In honor of my mother, Jill Stock, I am posting what I said at her memorial and celebration of life. I am thankful and blessed to have had such a wonderful mother. Mom always supported me and my blogging, sewing, and business- as with all other aspects of my life. It’s the least I could do to feature her somewhere where she was most proud of me.
Hello, everyone. My name is Lauren, and Jill was my mother. I was lucky to have her in my life for 39 years, and I’m thankful for every one of them. She guided me through life with her examples of love, humour, and spirit of adventure, because those attributes embodied who she was.
She had a vibrant soul and would light up any room when she entered. She made friends with *everyone*, and everyone remembered who she was. When I asked her why people always thought they knew her she’d say “I just have one of those faces!”. She was kind and sweet, and no matter how short or how long she knew people, they’d love her. She would truly touch something in everyone with her sweet smile and her happy spirit.
Mom adored music. I always remember there being singing and music- especially in the car where she would “cruise” to the oldies. She especially loved Motown and the Beach Boys. We sang showtunes- Oklahoma was a big favorite. We belted out Billy Joel and Elton John and Joni Mitchell. And she loved Garth Brooks. She would dance while she drove, and sing and the top of her lungs. We would pop in a cassette tape and off we would go- singing all the way to where we were going.
Mom was born on December 10, 1949, the youngest daughter of Doris and Lee Wilcox. Her older sister, Linda, was eight years her senior and, apparently, growing up with a little squirt trailing around after you and your teenage friends could be trying at times. “Take your sister,” grandma would say, and they’d cart Jill around after them. Apparently, at one point Linda even drew a line down the center of the room and said “this is your side, and this is my side.” Given Mom’s ability to sprawl her collections everywhere, I can kind of understand why. Let’s just say I got the collecting bug honestly! But Linda and Mom has the BEST relationship growing up and as adults and she’d always be excited to “Go down the hill and see my ‘sis’”.
My mom grew up in the cute little town of Atwater, close to Glendale, California in a darling little Spanish revival 1920s house built by a family member. She graduated from John Marshall High School in 1967. I believe she was the first person in our family to get a college degree. She obtained an A.A. in Art, and she was a very gifted artist. She always encouraged art, literature, and learning growing up, and believed it was important to follow your heart and passions. She was always my strongest supporter of my crazy art and costume design projects.
Mom was very athletic, and loved the outdoors. The summers spent in Balboa were always spoken of with great fondness. For a few weeks a summer Grandma and Grandpa would rent a little cottage on Balboa Island and they’d spend the days in the water, or on the boardwalk. Mom remembered vividly roller skating on the boardwalk, where my grandpa would tease her she was “trolling for boys.” I know her fondness of oldies came from those warm summer days with the great songs playing as she was “down by the boardwalk.”
She took me to Balboa after I graduated from college. We took the car across on the ferry. It was pretty empty that day- it wasn’t the height of summer- and we walked up and down the boardwalk. The ferris wheel was going, and we decided to go for a ride. Mom, full of her teenage spirit, started jostling the ride operator…. “is this the fastest you can go? You can do better than this!” The poor guy took it for as long as he could, then finally showed us what was what and turned the speed up… then left us while he took his lunch! Man, we were so sick of going around and around by the time he came back!
She married my dad in 1977, and I was born in 1980. And my mom, God bless her, never for a moment let me even question how much she loved me. She would say I was the best thing that happened. I was her “baby”, as long as she knew me, I was her “baby” and her “punkin”, because I was born in the fall.
My mom was the best mother I could have ever asked for. She encouraged me to be myself. She was my best cheerleader. Whatever I was doing, she would do, too- no matter how crazy or contrary to mainstream ideas and trends. We dressed up in vintage, we made costumes, we quilted, we did renaissance faires. My mom had me in costumes before I could even walk!
She made sure I was well balanced. Even though I didn’t particularly like those etiquette classes she had me take, I’m glad she had me do them. I learned to set tables and behave like a lady. Even though most of that is long forgotten, she had me learn the old-fashioned type things I was interested in. She had me try lots of different classes and things, just for the opportunity of doing them. Gymnastics and Girl Scouts didn’t stick, and I may have forgotten most of those piano lessons, but I certainly got good use out of those quilting lessons we did together.
Even before I could drive, we were antiquing and vintage shopping like crazy. Instead of thinking how other parents did about “old clothes” back before vintage clothing was cool, mom embraced it. She drove me up to Los Angeles to the vintage fashion expos once a year, and I’d save up all year to get something nice. When I would look for Edwardian things, she would look for 1940s things. She instilled in me a love of all the old movies- she even named me after Lauren Bacall. And boy, did she look like an old movie star when she got all gussied up in her vintage dresses and hats.
Mom was very, very outdoorsy. She loved hiking, she was an excellent fisherwoman, she was amazing at tennis- winning several trophies. She rode both English and Western- and won ribbons for her English riding.
