HOW WILL YOU BE REMEMBERED? - 1010 Park Place
— Relationships —

HOW WILL YOU BE REMEMBERED?

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In the last two weeks I’ve been to a funeral, a memorial service and a Mexican funeral mass. While each service was poignant and different, they all made me think about my friend, Norma, who died eight years ago this month. 

In many ways Norma was the mother I always wanted. 

I’ve made it a point never to view the deceased, but moments before Norma’s funeral began, I was compelled to see her one last time. While Norma would have laughed at the girlish, bubblegum pink lipstick they put on her, she looked beautiful. Perhaps it was because she looked at peace. Gone was the oxygen tube and the heavy oxygen canister that kept her tethered to each breath. Gone was the emphysema and the cancer, the radiation treatments and the pneumonia that finally claimed her.

Norma was more interested in you than you were in yourself. I was always saying, “I’m fine, Norma. I want to hear about you.” She would shoot right back, “Oh, honey…”—she spoke faster than you’d think an 87-year-old woman on oxygen could—“I’m the same ornery person I was the last time we talked.” 

Norma always wanted to hear about your life. She remembered every little thing you’d ever said, and long after, would ask follow-up questions that made you realize how sharp she was. Because of my chemo-addled brain, I told her I was the stereotypical 80-something-year-old—with memory problems—and she was the younger of the two of us. 

When I lived in the Little House at the ranch, three times a week I drove 45 minutes—one way—to the gym. That was four and a half hours a week, and I spent a lot of that time on the phone with Norma. 

Over the years I learned a lot from Norma. She was wise and funny and always made me laugh. We were girlfriends, sharing stories, keeping one another’s confidences and boosting one another’s spirits in times of despair. I could tell her anything and often did.

The day of her funeral I was reminded that our body is only what carries “us” from place to place. I realized Norma’s sparkle and wit and her stories were now stored inside of me and everyone who loved her. We are one another’s archivists, storing and passing along each other’s legacies.

Have you ever thought about what part of you others will carry with them after you’re gone? 

Will you be remembered as the person who owned the most stuff? The person who made life all about you; a person who can’t bring themselves to share in the success of others? I know some women like this, and the blind eye they turn toward others is more telling about themselves. In many ways I fall short of the person I want to be, but I hope I can take a page from Norma’s book of life and hold the people around me as dear… and sometimes more dear… as I hold myself. 

About Norma’s bubblegum pink lipstick… I can hear her now. “Oh honey… That color makes me look about 14, desperately hoping some boy will ask me to dance.”

Love, Brenda

42 Comments

  • ROBIN LAMONTE September 29, 2018 at 5:59 am

    Brenda,

    What a lovely story about Norma.
    I am sure you miss her dearly.
    I think as we write our blogs we are leaving a sprinkling of who we are as women.
    I started to write my blog for women of midlife discussing topics we will encounter along the way.
    I believe I am living my best life now because I am free to follow my passion and not worry how others judge me.
    My mother, daughters, and friends love reading my blog and I hope someday my granddaughter will too.

    Some blogs are all about fashion and trying to sell an outfit but you and I write about things that really matter to us and hope it touches the reader.

    Hugs,
    Robin

    • 1010ParkPlace October 1, 2018 at 1:41 pm

      I feel the same way, Robin. We share our authentic selves in hopes of finding like-minded women and exchanging thoughts and ideas as we face many of the same joys and sorrows as we grow in this stage of our lives. I feel fortunate to have connected with you. xoxox, Brenda

  • Donna September 29, 2018 at 10:29 am

    This is indeed a lovely story about your beautiful friend. I feel I know her from this post. One of my late mother-in-law’s neighbors commented after her funeral service that “she kept an immaculate house”. That struck me as very sad.

