Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Traditions

This past Saturday marked the 13th annual Race for the Cure event in Little Rock. And the first race I've done without my mother. Just four weeks after her death, I expected the race to be hard, but in reality it was very therapeutic.

The morning dawned with a chill in the air, but by the race's end, the temperature had risen, and we enjoyed sunny weather for the remainder of the day. This year saw a record attendance of 43,000+ women, and the excitement was palpable.

Our little group was attired in matching t-shirts designed by one of Mom's coworkers at Angie Grant Elementary. A banner at the bottom read, "In loving memory of Jewell Snyder". The only time I was moved to tears was when my sister-in-law pinned a bib on my back which read, "I race in memory of my mother, Jewell Snyder". I always felt there would come a day when I replaced my "I race in celebration" bib with one in her memory, but I never anticipated that it would be this soon.

Here are some pictures from the day:


Family and friends



Our t-shirts in Mom's memory


Even Bill was there doing what he does best to raise funds for the cure


















Visiting the cemetery afterward to place a big pink bow on Mom's grave



Breast cancer has already taken too many lives. Chances are if you have not had it yourself, you know someone who has fought this terrible disease. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I'm encouraging every woman I know to have a mammogram if you haven't already this year. And if you're a man, talk to the women in your life about scheduling this simple, yet very important, diagnostic test. No matter what horror stories you've heard about having your mammies checked (or what bad experience you might have had in the past), it's not as bad as having a tumor go undiagnosed.
So, go on, make the phone call. Now. Do it for yourself. Do it for the people you love.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Kyle's thoughts


(The following is the text of Kyle's message delivered at our mother's memorial service on 09/14/2006)

On January 11th, 1970, Mom brought me in to this world on a cold and icy morning. There had been a major ice storm that night which made driving quite a challenge. It was also Super Bowl Sunday. Mom always told this same story year after year during my birthday dinner. I’m pretty sure she embellished the story some over the years, but I will always remember the way she told it. The birthday dinner consisted of her tacos and cheese dip, and her wonderful cherry dump cake. She liked to use these silly candles that would always reignite after you blew them out. She was such a cut-up. This was the birthday meal for me, and it never changed as far back as I can remember.

Going to church on Sunday was never an option, it was a mandate. My sister and I would pile into Mom’s candy apple red ’66 Mustang. We would fight over who sat in the front seat. No one had heard of seat belts or car seats back then. My kids will never know the joy of riding in the floor board, jumping in the back seat of a moving vehicle or slamming your face into a metal dash board during an abrupt stop before Sunday church.

Mom always proved to be wonderful physician and nurse. She was no stranger to the blood and guts of raising a boy. She knew just how to deal with the scraped knees, cut fingers, bloody noses, black eyes, teeth that were kicked out, stitches, burns, multiple bike wrecks, and football injuries. The common prescription at my house was a large brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide, cotton balls, and methiolate. This was normally followed by a lengthy sermon on safety, and a promise to be more careful. At some point I probably grew tired of breaking promises, so I just learned to handle it myself.

Mom also was great therapist. She had many ways of dealing with the many conflicts that occurred between my sister and me. On of her favorites when we were little was to make us sit in the corner of the kitchen and hug and kiss. This would go on until she was convinced that we loved each other again. I hated that and so did Sheryl. I’m sure with mom’s messed up since of humor that she was about to burst with laughter.

As I grew older, she never failed to provide. There was always something ready to eat after a late-night football game. Transportation to multiple school functions, and friends’ houses were never an issue. When I attended collage at UAMS, she always made sure that I had the best. My education was extremely important to her. My classmates always wondered how my scrubs looked so nice and neat. Little did they know that my mom could iron cloths better than any person that I have ever met. She couldn’t help much with my studies, but she did her part to make sure I didn’t have to worry about anything else. Yeah, I was probably spoiled. But she liked it like that.

When Traci’s parents were forced to move more than a thousand miles away, Mom was there. Don’t get me wrong – she would never try to fill the shoes of someone else’s mother. But she was there to provide weekend housing, meals, encouragement, and a steady supply of love. She made sure that we went to church. That one thing has influenced both of our lives. Traci and my mom had a very special relationship. My sister and I often refer to her as “Mom’s favorite child”.

