Remembrance by Martha:
Thank you to my wonderful family and friends, and everybody for being here together with my mom for the last time, born as Grace Muriel Evans, born to Grace Doris McNayr, and great aunt to my cousin Nancy’s own little Gracie. That we are able to share this time together, was an act of Grace.
My mom went by Muriel and in fact she helped to name my own daughter Mariel. Our family is one who honors people by name and acts of love. And today is the day to honor my mom.
How fitting to spend this last time together in the First Church of Nashua, the spiritual home of my parents and grandparents. The last time, and perhaps the only time, I stood right here was at this precise time of year, when I was about the age of Sara Valentina Shaw sitting right there with all of her cousins who were lucky enough to spend Thanksgiving with their beloved “Gam” when she and her sister-in-law JoAnn thanked us all for not being “boring.”
I stood here as an angel in the Christmas pageant with the other angels in the pageant, Becky Kellogg, Kathy Taylor, Judy Pennington, and Mary Henderson, watching over the “manger” that stood right where mother’s remains are now, encased in a stone of granite.
We watched over the manger as my brothers Fred’rick, David, John, and some of you, walked down the aisle as Wise Men and Kings, Shepards, and in sheep costumes, some my mother had made. And I somehow imagine my brother John even once playing the baby Jesus.
During our lives as a family in this church, we also sang in the choir right there, searching the congregation to catch a look of approval from our parents and grandparents. This church is so full of memories. In Nauss Hall there, my mom and my grandmother and my aunts walked the runway of the mother-daughter fashion show, modeling matching outfits we’d made on our sewing machines together. There were father-son breakfasts, Christmas craft fairs, youth programs and dances.
To be given the opportunity to bid farewell here to a lady who loved you all so much, lived a rich and colorful life in Nashua, and all her life in the Granite State, is an act of Grace.
My mom showed her colors last week as she held fast to a motto she took seriously “Live Free or Die.” She called me a week ago today to say she just wanted to hear my voice and she wasn’t feeling well. This wasn’t the first call like this. In the last 20 years, there were many “scares.” I say scares because I could not fathom a life without my mom. In fact, I don’t think I’m the only one surprised to be here today. She had survived so many near-death experiences, that some of us had begun to think she was immortal. Some kind of miraculous, bionic woman. By Tuesday, her remarkable sons had gathered at the Exeter Hospital around her.
My own journey from Manhattan to Exeter became symbolic of our life together, and the strong will of my mom. I was driving up I-95 and getting text messages from my brothers not to dilly dally, and that mom was “waiting for me.” It occurred to me that maybe she truly was mortal, and I sped up. I began to call my 911- friends from the road to help me control my own heart rate, and heart ache, to just talk. I talked with Holly Leonard, Mary Henderson, Kathy Taylor, Ann Lamaire, Betty Tamposi, Pat Thurber and Diane Strack. It occurred to me somewhere between New London, Connecticut and Providence that my 911-friends were all the same friends as my mom’s, and I had taken that for granted… that this was a typical mother-daughter relationship. But now I realize how unique it was. How lucky we were.
Sometimes mom and I confused ourselves about who was who. When I hurt , she did. When I was happy, she was. We were more of a river than mother and daughter. And like sisters sometimes. She had no qualms telling me flat out what she thought of my hair, or how I was dressed. As I drove up I-95, I began to feel that this wild and wonderful river was heading to the sea.
By I- 495, my brothers were calling me. “Where are you now? Mom says she’s tired of waiting.” Again, I switched persona to become her, afraid that she’d spend her last moment on earth waiting for me instead of enjoying the memories of her life. I spoke to her on the phone, “Mom, please don’t worry about me, I’ll see you on the other side. This isn’t the end, but the beginning of something new.” I tried to cheer her up. I asked John if he could get her thinking about something else. “No, you’re pretty much the only topic right now.” I stepped on the gas pedal. my own breathing sporadic. I was so distraught about letting her down that I missed the Exeter exit.
Well, finally I made it. She held my hand and told me she’d waited for me, and I felt I’d given her an incredible final gift, risking my driving record to do so. As the life passed from her eyes, I played Amazing Grace to her on my iPhone, the hymn she had chosen for her funeral. For a moment, I thought the life had passed from my own. But surprisingly, I was still here.
It was then I had an epiphany. This remarkable woman who had given my brothers and I birth, had given us one final gift. The honor of accompanying her personally to the edge of life as we know it.
This exchange of gifts, this river, had run to the sea as it should. At Christmas as it should be. Just in time to lift our spirits, from the sadness that comes sometimes from being only human. Together, I would ask… for her, for me, and for all of you… that we honor my mom by celebrating the many ways our lives were touched by the amazing Grace Muriel Evans Shaw. And please have a very Merry Christmas..
Remembrance by Martha Shaw