    • 1010ParkPlace October 1, 2018 at 1:46 pm

      Donna, Let’s hope “she kept an immaculate house” wasn’t her only legacy. If so, that would be sad, indeed. When my day comes, I hope I’m remembered for how I made others feel… hopefully loved and appreciated. xoxox, Brenda

  • Linda L Floyd September 29, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    What a wonderful post….I hope I too can be more like Norma while I’m here…and hope dearly that people think of me after I’m gone the way you think of Norma! Never too late to start listening to others!
    Thank you,
    Linda Floyd

    • 1010ParkPlace October 1, 2018 at 1:50 pm

      What a valuable insight, Linda! I think it serves us better if we listen to others instead of being the person who always needs to talk. I know a woman who interrupts people… constantly. While it drives me crazy when I’m around her, I’m sad as well, because I wonder if she has a deep need to be heard? Thank you, Brenda

  • Penelope September 29, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    I do think about this. It is a very good guideline for how I want to live. I too want to be remembered as a good listener, a wise guide, a warm hug, a deep laugh and a light. I was not raised this way so it has been a steep learning curve for me. I want to love and be loved, to know myself worthy and beloved on this earth to paraphrase the beautiful Raymond Carver poem.

    • 1010ParkPlace October 1, 2018 at 2:02 pm

      Penelope, Beautifully said. Those are among the best qualities we can hope for as human beings. It doesn’t matter whether you weren’t raised that way because your words are everything… I have no doubt you’ve already become that person. I recently met someone who, right off the bat, told me she “talked too much,” and over the course of several days, proceeded to prove her point. For the first day or two I felt sorry for her; then I felt sorry for the rest of us who had to listen to her go on and on. Best, Brenda

  • Taste of France September 29, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    Wow. Oh, to be like Norma and to make a real difference in someone’s life. And to be that cool at 87 (or even to get to 87!).

    • 1010ParkPlace October 2, 2018 at 10:38 am

      TOF… I know… Just to make it to 87 and still have such vibrancy and interest and positivity about life. Norma was a jewel. xoxox, Brenda

  • Joanna September 29, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    I love the touch about the lipstick. It brought back memories of my mother’s funeral. They had put pink lipstick on her, as well. Why pink on an elderly person? Just why? It was a small thing but on a day when I was feeling so raw it was breaking my heart. My mom always wore red lipstick. My close friend realized that it upset me and pulled out her red lipstick and applied it to my mom. That is real friendship.
    I don’t want a funeral but a Celebration of Life instead. A wake would be fun. Having family and friends sharing a drink and laughter, as we do now. That is more my style.

    • 1010ParkPlace October 2, 2018 at 10:43 am

      Joanna, What a dear friend to do that for you and your mother. I’ve already given several of my girlfriends a list of songs I want played at my Celebration and I’m thinking about putting together a DVD with photos and those same songs to go with it. I mentioned this to a young friend of mine, and it freaked him out that I’m already thinking about this, but I think it’s just being practical. xoxo, Brenda

  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond September 29, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    A lovely story Brenda about a beautiful woman. I hope that I will be remembered as I remember my Mother who died over 30 years ago. She was a caring, compassionate and beautiful soul and if I can be half the woman she was, I will be very happy. I would also like to be remembered as someone who lived life with a smile rather than focusing on the negatives. Thank you for making me take the time to think.

    • 1010ParkPlace October 2, 2018 at 10:46 am

      Oh, Sue! Your mother died when you were very young. That’s sad. I’m sorry, but happy this post made you think about her. Thank you, Brenda

  • TJ September 29, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    My therapist once told me that my grandmother helped the young child in me develop my psychological ‘wise’ Self. My parents were both grown up children. But Grandma was special. I didn’t have long with her, because Peter Pan and Wendy thought that emigrating to Australia from the UK would be fun, so we left when I was just 4 and a half. Apparently on the night of our departure, I clung to her saying “Leave me here with Grandma”. After we moved, she would come and visit every few years, but we wrote, long letters every month all my life. Prior to our migration, she spent a few of the most critical years with me as my carer while my child parents went to work. Those valuable formative years left their indelible mark on me. My relationship with her taught me 2 special lessons: 1. Life will go on. (she lived through 2 world wars). 2. Time with loved ones is valuable and you need to make sure you pass on the message that you love them while you are with them, even if it’s cleaning out an old teapot and making tea for them (she was a do-er and never sat still for long. “I’m gasping” she’d say, I never saw her drink water, only tea). She passed on at 98 and half. She was tired by then and had been ready to go for years, and had been saying so to anyone who would listen. But her heart was so strong it kept beating every day. God I miss her. I now have grown up children with partners. They all know I love them and that I’m there in a heartbeat for them, even it it’s to make tea. And she never left the house without her lipstick on. I think it was a bright rose pink. Thanks Grandma. My legacy will be built on hers.

