Monday, April 30, 2007

A tribute to my mother

As I sort through life and deal with my mother's passing, I've been touched by the words of many people. Thanks to each and every one of you.

Often, during my blogging experiences, wonderful comments become buried and forgotten. There's been a couple I want to post for all to read. This first one comes from a dear friend of my mother, Bobbie Sease.

"Bonnie’s funeral today was beautiful and touching, a poignant tribute to one of Miami County’s strongest supporters and most valuable treasures. Standing in the cemetery with Del in that raw cold wind, I couldn’t help but think that God was showing us how bleak our world will be without her.

Back in the seventies, when I was searching for answers, someone told me to read the Bible. I must have smirked. That person told me that if I kept at it, I would find a character who would speak to me. He said the Bible has someone for everyone, someone we can identify with in some significant way. I found that to be true and I’ve passed on that advice to many others over the years. When I think of Bonnie, I think of Barnabas from the New Testament. He was called the “son of encouragement.” He was the one who stood up for Paul (previously Saul) to the apostles and other Christians, when they doubted that Paul had truly been converted. Preachers and Christian writers today often use Barnabas as an example of one who “comes alongside” to encourage. And that is how I remember Bonnie. She didn’t just encourage with words. She came alongside and helped people bring to fruition what they dreamed in their hearts.

She believed in my writing ability and told me often that I should try to publish. But she didn’t stop there. One day in 1985, she brought out a clipping from New Woman magazine that advertised a poetry contest. A week later, she called and asked if I had submitted a poem yet. She even suggested which one to submit! She was the first person I called when I was notified that I had won the contest and the $1,000 prize. Later, Bonnie and I collaborated on a few articles for The Peru Daily Tribune, as it was called then. One of our biggest thrills was having our article (my writing, her photos) published in Country Woman magazine.

Bonnie’s curiosity and energy were insatiable. I never saw her idle. She was always investigating something, trying something, creating something, or going somewhere to see something. She had an infectious childlike wonder about life and an appetite to match. In my somber moments, I can’t help but feel some anger that her life was cut so short—just when she finally had great chunks of time to spend pursuing new interests. Then I remember this: to Bonnie, time was a commodity to be spent with abandon. She made the most of every moment. She gained something valuable in every experience.

She saw more, did more, explored more, enjoyed more than just about anybody I ever met. She didn’t just whip out pictures of her grandchildren to show you in passing. She carried her grandchildren with her! How many times do I remember her coming out to the greenhouse with kids in tow, or out to the pond to fish, or passing through on her way to Mississinewa Reservoir? I can’t ever remember her being alone on those ventures. She was a student and life was her school. She also was a teacher, grabbing lessons from every opportunity.

Bonnie was my first friend when I moved here in 1974. Del grew up in Peru, but I felt like an outsider. Bonnie helped me believe that there was something extraordinarily special about this place. She helped me understand how important it is to ‘bloom where you are planted.’

I will miss you dearly, Bonnie."

Bobbie Sease

"Go, songs, and come not back from your far way:
And if men ask you why ye smile and sorrow,
Tell them ye grieve, for your hearts know To-day,
Tell them ye smile, for your eyes know To-morrow."
--Francis Thompson

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Filtering Through Bonnie's Life

The following was written by my mother sometime in the recent past. I'm not certain when, but I suspect it may have been written post retirement.

Yesterday, my sister discovered this piece in one of Mom's numerous notebooks. My sister read this at Mom's private funeral service this past evening.

"Old age, I decided, is a gift. I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be.

Oh, not my body! I sometimes despair over my body; the wrinkles, baggy eyes and sagging butt.

I am often taken aback by that old person that lives in that mirror, but I don't agonize over those things for long. I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I've aged, I've become more kind to myself and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend. I don't chide myself for eating that extra cookie or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn't need, but looks so avant garde on my patio. I am entitled to over eat, to be messy, to be extravagant. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging. Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4:00 AM and sleep until Noon?

I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and I will dive into waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the bikini set. They, too, will get old. I know I am sometimes forgetful, but then again, some of life is just well forgotten, and I eventually remember the important things. Sure, over the years, my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even a beloved pet gets hit by a car?

But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turn gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face.

So many have never laughed and so many died before their hair could turn silver. I can say 'no' and mean it. I can say 'yes' and mean it.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore. I have even earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become.

I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be, but will rejoice in what was."

Bonnie Combs

Monday, April 09, 2007

Mom's obituary

Bonita Kay Combs, age 65, passed away Saturday, April 7, in Peru, IN.
Born in Peru, July 1941, Bonnie always found beauty in the ordinary, and, most importantly, found humor in adversity. A recent retiree from Square D, she became a successful freelance photographer and authored a history of Peru weblog, Peru Then and Now.
She was a member of Sigma Phi Gamma sorority, The Artist's Connection, Miami County Historical Museum volunteer and 50 year member of the First Presbyterian Church. A PHS class of '59 graduate, Bonnie volunteered for the Cole Porter home restoration; and was an avid gardener and fisherman.
She is survived by her children Marci Richter and husband Edi, Malissa Strasser and husband Shaun, Randy Combs and wife Michelle, mother Juanita Geberin, and siblings Terry Geberin and wife Susie and Elizabeth Edwards and husband Art. A devoted, involved grandmother, Bonnie will be missed by her 11 grandchildren, Jordan, Amber, April, Ben Michael, Bradley, Matthew, Jeremiah, Corinne, Haley, Zach, Joey plus her three great grandchildren, Brooklyn, Raven, and Emma. She was preceded in death by father Robert Geberin.
A viewing will be held Tuesday, April 10, 2-8 p.m at Flowers Leedy Funeral Home, 105 W. 3rd St. in Peru. The funeral will be held Wednesday, April 11, 10:30 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 102 W. Main St, in Peru. Memorial contributions can be made in Bonnie's name to the Wabash Miami County Hospice or the First Presbyterian Church in Peru.

Peru Then and Now Update

Thank you to everyone who has visited Peru Then and Now over the past year.

My mother, the blog's author, recently passed away after battling a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor since January. She'll be sorely missed.

As I know many readers are friends and former classmates; I'm encouraging you to leave condolences in the comment sections of the blog. I'll be managing Peru Then and Now for the near future.

Please know that comments are moderated. This means I'll be notified via e-mail when you post a comment. What this means is that your comment won't be seen immediately. I'm doing this to prevent spammers from filling up the comment section. Feel free to ask questions and share stories.

Most of all, thank you to everyone who helped provide care and give love to my mother. Over the next few days, I'll publicly acknowledge many of you. You've touched our lives over the past three months and we'll never be able to thank you enough.