After Traci and I were married, Mom’s role began to shift over the years, and so did her name. She became Nanny J. Oh! And did she love her newly aquired status. She told everyone about her grandkids, whether they wanted to hear or not. She was forever wanting to someone to come over, or spend the night. Traci and I were forced to go on many a date night because of her need to “see the kids”. Brooke, Sydney, Courtney, Grant, and Blake all became some of her best friends. They provided much therapy to her weakening body over the last few years.

Mom, your life has deeply imprinted me and my family. Many of the things that have happened over the last thirty-six years have been a gift. The jokes, pranks, teasing, popcorn parties, and thousands of well-prepared meals will always be cherished by my family. One gift that I will never be able to thank you enough for is the Christian example that you set for us. You were an example of a Godly woman, and were never afraid to let your light shine for Jesus.

On the morning of September, 10th 2006, my family and I were able to give you a gift. I bet the angels were singing loudly and heaven was rock’n when you passed through the gates that sunny morning.

Remembrances


A Tribute to Mom
(my reflections on a life well lived delivered 9/14/2006 at First Baptist Church, Benton, AR)

Good afternoon. On behalf of my family, let me say thank you. Thank you for the tremendous outpouring of love and concern that has been shown us over the last month and especially this past week. Thank you for your encouraging notes, phone calls, visits and hugs. But most of all, thank you for the way you loved my mother. She would be really honored by all of this, and so are we.

What a week this has been. Up until last Thursday, we had every reason to believe that Mom was recovering nicely from her surgery and would soon be on her way home. Little did we know that God was readying a new home for her in heaven and making it just perfect for her impending arrival.

We had so hoped for a different outcome. We prayed for a miracle and enlisted the prayers of every believer we could rally to petition God on her behalf. But when it became obvious to us as the week drew to a close that her body could not hold up much longer, we came face to face with the realization that perhaps we were missing the true miracle taking place before our eyes.

Kyle summed it up best at dinner the evening before she left us when he commented that in taking Mom from her present sufferings, God was sparing her (and us) many long, painful months of fighting bone cancer. He was allowing her to trade in her worn-out, diseased-scarred body for a brand new glorified body that would never grow old and never wear out. What a gift. What a miracle.

As Kyle, Traci and I have had the opportunity to spend many hours with Mom over the past three weeks and watch her finish one journey and begin the next, we’ve been flooded with thoughts and memories that we feel compelled to share now as we celebrate her earthly life.

Now, anyone who lived with Mom or worked closely with her for any length of time will understand that I am NOT trying to paint a portrait here of a faultless saint. Those who knew her well will all agree, I’m sure, that she possessed a stubborn streak a mile long and loved to tease a WHOLE lot more than she liked to BE teased. And we won’t even talk about her tendency to buy far more books than she could ever hope to read in a lifetime. I’m certain that eBay and half.com are probably already feeling her absence.

But despite those couple of shortcomings, she had an enormous heart and a huge capacity to love. She was a devoted and loving daughter, sister, wife, mother, and friend, and through her example Kyle and I learned much about the life that pleases God.

Here are the most important lessons she taught us:

Mom taught us the importance of loving family. She was truly a model of the Titus 2 woman, reverent in the way she lived, making home and family one of her highest priorities in life. She really went the extra mile to make certain that our needs were met in every way. Even after she started working outside the home when we were 11 and 13, she made certain there was a nutritious hot meal on the table every night. She stayed up late on numerous occasions toiling over her sewing machine to finish a special outfit that I just had to have for the next day. And when her handmade creations were finished, they always gathered so many compliments. I will never forget how my sixth grade teacher, Alta Coburn, would always take notice when I wore a new dress and say, “Oh, Sheryl, how pretty! Did your mother make that for you?” And then she would turn up my hem and inspect the seams, always declaring that Jewell Snyder made the prettiest seams that she had EVER seen. And then there came the day when I was wearing a dress that was hot off Mom’s sewing machine, and I just couldn’t get comfortable in class. I told Mrs. Coburn I thought something was wrong with my clothes, and she helped me locate the problem: A couple of straight pins that had been forgotten inside the hemline! With all seriousness, Mrs. Coburn looked straight into my eyes and said, “Honey, be sure to tell your mother that when she is finished making those beautiful seams, she needs to take out all the pins!” Mom and I must have laughed over that dozens of times.