    • 1010ParkPlace October 2, 2018 at 10:53 am

      I loved every word of your stories about your grandmother. Several months ago I wrote a post about the influence grandmothers can have on us. Like you, my grandmother played a huge role in my life. We lived in different states, but I saw her at least once a year, and we spoke on the phone every Saturday morning until she died in her early 90’s. Then I began calling her younger brother every Saturday morning until he died. They gave me strength and love and were always there for me. My grandmother was a do-er as well. She was a huge role model for me, and your grandmother was as well. I love your statement that your “legacy will be built on hers.” What a special tribute. Thanks so much. I loved your comment. xoxox, Brenda

  • Donna O'Klock September 30, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    Beautiful story, Brenda! I too had a dear, wise woman to take my Mom’s place when she passed away. It seems from the responses, many of us gave been so fortunate… and I loved reading all of their stories! Thank you.
    XO

    • 1010ParkPlace October 2, 2018 at 11:02 am

      How fortunate we all are, Donna, to have women step into the gap when we need them. Even though I told Norma that I loved her, and flew up to see her after she moved, I’m still hoping she knew how special she was to me. xoxo, Brenda

  • Laura Lee Carter October 1, 2018 at 8:50 am

    I understand your story and missing your dear friend, but I have no need to be “Remembered.” I have given my death much thought, and have decided to live for this day alone. Our body’s are only the carriers of our essence. That will stay in the world with others.

    • 1010ParkPlace October 2, 2018 at 11:04 am

      Laura, I agree that our bodies are the vehicles that carry “us.” At the same time, I hope when I’m gone that someone will remember me fondly and with love. That’s the only legacy I need. xoxo, Brenda

  • Haralee October 1, 2018 at 9:15 am

    What a lovely tribute. I think holding and then sharing the memories and quirks and stories of someone dear is truly remembering them!

    • 1010ParkPlace October 2, 2018 at 11:06 am

      Thank you, Haralee. It’s also important to tell them, while they’re here, how much we love, value and appreciate them. I hope I told Norma that enough. xoxo, Brenda

  • Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au October 1, 2018 at 9:25 am

    I think the fact that she was always more interested in others than in her self is the crux of who she was as a person Brenda – those type of women are always so warm and engaging and you feel like you’re being hugged when you spend time with them. I’m sorry for her passing – we need a lot more women like Norma in our world.

    • 1010ParkPlace October 2, 2018 at 11:09 am

      Leanne, You said it so well… Norma’s interest in others was at the center of who she was. While she talked about her grown children, she rarely complained about herself. Instead, she focused on you. I don’t know many people who do that, especially in our “me” centered world. Norma was such a blessing in my life. xoxox, Brenda

  • Diane October 1, 2018 at 4:59 pm

    This is beautiful! I want to be remembered as being kind. Like my lovely mother!

    • 1010ParkPlace October 2, 2018 at 11:12 am

      Diane… The words you used to describe your mother are so telling… kind and lovely. The fact that you want to be remembered as kind tells me you already are… Your mother was a good role model and you took it to heart. Brava dear lady! xoxox, Brenda

  • La Contessa October 1, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    Will I be remembered ?
    By who my Family Of Course a Few Blog Readers Perhaps If Im Lucky enough to Out Live All of them!
    How will I be remembered?Most likely Not as The Person I truely AM.Very few people really GET ME!
    I like the Sound of your FRIEND!!
    Xx

    • 1010ParkPlace October 2, 2018 at 11:17 am

      Elizabeth, You will be remembered as a woman who lives life to the fullest; who doesn’t care what the neighbors think, but at the same time, your neighbors are important to you, and you gather them around you, often. You’re grand, outrageous, vivacious and caring, and you’ve made your home a reflection of you and the lifestyle you want. You’re an original. A woman who challenges us all to be authentic and true to who we are in our most private moments, not the woman the world sees when we step out the door. You give each of us an ah-ha moment, and I’m grateful to call you my friend. xoxox, Brenda

  • Esther Zimmer October 2, 2018 at 4:48 am

    What a beautiful and thought-provoking read and a wonderful tribute to your friend. Essie xx

