In December 2016, I shared the story of my friend, Fran, who I interviewed when she was in hospice care awaiting her passing from this life. Indeed, she made her journey less than a month later.
As life continues on I'm thankful that her legacy continues in her family. Fran's daughter Pat, along with her husband, Ray, dropped a bombshell of generosity on The Worthy People Project when they donated a significant (and I mean significant) portion of the funds for the recording of "The Apple Tree" EP.
I was shocked though not surprised. So much of who Fran was lives on in her family. Recently, I sat down with Pat (and Ray) to see how they were doing, thank them for their generosity, and to continue telling Fran's story...
It was 2003 when I first met Pat. She is the person who opened the door to my life in ministry way back then. Without her influence, I wouldn't be where I am today. Truly.
[S]: So, Pat, in terms of your mom's passing how have things been in the last few months?
[P]: There are times when I think, "Oh, I should tell Mom about that...oh, right, Mom's not here," but rarely do I feel sadness about it; though, once in a while I do. I'm going to miss my mom till the day I die just because of the close relationship we had, but I don't feel the same kind of sadness that I did when my dad died. Dad was 74 and still very vital and alive and doing things and it felt like we were robbed of years. Mom was 89 and the last 3 years were so difficult for her; more so than even I realized, I think. Ray and my friend, Heather, told me they think we must have gone to over 500 doctor's appointments in those last 3 years. When you're in the middle of all that you just do it without even realizing the work it takes to care for an aging parent. Now, there is a sense of freedom that I haven't had in quite a while. I don't feel guilty about that because mom wanted that for me. She wasn't a burden to me, but she thought she was.
What's difficult for me is that I'm feeling a little lost. Mom was so much a part of my daily life and I worked my calendar to make sure that I could be there for whatever she needed. I don't regret any of it, though. Thankfully, with both my parents I have no regrets. I don't feel like we left anything unsaid or undone. What I'm realizing though is that because so much of my life centered around my mom, I'm kind of going, "Okay, now what?"
[S]: Does it feel like "empty nest syndrome" all over again?
[P]: Harder, actually. Right around the time when things got more intense for mom, I left my 30-hour-per-week job and now I work only 8-10 hours per week and though I have voice students and the Rochester Symphony's Chorale to conduct, I have a lot of time. I'm struggling to find my passion again. My friend, Heather's Mom used to call it "being at sixes and sevens." I'm at "sixes and sevens" trying to figure out what's next.
Around the New Year, right after mom died, I was listening to WCCO radio and a guy was saying he didn't believe in New Year's resolutions but he suggested people think of three words to describe the sort of year they wanted. That captured my imagination and I thought my words would be, "finding myself again." So, here we are in May and I'm still trying to find myself. Part of this is turning 60 and reflecting on whether my life has had any meaning or impact on anyone.
I feel like I should get out there and volunteer but I'm finding I'm really not motivated very much right now. Honestly, I'm tired.
It's been a lonely time, too. Actually, when my mom was living here it was really lonely. I felt isolated during those last three months because I really had to be here. Most of her caregivers were not able to do her transfers so when I had one who could I had to get all my errands done. I want to remember what that isolation felt like so if others I know are going through that I can be there for them. It was a surprise how isolating it was.
[S]: How has the family dynamic changed? A worry of Fran's was that you and your siblings would lose touch after she died. She felt as if she was the glue that held you guys together.
[P]: Basically, I think it's been good. When Mom was near the end, I sent an email to my siblings because of some bubbling resentment. They both responded very positively and in a very conciliatory way. After my brother lost his son in 2013, I think he understood more profoundly how important family is and I think he has invested more in the extended family. For instance, they just went up to their cabin in the Black Hills. Whenever they would make the trip from Texas to South Dakota, when mom was alive, they would text me so I could tell mom where they were so she knew they were safe. This time around, my brother and I talked on the phone and I told him there were still people who care about where he is and whether his travels are going okay. I could hear him kind of choke up and he said, "Thank you."
[S]: What are those qualities of your Mom that you see in yourself? Those legacy type qualities?
[P]: Last summer, Mom had issues with the residence where she lived and wanted to remain, so the family was gathered and preparing to meet with the administration. We were all sitting in our living room and I was talking about dad. I commented that if I had to use only one word to describe my dad it would be integrity. My daughter, Libby, piped up and said if she had to use one word to describe her Grandmom it would be generosity. The whole family started nodding their heads. I would add that besides generosity my mother always chose positivity. Those two traits defined her.
When Mom moved here from Santa Barbara, CA, I went out to help her pack up all her stuff. In the process, I asked if she was okay and I told her I didn't take it lightly that she was leaving the place she'd lived for 30 years. She said, "Honey, I'm going to be happy because I've chosen to be happy." She told me that same thing many times throughout her life. Another time, my friend, Heather, who was complaining of PMS cramps, asked if Mom had ever had them. Mom just responded that they didn't have that in her day. Mom didn't give credence to things that caused her trouble or pain.
In terms of generosity, my dad was also very generous. Mom said she learned how to give after marrying dad. He grew up in a family where tithing was the norm. They did that, and more, but I felt like they did it in such creative ways. Like when I was in college.
As soon as we graduated high school, we were expected to work every summer. My dad did very well working at GE and they also invested very wisely, so my parents were able to afford to pay for our college education. But, they also felt it was important that we contribute, so, at the end of the summer, my dad would sit down with each of us and look at how much we had made. We would determine a reasonable amount to contribute to our education then Dad would have us choose an institution to donate that money to in the form of a scholarship. He and mom would match that contribution and GE would match the combined amount.
I ended up, after some encouragement from my dad, donating to Princeton Theological Seminary. Every year father would send that money to Princeton and have them give it to a student. The only expectations would be, if at some point in the future they could, that the student should pay it forward and help someone else.
After dad passed, mom continued their generosity with people like you and the couple in Alaska and others who came along. Of course, people would ask why Mom was so generous with them and Mom said she wanted to help people realize their dreams. If somebody had a dream and they were willing to go after it, Mom wanted to encourage them in that. For those recipient's of Mom's generosity, I think it's been a significant encouragement.
In the end, the bulk of her significant estate went to seven or eight different organizations like the Rochester Symphony, Princeton Theological Seminary, Direct Relief and more. But, don't worry, she didn't neglect us children! She and dad had seen what could happen to children who inherited too much money so I believe they protected us from that.
[S]: Pat, I am so thankful for your generosity. I was always surprised by Fran's generosity, so I'll ask the same sort of question that I would have asked Fran. Why me? Why does The Worthy People Project resonate with you? Why is it something you wish to invest in?
[P]: For me, it's because the art is connected with people. As a musician, I know music can reach people when other things can't. Knowing your worth is something that has been always been needed, but maybe never more than these days. I think people are hungry to know that they have value; that each person's story has value.
[S]: I find it fascinating to hear you say this even as you look for the value in your own story.
[P]: I do know I'm going to have to find my worth in the kind of person I am rather than in the things that I can do. Even though the world measures our worth by what we can (or can't do), the truth of the matter is our worth is in who we are as worthy people.
You know I'm grateful for the relationship you had with my mom, Sarah. I think she really valued her friendship with you.
[S]: Well, it mattered a lot that someone found such value in me. I'll always be grateful for my friendship with Fran. And, I'm thankful for my friendship with you. Thanks again, Pat for helping this dream and these stories come to life.