And we will never forget the way Mom loved her mother and her sisters. That’s probably one of the reasons why I wanted a sister so much. I saw how much fun Mom had with Aunt Mary and Aunt Martha every time they were together and how much they laughed. She would tell us stories about how she and her sisters shared a tiny bedroom when they were growing up and the hair-pulling, nail-scratching fights they would get into, but there was never any doubt in our minds that as adults those three were tight. I never once heard her speak an ugly word about her mother or sisters. Oh, I’m sure they must have gotten aggravated with each other a time or two, but if there was ever a serious disagreement, it must have been short-lived, because we never heard about it. It was simply beyond Mom to speak ill of the ones she loved.

As Mom spent her final moments with us here, Kyle and I recalled how much she and Aunt Mary loved to go shopping in Little Rock and have lunch at Franke’s cafeteria. The routine was always the same. Each of them got three vegetables, a bread, and then split a dessert. There was always a brief pause in front of the dessert display as they discussed which one of the convections looked best and made their selection. Being the sweet-lover that I am, I never could for the life of me figure out why in the world two grown women would choose to SPLIT a dessert when they could each have their own. But now that I’m approaching 40, I think I finally have it figured out!

Yes, she loved her family, and she loved us well.

Mom taught us the importance of loving others. Whether it was a child at school who was in need or a coworker who could use a listening ear, she knew how to show love. I received the nicest note this week from Cindy Hogue that really sums up Mom’s generous spirit. She wrote, “I love your mom for many reasons but I think mainly for the way she gave love so freely. She knew all of our students and made them feel special. When someone wanted to do something for a child, such as buying them new shoes, we would turn to Jewell for a name. She knew our students and their needs better than most of us. She never judged, she just loved.”

Whenever I was in town visiting, one of our favorite evening activities was to make a Wal-Mart run, look through the pattern books, and finish off the outing with a frozen Coke. It was a rare jaunt through Wal-Mart that didn’t result in at least one child calling out, “Hey, Mrs. Snyder!” and rushing to give Mom a hug. I never ceased to be amazed at how after more than two decades at Grant Elementary and working with hundreds of kids over the years, I never once heard her ask a child for his or her name. She had an amazing ability to remember not only names but who their siblings were and something about their parents and was sure to ask about those people, too, as she conversed.

Mom taught us the importance of taking care of each other. Stacy Smith, assistant principal at Grant, shared a funny story with me this week. Apparently, an unknown woman entered the school a couple of years ago and went in several classrooms looking for something to steal. On her way out of the building, after stealing a wallet, she stopped by the teachers’ lounge to buy a soda. The Coke machine wouldn’t take her stolen dollar bill, so Mom, who was always taking care of everyone, saw she was in need and gave her change to purchase a drink. That was so Mom. Only our Jewell would buy a robber a drink!

When one of Mom’s family members was in trouble, she was never far away. As Traci recovered in the hospital after a very difficult first pregnancy and delivery, I remember Mom saying to me one day, “Let’s go over to their house and see what needs to be done.” It was so important to her that Traci come home to a house that was tidy, and so we spent some time that afternoon folding and putting away laundry and just making sure that when Mom’s first grandchild arrived home that no one felt that they needed to be tackling housework.

And then just a few short months later when my first pregnancy was complicated by pre-eclampsia and I was put on bedrest for a couple of months, there was Mom every couple of weekends, making the drive to Fayetteville to bring us food and help us finish setting up the nursery. She didn’t just tell us that she loved us, she showed us in tangible, practical ways without ever once making us feel that she had been inconvenienced in any way.

My husband, Jeff, always loved to see Nanny J coming for a visit. He could tell mother-in-law jokes with the best of ‘em, and she always laughed the loudest. She called him her very most favorite son-in-law he referred to her as his most favorite mother-in-law. But he is a smart guy, because he knew that when Nanny's car pulled into our driveway, it always meant two things: We were going to eat very well for a week and have several nights of free babysitting.

Yes, she took care of us VERY well.

Mom taught us the importance of having busy hands. Whether she was preparing a meal for her family, reading the Bible early in the morning, crocheting a blanket or playing with her grandbabies, I just do not ever remember seeing Mom sit around idly. I don’t specifically remember her telling us that idle hands were the devil’s workshop, but she certainly modeled that philosophy. Even when her work for the day was completed and she sat down to watch television for a little while in the evening, those hands were busy doing something productive. I will treasure the memory of many evenings spent with Mom on one end of the sofa and me on the other with our popcorn and Diet Coke, each with our needles flying happily as we worked on projects. In the winter, we would sit covered by the same heavy afghan, but I made certain as I stretched out on the couch to keep my feet from getting too close to her as she never seemed to tire of tickling the bottoms of my feet with a crochet hook!

