering over the best little fishing hole in order to catch her limit for the day. When we fished in Sweden and failed to catch anything, all she did was give my husband a hard time for not having the right kind of bait! What a character that woman was at times! My parents hosted gatherings and we would hear them laughing with their friends late into the night. They dressed up for parties and school events. They were never afraid to make fools of themselves in order to create laughter and joy in their wake. What a great gift they've given me in this.
In some ways I envied my mom's lifestyle while I was growing up. I was fortunate to have her stay home and likewise, most of the other moms stayed at home too. Mom had a Tuesday morning Bible study with the women in the neighborhood. Friday mornings were bowling leagues to raise money for the football teams. Rosie's Buds was the legendary slow pitch softball team that enjoyed surprising success. Then there were the silly gatherings with her friends to weigh-in. A group of gals would get together weekly to drink coffee and solve the world's problems and to see how much weight they were gaining and losing. For every pound they gained, they put money in a jar. When they had gained enough weight, they took their husbands out to dinner! And speaking of dinner, my parents belonged to a dinner group with about 8 other couples for 40 years. For 40 years, this wonderful crew chose a country and tried to cook food from these exotic lands! Sometimes it was good. Sometimes it was awful. Always it was a joyful feast among dear friends.
My mom was the consummate fan. There is no one who complained to the TV more than mom, about the Cubs, about the Angles, or about the Lakers. She never missed any of our games and I mean those of my brother, me and my dad. She missed one football game in my dad's entire career because she was in bed sick with the flu. When talking about it the next morning, I'm sure she still had opinions about the plays that were called. I'll never forget sitting with her in the stands at football games listening to her yell about why they didn't blitz more. She loved the game, she loved the players, she loved the coach more than anything else.
Longevity is a word that comes to mind. In addition to the family members present today, my peers from the high school teams my dad coached are present. Players who were my babysitters are here today. Friends from Orange County, where my folks lived for 24 years are here today and now the communities of Mission Lakes and Palm Springs, which represent the last 24 years are also present. School and church were always at the centerpiece of what we were about. I guess it's not that surprising then that first I was a teacher and a coach and now I am a minister.
One year after my brother died and my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I began blogging about our life and experiences in Stockholm, Sweden. These entries have been a bit of a life journal for me and I'm so thankful to have them as a record of our life. On mom's 78th birthday, which is May 7th by the way, back in 2008, I felt compelled to share deeply about the kind of person she was as she had survived a very tough year and was showing the deep mettle of her will to live and strong personality during those early years with cancer. They are just as appropriate today as they were then. I wrote: My mom is a fun-loving person. Often, if not always, the life of the party. People just flock around her. I have never met a friend of hers who hasn't just gushed about what an amazing person Rose Ann is. Sometimes it's embarrassing, maybe even a little annoying. I mean, there were small flaws in there somewhere. But the world in which Rose Ann inhabits is a world that sees only her generous spirit, her kind compassion, her strong and trustworthy leadership, her deep love for humanity and God. It's flattering and wonderful to see how well-loved your mom is.
My mom is one of the greatest athletes ever. She would easily have been a pro something, or an Olympic softball player but she lived during the wrong era for female athletes. I remember when we were kids getting a game of baseball, football or basketball together in the neighborhood. My brother and I would wander into the group and all of our friends would ask, "Is your mom going to play. If she is, we get her." It's kind of a bummer when you're 10 and your mom gets picked for a team before you do! When I was in college she played pick-up basketball with my friends and sank a lot of shots and always beat us at horse. When I turned 40, she was 70, and we played Laser Tag and she won. I think she got sympathy passes from everyone. They all felt bad shooting at an older lady! She and my dad would play two men in doubles tennis and consistently win. She'd beat the guys in golf with her crushingly long drives and amazing scrambling short game around the green. She broke a friend's nose while playing park league softball. You get the picture. She was a stud athlete.
She also had the highest pain threshold of anyone I've ever known, which became evident during the tough times of fighting back the cancer. When explaining this to others I just said, "Yeah, she's a tough cookie. She pulled her own tooth once because it was bugging her. Didn't even flinch." In the meantime, my dad and I were passed out on the floor because the mere thought of it had caused us to faint.
In 2009, her birthday entry read like this: Last summer we were told that mom's cancer was beyond healing. The Dr. promised to help her have a quality of life that was decent but we certainly weren't planning for any big birthday celebrations down the road. At the end of February we were surprised with the amazing news that she was in fact in remission..."a medical impossibility." But that's what's so great about my mom. She didn't care what was medically impossible. She knew that her God could do anything. She trusted in the words of Luke 1:37: "For nothing shall be impossible with God." Eve her oncologist called it a miracle.
