This year Día de los muertos is more poignant than ever for me. My mom passed away just 3 weeks ago, on October 11th. Naturally, my shrine is focusing on her this year. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of the things that would please her, but I will do my best.
Mom was a beautiful lady with a beautiful name. She got a kick out of the rising popularity once again of her name. She loved traveling and collecting beautiful things. She also LOVED Christmas. She decorated her house to the nines with all her Santas and Christmas cuties, and generously lavished us with gifts.
She was a voracious reader and had a vast collection of books. Mom also was a wonderful writer. When I come across her lovely handwriting on an envelope, it makes me lonesome to think that I won't be receiving any more of her missives.
She grew up Catholic. Although she stopped going to church in later years, she always maintained her faith in God. This gave her great comfort, and she encouraged others to foster their own faith.
She loved beauty and the finer things in life. She treated herself well, but as she always said, "All things in moderation." That included the single chocolate chip cookie she used to allow herself every night.
I was unaware of how beautiful she was until my brother Steve pointed it out after she passed. It's one of those things when people tell you she's beautiful, you think to yourself, "Her? She's just my mom." But now I see it. I wish I could show you the photo montage we put together for her memorial service, and then you would see it, too. Well, actually, you can see it here, just click on the video tribute button. It won't have the same music we chose due to copyright laws, but try to imagine it with Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli, and Joe Cocker's version of "You Are So Beautiful To Me."
The obituary we wrote to honor Mom:
Audrey Carol Wood, resident of the Deerhorn community of Springfield, died Tuesday October 11, 2011, after a long and brave battle with cancer. She was 77 years old.
Audrey was born Dec. 26, 1933 in Mar Vista, California, to Vernon and Harriett Brown, the second of seven children. She married Carleton F. Wood in Westwood, California in 1967. He died in 1988.
Growing up in Westwood she was a devoted Bruin fan, graduating from UCLA in 1956 with Phi Beta Kappa honors. She taught elementary school in Los Angeles for nine years, beginning at University Elementary, where she herself had attended as a child. It was at UES that she first learned the experiential teaching methods of John Dewey, a philosophy that she was always proud to embrace.
She moved to Oregon in 1980. With her husband she owned the Lucky Logger Restaurant in the town of Walterville, up the Mackenzie River. After her husband’s passing she became active in volunteer work which included being an ESL tutor, a reader and accounting assistant to the blind with the Oregon Commission for the Blind, and an intergenerational tutor with the Oasis program at Camp Creek and Thurston Elementary Schools. She also volunteered for St. Alice Community Services, which led to her becoming the director of that agency for seven years.
Audrey was an avid reader, world traveler, and music lover. She had a ready smile, a sparkle in her eye, a spunky wit, and an astoundingly loud cheer for her favorite football team – which in later life became the U of O Ducks. She will also be remembered for her sense of beauty and style which was reflected in her home, a welcome retreat for family. Beyond all else, she loved celebrating life’s happy occasions with her family, laughing loud and long and joyfully.
She will be missed and cherished always by her four children and their spouses: Linda MoonWood and Robert Murakami, Steven and Galina Wood, Stacy and Bryan Sorenson, Woody and Shawna Wood; her seven grandchildren: Emily, Kyllian, Willow, Chloe, Summer, Aaron, and Ekaterina; sister Loretta Lindholm, brother John Brown, sister Pamela Camille; and her beloved friend for many years, Don Hibbard of Salem. We love you Mom/Nana… Audrey.
Mom was very generous and lavished us with gifts during her lifetime, but the greatest gift ever was the love of family. My two brothers, Steve and Woody, my sister Stacy, and I became so close this past year, and especially in Mom's final month.
Eulogy for Mom:
My mom had a wonderful life.
My Aunt Pamela reminded me of this when I spoke to her by phone the other day. She said, “Your mom got to do everything she ever wanted to do in her life.”
I’ve been thinking about this, and she’s right:
Mom wanted to work with kids. She was a teacher, a tutor, a daycare provider, and a mother of four.
Mom liked to eat heartily. Lucky her - she married a restaurant man who was a wonderful cook!
Mom wanted to help people. After Dad passed she became a volunteer dynamo, affecting so many lives in positive ways.
She had always wanted to travel. Later in life she was fortunate to meet her beloved friend Don, and together they saw the world.
Two months before she passed, we four kids were visiting her and taking her places on the weekends. She was so excited to visit once more the beauty along the scenic Mackenzie Highway. After her third trip all the way up to the town of Sisters, Stacy asked Mom if there were any other place or thing she still wanted to see or do that she hadn’t yet done in her life. Mom replied, “I just want to be with my family.
Again her wish was granted. In her final month, Mom, Stacy, Steve, Woody and I became closer I think than any of us had imagined possible. That is a gift she gave to us that I will always cherish.