Great Blue Heron, LLC is both vocation and avocation for me, a soon-to-be-66-year-old forester, naturalist, and semi-retired university president. I write these blogs from the heart, especially this one. If you are averse to sentimentality, deep emotion, spirituality, and remarkable lessons from nature and family, stop now. If you have (or had) a mother and she, in large or small part, shaped who you are, then you may care to continue reading. Note: The photo is me at age six with Mom and Dad.
The Blog: My Final Tribute to Mom (April 18, 2017)
Mom passed peacefully yesterday pre-dawn as she slept, just five hours after Easter. We had said our goodbyes, mine moist with tears, just two weeks earlier. I handed her the essay below the last day of our visit.
The Essay: Steve’s Tribute to Mom; April 4, 2017
After Mom heard my eulogies for Dad and for Judy’s Mom, she asked me to write hers – not upon her death, but then. She wanted to read it, rather than have me reserve it for her eventual memorial service. I took that as her positive reaction to what I had said in remembrance of Dad and Zola. Flattering as her request may have been, however, I refused to write hers in advance, not wanting to implicitly sanction some kind of premature release – a jinx. What if I wrote it and something happened to her? I did not want culpability for Mom’s premature passing!
Time has advanced. As I write these words, Mom is in a nursing/rehabilitation center at age 92. She is tired (exhausted), hurting, and ill, yet she is spiritually at peace. She says emphatically that she is ready (perhaps eager) for release – to her ultimate Home. Just moments ago, she mentioned awaiting the chariot, “coming for to carry me home.” Tomorrow (4/5), Judy and I fly back to northern Alabama. I feel compelled now to write what she requested more than two decades ago. Not yet a eulogy – but certainly the makings of one.
April 3, 2017, Mom visited my business web site, Great Blue Heron, LLC (stevejonesGBH.com), named for my Dad’s totem, his talisman. She asked me, “How did you become so interested in Nature?” Someone entered her Dawnview Center room before I could answer. My response would have been:
You and Dad spoon-fed nature enthusiasm into me. No, it was more like you pumped nature into me via an IV – a direct injection.
You began by introducing me, through grandma Jacobs, to flowering plants – annuals like petunias, marigolds, snap dragons, four-o’clocks, cleome, and other old favorites. We collected seeds, sowed them in spring, nurtured the plantlets, and transplanted them outside. We watched the magic of germination, elongation, growth, and eventual flowering. We continued through the cycle to seed collection, and preparation for yet another growing season.
You gave me plant kits – the kind where we just punched holes in the plastic cover; added water; positioned the tray on a sunny window-sill; watched the seeds sprout; and again, transplanted after danger of last frost.
You both treated us to Sunday drives; picnics; camping; exposing me to Nature. Your efforts may not have consciously aimed to sculpt a naturalist – but still, you sowed the seeds. And you provided fertile soil; bright sunlight; room to grow; encouragement. Hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, and other outdoor pursuits defined my early years – and all the years since. Nature courses through my veins — and it will until my final heartbeat. You and Dad are responsible, whether your motives were intentional or not. Your love and your nurturing (and naturing) have made all the difference.
Nature is a thread that weaves through the fabric of my life. Nature is a big part of who I am. Nature is core to my heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit. You and Dad spun my life’s Nature thread from the fibers of nourishing life experiences — rich with flowers, trees, forests, creeks, ponds, hills, mountains… and love.
When I see a great blue heron, I view it as Dad paying a visit; expressing approval; saying hello; keeping in touch.
That is what I would have said — and that is what I will now share with her in writing. I just inquired, “Mom, what is your favorite bird and why?”
She replied, “Either the robin or the gold finch.” “The robin because of his royal bearing and proud brown/red breast.” I can see Mom’s mind at work – the robin’s purposeful running or hopping across the lawn, ear cocked for worm noise, always ready to pounce… and extract a juicy meal. “The gold finch because of his bright color, but mostly due to his intensity of business.” I imagined Mom’s deep admiration of its rapid flittering hither and yon… and back and forth with deliberate purpose — and with seeming passion for its mission.
The great blue heron will always symbolize Dad — who will live on in my heart and in the image of the magnificent water-side predator. From this day forward, Mom will be both the robin and the gold finch — and she will live in my heart — long beyond her years. I take great comfort that Mom will live on in me, and through me to our kids… and theirs… and hence.
Robert Louis Stevenson spoke to the beauty, magic, and spirit of touching the future: “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.” To Mom I offer the following words of tribute:
You and Dad sowed seeds that sprouted and now flourish as my internal tree of life, which yields enriched living, learning, wisdom, truth, and love. Far too many citizens today are blind to the beauty, awe, magic, wonder, and power of nature. You have blessed me with 20/20 vision
I say now, to you and Dad, thank you for giving me life; for motivating me to look; for encouraging me to see; for enabling me to understand; for helping me to truly appreciate nature’s power, wisdom, and inspiration.
The great blue heron has flown free for 22 years, since Dad’s 1995 passing. My dearest mother, may the robin and gold finch likewise feel flight’s freedom and glorious heights… when the chariot comes for to carry you Home. Please take my deep love and lasting appreciation with you to what lies ahead in your Spiritual journey. May you, like Dad, “slip the surly bonds of Earth, and dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings… put out your hand, and touch the face of God.”
That is the essay I handed to Mom, and which she read in my presence. Blessedly, Mom’s chariot arrived for her yesterday morning. She had slipped more deeply each day into her passage, the transition from this physical world. During our final phone “conversation” Easter late afternoon, she was already somewhere else, “speaking” rapidly words we could not follow. Words we believe were not intended for us. We think she did not hear our voices through the phone line.
During our visit two weeks ago, she occasionally communicated with those already passed. She spoke once of Dad pulling her toward him by her arm. She wanted to yield… to join him. By Easter Sunday, Mom often enjoyed “conversations” with her siblings (all preceded her in death) and her parents.
This morning we watched two robins forage in our perennial beds – the first time that we’ve seen more than one here. Twenty minutes later, as a shower approached from the southwest, our resident great blue heron flew from east to west just fifty feet above the lake along our shoreline. He could not have flown nearer. I’m sure he glanced our way. Shortly after, the rain poured, nourishing all that is alive and flourishing.
I feel a great sense of relief, peace, and calm. Mom and Dad have signaled that all is well. Joy fills my heart… my soul… my spirit. They both have a Home in Glory Land – that outshines the sun!