And finally, last year on May 7, I wrote this: This birthday feels pretty special because it was 5 years ago to the day that we got word that mom had ovarian cancer.  It is a miracle and a joy that she is still with us to celebrate one more year!  I am humbled and awed and feel really blessed.  She has fought hard and overcome many moments when we thought that death had her in its grip.  I admire her courage, heading back into chemotherapy this winter, after enjoying a season of remission.  It was tough.  She was sick, lost her hair, suffered from having no energy or zest for life and yet, when the results came back that the treatment was effective, she chose to continue on even though it made her feel so crummy. My mom is a special woman.  She has a joy that emanates from within, a real love of others and of God that is so clear from the first moment you meet her.  Most people who have known my mom think of her as a fun-loving, people-loving, God-loving gal.  And she really is all that.  She embraces people no matter their background.  She acts silly no matter her age.  She loves a good laugh.  She's a good sport and a great athlete. I love that about her.  If you've ever met either one of my parents, it is not so hard to see where I get my competitive instinct!
And so now I must shift gears a bit because to speak of my mom and yet not to speak of my dad is impossible. My parents were married for 55 years and they still loved being married until the very end. Dad cared for mom with incredible grace and beauty. He never complained. He just did it. He was always so grateful for the ways she showed him support through the years and he felt it an honor to return the same for her. A couple of football players had shared some thoughts about my folks with me after the celebration of the 35th anniversary of my dad's 1st CIF championship last October. This one was extra special for me because it was my senior year at the same school I attended. Whatever sentiments these boys shared about how my father acted toward them, you can multiply that by the thousands and perhaps get a little bit closer to kind of love and loyalty he showed Rose Ann throughout their lives but especially during these years of fighting cancer. I want to share two excerpts from the mails I received because it sums up so well what an amazing team Coach and Mrs. Moon really were, not only to their children, but to countless young people in this world.
The first: “Jodi you must know how lucky you are to have two parents that genuinely love and care for anyone they come into contact with.  They have always spoken so highly of you and what you've accomplished.  They love you very very very much.  Ted had the ability to control young men in ways you couldn't imagine.  He'd be yelling at you in one minute and loving you the next.  Through it all he was very loyal to a fault to his players that gave it their all for him on the field. He taught us to never quit.  When the going got tough, the tough get going.  Everyone that I know of that has kept in contact with Ted applies those same principals in their personal and business life.
And from another: I was always moved by the way your dad talked about your mom. It was never disparaging, but always with love and respect. That spoke to me in an important way. As serious as he took winning, I saw in him that football was a tool, a means to teach us how to become men. The game was important… but it wasn’t the end.
No, the end is to live well and to love well, especially for the Lord. My mom did this with every fiber of her being. And while she fought valiantly and continually beat the odds of surviving, we all knew that the end was eventually going to come because every earthly life inevitably ends in death. The end was tough for me and my dad. But it was also such a sure sign that it was Rose Ann's time to go...go meet Jesus, go be reunited with my brother and her brothers and her parents, go dance on the streets of gold even though she never could dance very well! Go and get your new body. Leave the pain and the sorrow of this earthly bondage behind you and go receive the crown of righteousness that so deservedly awaits you.
In the final days of my mom's earthly life, these words from Luke 2:29-32 became especially meaningful to me:
Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel.” Mom reflected that light, the light of Christ, in remarkable and far reaching ways.
My mom was a faithful servant of our Lord. Even when most of us felt that she exuded the epitome of Christian love and walked closer to God than most folks ever will, I know that her prayer was for a deeper connection to God, a greater willingness to serve and obey and for an even wider capacity to love others with God's love. Her capacity to love and pour grace on others was beyond comprehension to most of us. And her ability to spread joy brought laughter to the world often. She was a true conduit of the love of God and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. And this was perhaps demonstrated most perfectly in her family, which she loved fiercely. Her commitment to my father, my brother, and of course me is hard to explain. She loved us all so deeply and we always knew that we had an amazing advocate in our corner when it came to my mom.
So as I bring my thoughts to a close, I do so with one request. The legacy of Rose Ann can live on if we will all seek to make a deeper connection with God, ask for a greater willingness to serve and obey, and pray for a bigger heart that we might all have a greater capacity to love others and pour grace into their lives. No one can replace Rose Ann. But if we all pick up just a bit of her legacy, her light, which was a pure reflection of the light of Christ, will continue to shine brightly and bring blessing to all who receive it.
So here's to you mom...to your faith, to your strength, to your toughness, to your will to live and your capacity to love, doing it all with a joy for life that is enviable. We will miss you terribly, we have loved you dearly, but we will always celebrate the amazing woman you were to each one of us. Amen.

Now today is a new day, a day that reminds us that we have to find our way forward without my mom nearby.  I'm so grateful for the love of my husband, his family, my dad, my extended family, friends near and far, through Facebook and other electronic means, flowers sent, cards and memorial gifts received, the prayers of the faithful and countless hugs and expressions of love and care.  Our lives will never be the same, but I stand firm on what does not change: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  And for this I remain ever thankful.