For the junebug fam, missjunebug will forever be our light and our gravity. The below tribute was read duet-style by TinyJB and me! (ElderJB) at mjb’s fab memorial service yesterday at her fav church home. “Thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks” to everyone who came to celebrate the epic life of missjunebug.
Soak in everything around you.
Happiness not in another place but this place.
Not for another hour but this hour.
Because Forever — is composed of nows.
Our mom loved this place, this church. She was happy here. She called it “her church home” and loved its earnest pastors and dedicated members. She would be happy x 100 today to see near-by and far-flung family and friends sitting in these pews, looking forward at the white winged angel rising through the rose, orange and blue-sky glass behind me.
Our mom’s favorite spot was just over there on your left-hand side about three rows back: a view of the preacher and of the congregation. A perch from which she could pause, from which she could pray, from which she could ponder life a tiny bit.
Recently mom was thinking about this conundrum of consciousness. The fact that in all of creation, human beings are the only form of life that know their breath will someday cease.
She thought in the absence of this fruit from the tree of knowledge it would be easy to be unflappably happy like our dog Spoon or like the orange flowers in the backyard that bloom with abandon, never a worry about wilting.
For people it is a lot, lot tougher. Despite a long road of obstacles, our mom figured out how to live a life of joy and gratitude. She had a Hollywood smile and lived with Dali Lama lightness.
On missjunebug.com, mom lists three of her life secrets:
1) Read poetry. Poetry is Church.
2) Have a little treat everyday.
3) Say a prayer of thanks before you sleep.
Plus here’s a little extra missjunebug bonus secret: if larger things in life get too serious or too complicated it is good to get a little silly and go really really tiny. Our mom conjured joy from her collection of tiny things like these right here: petite pirate, nifty ninja, small ball and the world’s tiniest pencil.
Our mom loved words. She liked to string their syllables and alliterate their annunciation. She had fun animating their essence with punctuation marks posted right on their posteriors. For the ineffable stuff – she would use emojis to excess. She was both playful and reverent with our language.
Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful like a bouillon cube: you carry it around and then it nourishes you when you need it. On Easter Sunday a few years ago, our mom wrote a poem entitled “In not of.” She might have penned it from her favorite third row pew right over there.
In Not Of
Hearts look above,
Hands work below.
A sun rises, sets;
Shed red regrets.
Hearts look within,
Hands pray to mend
What can’t be mended.
In not of
God’s Son Rises
Wrapped in love.
Hearts look above,
Hands work below,
Souls stir, then know.
Mom also wrote this poem, probably this time in the kitchen:
Ode to Candy Corn
White pointy head
Orange body quadrilateral
Yellow Gumby feet
Bite the base first,
Then the body.
Save the tippy tip
for last: a light, bright,
sugary sweet tiny bite.
“Made with Real Honey”
offers the perfect pretext
to eat first one
and another to 19 for
a less than 150
All our mom hoped to say in writing, all that she ever hoped to say, is that she loved the world. She believed the true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life. Somedays the details are hands in prayer for resurrection and somedays they are corn syrup made solid then striped. But everyday, our mom woke up open-eyed and outstretched-armed to whatever the world brought. She practiced joy and acclamation for all the daily presentations: for the oceans shine and prayers of grass as much as she did for Trader Joe’s corn dogs and Texas sweet tea.
Mom knew how to live. Her presence made each of us a better human being. Our dad said, “She expanded me as a person as much as she could within the limits of physics and psychology.” I cannot fully explain the why of it but everyone who met our mom wanted to be with her again and again and again. She had the sun’s gravity, capable of pulling everyone and everything into her orbit.
The evidence of this now lives in our memories, in all of our memories:
I remember once I randomly met a guy named Oren in a pizza place in Rwanda. Turns out he knew of “the famous Mrs. Pohlman” from Oak Park High School because his older brother Jesse was a student of mom’s. So I email mom about the small world nature of things and she responds, “Oh yeah, I remember Jesse Gabriel from about 12 years ago: scholarly, athletic, personable, handsome, and driven to carry on his family’s tradition of going to UC Berkeley. I also taught his good friends David Levy and Morgan Immel. Those boys always had each other’s backs. What is Oren up to?” Look at the attention she paid to the details of her students’ lives: their strengths, their dreams, their friends.
I remember mom’s poem at your wedding. The one that taught us that the secret to marriage and to family is sharing the load. We must take turns holding up the weight of the rafters so each member of the family can rest and return refreshed to shoulder the next challenge.
I remember the Christmas stockings mom sewed by hand. Mine with a red train and green tree. I remember just four weeks ago mom re-sewing dad’s Christmas stocking just in case, a detail of her love.
I remember morning drives to school listening to books on tape, npr, counting crows, and pearl jam…singing along mom and son enjoying the best rock the 90’s had to offer.
I remember so many family rituals mom started like:
-matching pajamas every Christmas eve
-IOB car picnics
-photos with all our feet in a circle
-chex mix & spritz cookies
-trips to Dallas: Big D, little a, double l, a, s.
I remember watching the starlit background actress lighting up the silver screen on 24, House, and Batman Begins.
I remember running to mom every time I wrote a new sentence or paragraph or poem. Learning from her edits and growing confident from her praise. The. Best. Cheerleader. Ever.
I remember how much mom cherished this family even more with her boys far from home. She was our family’s captain, our north star, our gravity. Mom, you’d be proud: Dad, Eric, Margaret, Andrea and I have formed a pact we’re calling “the Pohlman circle of responsibility.” Together we promise to hold the family together as you have.
I remember learning how to love watching mom and dad. Hugs before work everyday. I love yous before going to sleep. The indefatigable support during the longest storm.
I remember dinner just the four of us.
Our mom’s last dinner was a grilled cheese sandwich:
Two orange sheets of cheese
On matters not what type of bread
Thin white layer of Miracle whip
our little secret.
Sizzle golden brown
Flip golden brown.
The ooey gooey cheesy chewy
Not so single Kraft Singles sandwich.
Cooked through with love
Then by mother now by son.
Smiles alight for everyone.
During her last days, her sun-like gravity was still strong. It pulled the family together. She forced us to be fully present. To soak in everything around us. To listen to each other’s stories. To comfort each other’s grief. We watched her heart beat and chest breathe, up and down, for hours, then days, like watching a campfire.
Our mom was not able to pen a last goodbye, but she often showered us with loving salutations and sign-offs. She ended an email to me once:
“I am bound, I am bound
For a distant shore
On a lonely isle
By a far Azore
There it is!
There it is!
The treasure I seek
On the barren sands
of a desolate creek.
What’s my treasure?
You! And Dad! And Dan!”
Mom always made us feel like treasure. She will forever be our treasure too.
In mom’s last moments her face was still flush and her presence was at peace. She summoned the final strength to open her eyes and filled them with more love than words can say looking at each of her boys. After her last breath the color of her complexion slid from her face down through her body and alighted on angels’ white wings like a jet-trail to the evening sky. The sunset was a warm peach – not like the crayon color but like the fruit: soft rose with edges orange against the violet sky. We heard the coyotes crying in the canyons.
I think mom took to the sky to give us this evening treasure forever. To make it a little easier for us to find happiness in the hour of sunset. Either that or she was thinking this was the best way to be remembered because Dad’s only passion outside of the family is chasing the sun with his telescopes.
Either way Mom, you have taught us to seek out happiness in life no matter the circumstance. And you have taught us well. You have taught us to look, to listen, to lose ourselves in joy and in the tiniest details of this world. We promise to carry your spirit. To carry it in our spirits.
Mom, we love you more than words can say.