Thursday, May 07, 2009

In Memory of Oma teBokkel

My Aunt Helena wrote this and read it at the funeral.

Two years ago in May at the age of 82, my mother wrote these words on the first page of a spiral notebook:

What do I want from life

What are my dreams

to love it to the fullest

to live in the moment

to appreciate other people

to grow in faith

to see the gold around the clouds, the sun is shining behind the cloud

to expand my horizon through interesting books, tapes, CD’s, maybe writing? In other words to keep growing, exploring, researching, studying

to smell the roses, appreciate life and live it abundantly

Some doors may be closed, but others could be opened.

Don’t give in, Do Not give up

Life is beautiful, wonderful

I’ll live it abundantly

Finish what you begin

Continue to walk in and with nature, with God as your guide.

So much of who she was is bound up in these words.

- a woman of determination and tenacity who was persistent in getting all she could from life despite the obstacles

- a woman who was creative and loved colour in all areas of her life

- a woman who loved God’s creation as she experienced it in her garden, camping and in every opportunity to walk outdoors

Life was to be embraced

The second of 5 children, she grew up known as the “dreamer”, the one who could be found with a book in hand up in a tree, drawing on scraps of paper or negotiating peace between her arguing siblings.

That creative, dreamer grew up through the depression and a war that was devastating to many - her family like many others struggled through a lack of food at the end of the war – eating tulip bulbs to survive.

She also grew up in an era where as a woman you became what you were told to she ended up a teacher for a nursery school – a difficult thing for a dreamer to be told you could not pursue your dream of art school and nursing.

I think she might have made a great nurse as she demonstrated later in life by a love of taking care of the sick and elderly in our neighbourhood and a knack for telling everyone what they should be doing and how to “cure” all their ailments.

It was during her time as the principal of the a nursery/primary school that she met my father through a blind date set up by two colleagues.

Their first date was a walk to a sculpture show – the first of many shared walks and art exhibits. Although they were two very different people they quickly discovered many common interests:

Art and beauty whether it was found in paintings, sculpture, architecture, flowers and forests.

They both loved the adventure of travel and discovery

They both loved music and concerts (although their preferred music genres were different…Mom attended the London Symphony for over 40 years) They shared a common faith and a commitment to the work of the church

They shared a commitment to frugalness and distained for any unnecessary spending (although Dad had a weakness for Laura Secord ice-cream….any kind of ice-cream really)

Yet they were also generous in giving to the needs they encountered around them with time, money and advice.

My Dad – the extreme pragmatic, logical to a fault, stubborn adventurer, held onto this flighty, creative, dreamer and pulled her into his dream of emigrating.

When they met Dad was pursing opportunities around the world and after a number of possibilities the 2 final destinations were New Zealand or Canada…Mom was the deciding factor – she didn’t mind heading out on the adventure having her own love of travel but New Zealand was awfully far from home.

It was here in London that they settled in 1954. Working hard they built a home, built a family and built life long friendships with other young couples who also emigrated from the Netherlands around the same time.

After about 15 years in Canada – her kids well on their way through school… Mom went back to school herself – pursuing art classes through an adult learning program at Beal Secondary. Here and through her volunteer work at the Art Gallery as a docent, she developed a new group of friends, women who shared her love of art and creating. Over the years, she continued to meet with and paint with these women. These Relationships were very important to her and supported her in her passion to create and add to the beauty in God’s world.

Mom had always struggled with health issues – as we were growing up she napped every afternoon, getting up some time after we returned from school. Many of her struggles were precursors to the Lupus she fought in her later years. She was known to be rebellious when it came to medical advice but pursued a vast array of alternative approaches to better her health. Her tenacity in her health pursuits was a large part in her survival for so many years. Like the “Eveready” bunny…she would keep on going. She fought hard against the things that stopped her from enjoying life whether that be pain, lack of energy, the lupus or deteriorating vision.

One of her greatest loves was camping. We camped all over Ontario as a family growing up, she and Dad traveled all over with their home built trailer. After Dad died, Mom never missed a summer at the Pinery and in the last 10 years, my husband Brian would set her up with her little cabin trailer for two weeks every June and again in September. She didn’t like it but we’d make her call us daily so we’d know she was okay. At 83, last summer, it became clear to us that it was becoming too difficult and her camping days were coming to an end.

Mom was a woman who sought joy in her life – she set goals, dreamed dreams and walked her own path. She’d sometimes leave others with their heads shaking, wondering, but she continued to seek more out of life – even with her vision going and unable to paint anymore – she turned to fiber arts. Books on tape fed her desire to learn, and a walker allowed her to continue to get outside and experience the birth of one last spring.

84 years lived deeply and with intentionality.

She still had hope for a future

She still found delight and Joy in the simple things of life

May we all leave this place today rejoicing in the opportunity we still have to celebrate life.