Friday, December 11, 2009

MY MOTHER - Part 2

In my previous post, I announced the death of my 95 year-old mother. I am not a religious person, but my mother was. She left written instructions for what she wanted included in her memorial service. I did my best to fulfill her requests.

When my father died in 1982, my mother was disappointed in his memorial service. She commented that the minister had acted like he didn't know my father, said nothing personal about him, and could have said the same service for just about anyone.

When I contacted the current minister, I asked for his email address so I could type my mother's requests for the service. In addition, I wrote a brief summary of her life. I was sure he couldn't include all of the information, but suggested he include anything he thought might interest those in attendance. But he used nearly all the information I gave him, sprinkling it throughout the service, making it a very personal tribute to my mother.

Several friends and relatives who could not be in attendance asked me to send a program from the service, so I am posting the program here. Click on any image to enlarge it.

In addition to the hymns in the program, my mother requested the following hymns to be used as preludes and/or postludes:

All the Way My Savior Leads Me

Safe in the Arms of Jesus

Someday the Silver Cord Will Break

Love Divine

Abide With Me

Near to the Heart of God

Out of Ivory Palaces

Beyond the Sunset

These are the notes I sent to the minister about my mother's life:

Born: 3/18/1914 - Mt. Troy (Pittsburgh, PA)

Her mother, Selma Rotzler (of German decent) married Swedish immigrant William Swanson.

Grace was the second of 4 sisters ---and the last surviving one of the four.

Started school at age 5

Her family moved to Lima, Ohio for a while and her father called her his "little Lima bean."

Later returned to Mt. Troy.

Sickly child ---suffered from rheumatic fever, missed a year of school (at about age 10-12.)

Her father worked for American Bridge.

Her mother was the "go-to" neighbor who helped take care of children when a parent was ill, helped deliver babies, took care of people, gave food to beggars.

Grace had to drop out of school in her teens to work (during the Great Depression.)

Worked for the Clark Candy Company on the North Side.

Worked as a seamstress for a company which made one-of-a-kind gowns for "society ladies." She often told stories of women who would arrive at 6:30 pm for their final fittings while 6 or 8 of the girls would hem their gowns by hand, before the clients ran off to the opera.

Met my father Charles Peiffer (from Spring Hill) at a church conference (Evangelical and Reformed Church, which later became the United Church of Christ). On an old photo that Grace had given Charles in May 1936 she wrote on the reverse, "To Mr. Charles Peiffer from the future Mrs. Charles Peiffer." They were married in June 1940, after dating for more than 4 years. She made her own wedding dress and those of her attendants.

When I was a preteeen, she worked part-time for Kaufmann's department store selling baby clothes.

Taught Sunday school

Active in church women's "Circles"

Was a Girl Scout Leader.

Volunteered for Meals on Wheels

Active in the local Book Club

Worked on the committee that catered wedding receptions at the church

Made most of the clothes for her daughters and herself, even made prom dresses for both daughters and the dresses for her oldest daughter's (Linda, deceased) wedding

Liked to make crafts

Was very frugal ---even reupholstered her own furniture rather than buying new

Did the crossword puzzle in the Pittsburgh Press every day for decades.

Was an avid reader. Often walked with her daughters to the Shaler North Hills Library. Especially liked mysteries by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Agatha Christy. Also enjoyed biographies.

She liked to travel. She and Charles took driving trips across the U.S. and also flew to Hawaii and Alaska, visiting 49 states at least once. (They missed North Dakota) Grace and her youngest sister, Jeanne (pronounced Jeanie) also drove across the country when Grace was in her 80's and her sister in her 70's. Grace also visited England and Sweden.

A few close friends called her Mazie ---short for Amazing Grace.

Charles was the church organist (for both Catholic and Protestant services) at the Western State penitentiary and St. John's Lutheran Church on the North Side. Because we could not attend church at the penitentiary, and we had only one car, we joined the Glenshaw Presbyterian Church after we moved from Spring Hill to the Glenshaw area in 1953.

Grace was happy when Charles retired from being an organist, because they were able to attend church together for the first time in about 30 years. Charles died in 1982. Grace's older daughter Linda died in 1988.

Grace had been a member of the Glenshaw church for about 55 years.

Died peacefully in her sleep: 11/25/2009


Prayer Girl said...

What a wonderful gift you were able to give your mother by having this information she left you and passing it on to the minister who used it in the service. What a blessing!

God bless you and God bless her soul.


littlepurpleroom said...

Oh CJ, your mom sounds like she was truly amazing. To be so giving is truly a blessing. How nice she had such a long life to be able to fit everything into and bring so much comfort and joy to others, I believe that's what it's really all about.
The meaning to life, is to give life meaning.
I lost my mom when I was only 7, but I feel her with me all the time and I know she looks out for me.
And I just know your Mom is watching over you too. And laughing with your dad and sister.
I see now where your missionary side comes from.

Nance said...

I'm astonished at how closely your mother's life parallels that of my grandmother, who also died in her 90s. She was about 12 years younger than your mother, but her life experiences and interests are so incredibly similar, even being one of four girls in her family--she even had a sister named Grace!

I'm glad that the minister was so thoughtful and provided such a personal touch.

CJ said...

Thanks to everyone for your kind comments on the death of my mother.

To: littlepurpleroom
I just want to clarify that I do not have a "missionary spirit." I was in the Peace Corps, but no proselytising was allowed. The purpose of the PC is not to change people's religion, but to accept the people as they are. Part of my job was to find what the people needed/wanted and to help them achieve that through education, medicine, agriculture, small businesses, etc.

I happen to agree with Mark Twain that missionaries "insult" the local religions that people have found sacred for generations. I might disagree with someone's religious beliefs, but I respect each person's right to believe as s/he wishes. The last thing I wanted to be was a missionary. I taught English in the high school, made illustrations for a medical school and an elementary school, and helped another PC worker develop health lessons for one-room schools in the interior.

You can read more about my PC experiences at:

Jenners said...

Thank you for sharing this ... I enjoyed reading about your mom -- she sounds like quite the talented seamstress! I'm amazed at anyone who can sew -- let alone create wedding gowns and stuff!

And I know what you mean about impersonal memorial services. When my grandmother died in November, my mom didn't want that for her so she worked really hard with the priest to provide him with information about her mom ... just like you did. It helped to make the service so much more personal and meaningful.

Thanks for sharing!

littlepurpleroom said...

Cheez CJ I NEVER meant to imply that you were there in any kind of "religious" capacity. In my American heritage dictionary 'missionary' sent to do religious or CHARITABLE work in a territory or foreign country.

I NEVER meant to insult you, I was actually complimenting you on your giving nature.
I am sorry for the misunderstanding.

CJ said...

To: littlepurpleroom

Perhaps the misunderstanding was mine. I always think of missionaries as having a religious purpose, although some may also have charitable purposes. (My on-line dictionary mentions only religious missions.) Perhaps I am sensitive about it because so many people, including my own parents, thought I was in Brazil to covert the natives to Christianity. Most of them were already Christians (Catholics) and "missionary" work was not the intended purpose of the Peace Corps, nor was it my own personal mission. Sorry if I came off as a little "testy" on the subject.