Mom taught us the importance of having a sense of humor. This is one of her qualities Kyle and I could probably stand here all day and talk about, but nowhere did her sense of humor shine more than during her last few weeks in the hospital. Even as she faced major surgery, Mom was entertaining us with stories about her visitors and the nursing staff. And in the final hours before her surgery on August 29th as Dad, Kyle, Traci and I spent time with her, there was much laughter spilling from that hospital room.

Mom’s love of a good laugh is one of the biggest reasons why Kyle and I are able to stand up here today. We are certain that she would never want to be remembered in a sad way but instead in a manner that reflects just how she lived, with joy and laughter.

And finally, Mom taught us the importance of having a relationship with Christ. Church attendance was high on her priority list, but she was wise enough to know that that religion without a relationship with the Lord was empty and meaningless. She began each morning with a quiet time. I remember finding her prayer list in her Bible when I was a young teen and being amazed at how long it was. There were the names of her family members at the top followed by several dozen others she knew from work and church whose needs she was daily taking before the Lord. I am confident that one of the biggest reasons she leaves such a wonderful legacy is because of that relationship with Christ and the countless times she took her children, our spouses, and her grandchildren before the throne of grace.

We’re going to miss our mother terribly in the months and years to come. But we must remember that she is not lost to us, only separated by a brief span of time. One day in the not-too-distant future, all of us who have placed our hope and trust in Christ will be reunited with those who have gone on before us. In the meantime, let us strive to live in such a way that we honor their example and carry on the legacy of faith.

Mom, you were a Jewell. You were our biggest fan, our loudest cheerleader, and one of the most faithful friends we could have ever hoped for. I hope that you are having a blast as you get settled into your new home. We'll see you again someday, but until then … please save a spot at the end of the couch for me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Link to Obituary

Follow the link below to read the obituary. On the right, the funeral home has provided links with directions to the cemetery, funeral home and church.

http://www.rollerfuneralhomes.com/services.asp?page=odetail&id=7493&locid=10

Monday, September 11, 2006

Arrangements

We finalized arrangements today, and here are the details:

Visitation: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Roller Ballard Funeral Home, Benton
Memorial service: 4 p.m. Thursday, First Baptist Church of Benton

A private family burial has been scheduled for Thursday morning.

Thanks to all of you who have brought food, stopped by to offer your condolences, and expressed to us what Mom meant to you. Mere words are not enough to express our deep gratitude.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Graduation Day

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." I Corinithans 2:9

It is with great sadness and yet joy that we make known the news that at 9:20 a.m. today, our sweet mother departed this life and entered into eternity. We are heartbroken over the loss of such a wonderful woman but very thankful for the 65 years she was with us.

I will be collecting tributes on this site to use as we plan her memorial service. If you have a story about Mom that you would like to share, please click on the "Comments" link below or email them to spotter777@cox.net.

Many thanks again to all of you who have demonstrated your love for Mom and us. What a comfort it is to know we are not walking through this deep valley alone.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Recovery -- Day Ten

It's now been ten days since surgery, and Mom continues to be a resident of the SICU on a ventilator. Each day brings new hope of getting her off the vent, but that hasn't become a reality yet.

Her doctor put her on a steroid Wednesday night to try to rid her of more fluid, and Kyle says that some of the wrinkles are actually starting to come back to her hands!

Her white count is still high but continues to drop. In Kyle's words, "we're winning the war" against infection. That's good news.

Last night, a room with a window came open in ICU and she was moved. The new room is larger, and there is a television which I'm sure made her very happy. :-)

I've had several people ask me about visitors, and although I know many of you are eager to visit, the official word is NOT YET!! Until she is out of ICU, able to speak again (and take a shower and get prettied up!), no one outside the immediate family is being allowed to visit. Please keep the cards, notes, and emails coming, though. Monday is Mom's birthday, and we plan to make her a "wall of cards" to celebrate.

Thanks for your concern. Your words of encouragement keep us going!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I spoke too quickly ...

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

My joy last night over Mom's being taken off the ventilator was quickly squelched when Kyle called back later to say they'd had to reintubate her. Apparently, even an oxygen mask wasn't enough support, so she's back on the vent today. We remain hopeful that her doctors will be able to determine why things are progressing so slowly and offer the appropriate treatment.