    • 1010ParkPlace October 2, 2018 at 11:23 am

      Hello, Dearest Essie! My amazing and thoughtful friend who came to Paris to meet me! My adventurous friend who left not one, but two homes in different countries, to carve out a new life for herself. And now… You’re on this grand adventure! I read David’s in Alaska with his brothers. It’s makes me wonder where you are… Hopefully not alone, in a tent, in the countryside of an unpronounceable country. As always, sending you my love, Brenda

  • Victoria October 2, 2018 at 7:34 am

    What a wonderful tribute to your friend. I have wondered what will be remembered about me. I always encourage my grandchildren to ask me anything because I want them to remember me and have answers to some of the questions they might have once I am gone.

    • 1010ParkPlace October 2, 2018 at 11:28 am

      Victoria, I hope you’re not waiting for your grandchildren to ask questions. Instead, give them snippets of your life to remember you by and to encourage them to be their own person. My grandmother was my role model, and I miss her each day. It recently occurred to me that there is something of hers in every room of my house. Not just tucked away in a corner somewhere, but where I see them, daily, and remember her strength, influence and how much she set the course for my life. I can still smell her as well, because her dresser is here. Every time I open the drawer, I smell her perfume. What a gift. xoxox, Brenda

  • Debbie October 2, 2018 at 10:44 am

    Great story! That’s why I wear bubblegum pink everything… lol

    • 1010ParkPlace October 2, 2018 at 11:32 am

      Oh, Debbie! You will be the last person anyone ever forgets! Your generosity… coming to help me move… a stranger you only knew from our phone calls; your grit and determination; Annie Get Your Gun wrapped in Rainbow Bright! No, you will be an enduring figure… that’s for sure! BTW… you would have loved where I went in Montana last week. Love You, Brenda

      • Debbie October 4, 2018 at 9:53 am

        You are so Sweet…. Ms Brenda….. Thanks for all the compliments…. you know….. you are the WONDERFUL FRIEND!!
        You are the one that did not know me, but, yet, sat by my side in surgery…. as I recall…. 5:30 am to whenever I woke and said Hello! And that was only phone calls and not knowing me…..
        So…..TIT 4 TAT
        Now for Montana…. That’s on my Bucket list! Bet it was beautiful just like I imagine!
        Love ya!

  • Tori October 3, 2018 at 8:37 am

    Lovely post. Thank you!
    I’ve been trying to send a message to your general mailbox that does not fit here but I keep receiving a response that it “failed to send”. Any advice on this?

    • 1010ParkPlace October 4, 2018 at 9:48 am

      Hi Tori, I tried to send a message and got the same “failed to send” response you did. Just emailed our website guru and asked him to look into it. He’s pretty responsive, so I’ll let you know when it’s fixed and/or keep trying. Thanks for letting me know. I look forward to getting your message! Brenda

    • 1010ParkPlace October 4, 2018 at 10:03 am

      Hi Tori, That was quick!! Our guru fixed the problem, so try it out and please send me a message. xoxo, Brenda

  • mh October 4, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    “We are destined to be forgotten.” Isabella Rosselini

    • Brenda Coffee October 4, 2018 at 4:58 pm

      MH, While that may be true for 99.9% of population, each one of us influence those around us: We pass our knowledge, experience, love and how we’re role models to others, and in turn, they pass it along to the people they meet and influence. How each one of us believes and behaves has a cumulative affect on the world we live in and the one our children and future generations inherit. Brenda

  • Lee Moczygemba October 19, 2018 at 7:36 pm

    Oh, Brenda,
    Don’t you know? You ARE YOUR FRIEND—–OVER AND OVER AND OVER!!!!!!!! You ARE the same kind, loving, faithful, trustworthy person she was!!!! And you have that delightful sense of humor!!!!!! You bring SOOOOOOOOO MANY WOMEN HOPE AND HELP and JOY!!!!!!!!

    Keep on doing what you are doing!!!!!! YOU ARE TREMENDOUS!!!!!!

    XXXXXOOOOOOOO
    Lee

  • 1010ParkPlace October 19, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    Hi Lee,
    Thank you! Wonderful to hear from you. I left you a message the other day on Facebook… I think… wondering how you were and worrying about those steep steps to the second floor of your house. At least they looked too steep for me.

    XOXOXO,
    Brenda

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