She loved all living creatures. At one time she had siamese show cats. She had a cocker spaniel named Joey that she absolutely adored in her teenage years. We had a dauchund named Jeremy. We had fish. She had a crazy rabbit that would wander outside and come in at dark. She fed the birds outside. And she would not let me step on a spider or kill a fly- all insects should have been caught and released back into the wild.
I remember our cats catching birds and us trying to nurse them back to health. I remember her saving lizards from their jaws. And I remember one particular incident when I was wearing tights before some sort of church event when I was a teenager that trying to save the lizard from the cat ended with the lizard clawing his way all the way up my tights and under my skirt- much to the glee of my mom who was nearly on the floor laughing as I screamed and danced around the backyard. When one cat caught a baby possum and let it loose under my bed other parents might be mad. But mom said something along the lines of “cats will be cats” and just made the best of it, even though it filled our house with very hungry fleas.
In 2003, she married John Stock. I remember her coming home from the church singles group for the first time and saying “I met the handsomest man. He looks just like Kenny Rogers and he was wearing cowboy boots!” I remember all the next week she was dancing and singing like never before. I teased her as we were going through a drive through for an “iced tea with half a sugar packet,” her usual drink of choice. I said “Mom, who turned you into a teenager?” And she giggled and kept dancing and singing.
With John, she met her partner with the sense of the outdoors and adventure. They went to the mountains, they hiked and fished, they traveled to the Grand Canyon, and she especially loved the Julian Hotel, where they stayed a few times. Mom loved all things old-timey, and so does John. They watched all the classic movies and sang all the western and praise songs.
Because of her wild spirit and activeness, none of us expected Alzheimers to ever touch her. We were all shocked to learn what had been making my beloved mom act differently for a few years. But once we got the diagnosis it all started making sense.
Marrying John was one of the best things she could have ever done. Through all of this, he stood by her. When the diagnosis came, he could have run, but he stuck by mom because he knew this was what God had in store for him. Being a caretaker is very hard physically and emotionally, like some of you know. I’m thankful that as heartbreaking as this disease is, I never had to worry about her, because I knew she was in good hands and with someone who loved her. As the time went on, the love became more apparent, and he was genuinely acting the way we were told to act by Jesus in the bible- one of the most perfect examples of what it looks like to act out the faith you believe in.
We hear that some patients get snippy and nasty but through the whole disease mom retained her gentle and kind spirit. “Do you like Garth Brooks? “He’s HANDSOME”. Or about Penelope. “She’s beautiful! She’s going to get all the boys!”
To all of us she would say “I love you.” “You’re beautiful.” “I love EVERYBODY.” “We’re going to go EVERYWHERE.” And she would smile and grab your hand, as she tapped in time to the music. She remembered all the tunes, even if she couldn’t remember much else.
In the hospital, we were praying with Pastor Rob. After he said “amen,” I heard Penelope telling Matt something about Jesus. I asked, “What did you say, Penelope?” And she said “I see Jesus.” I asked where and she pointed to the foot of the bed.
We continued talking for a bit and I asked Penelope, “Do you still see Jesus?” She said “No.” I asked, “Where did he go?” And she said “In the hallway.” I asked where the hallway was and she said, “Over there.” And pointed above Mom’s head. It was the comfort we all needed and can cling onto as proof of where she is now.
She would be SO PROUD of her granddaughter, Penelope. She made my childhood so magical. I know she’d be doing exactly the same thing right now for my girl. There’s so many things I didn’t fully appreciate until I had a daughter of my own. I hope, up in heaven, she knows now how much I appreciate that I didn’t know before. How selfless her love was. How much I know, appreciate, and understand- having someone you love who is so small and tiny grow up is wonderful but also terrifying. Teenage and young adult me didn’t understand. But adult and mother me knows.
Thank you for all your phone. calls. Thank you for all the love. Thank you for being my best friend who did everything with me. There’s not a single aspect of my life or interest that you didn’t join in with me.
Yes, mom. We are going everywhere and we are going to do EVERYTHING. And I hope there’s a rip-roaring game of Hollywood Rummy going on up in heaven. Save us a spot at the table- we will all be playing and laughing and singing again. It just will feel a little bit longer for us here than it does for you.
We all miss you, but I see you in everything around me… and in all I do. There really is nothing in the world like a mother’s love.
Original Trinity Hymnal, #729
I will sing you a song of that beautiful land,
The far away home of the soul,
Where no storms ever beat on the glittering strand,
While the years of eternity roll.
O that home of the soul! In my visions and dreams,
Its bright jasper walls I can see;
Till I fancy but thinly the vail intervenes
Between the fair city and me.
That unchangeable home is for you and for me,
Where Jesus of Nazareth stands;
The King of all kingdoms for ever is he,
And he holdeth our crowns in his hands.
O how sweet it will be in that beautiful land,
So free from all sorrow and pain,
With songs on our lips and with harps in our hands,
To meet one another again.