May 14, 2017 by John Crapper
I don’t have to send a Mother’s Day card nor send flowers but I wish I still did.
Reposting this in its entirety for Mother’s Day because my mom deserves it!
Yes, that’s what I said. Mother’s Day is a bunch of crap! It goes a long way to explain why my blogging name is John Crapper.
I say it with good reason. My mother, Loretta, passed away this last Easter Sunday. She was 92. She was buried on my birthday.
I was close to my Mom and will miss her deeply. It may be quite odd for you to hear me say this but her funeral was one of the best I’ve ever attended. There was a lot of laughing. It was just the way my mother wanted it. Below the fold I’ll explain the reason for the title and share the service. It was a real celebration of life.
All the blockquotes are excerpts taken from the actual words the preacher said during the service. Names have been changed or eliminated except for my mother’s. Outside the blockquotes is my additional background information.
We each have a story. The time of our birth, the circumstances, the experiences that fill our life’s journey make us each unique and special. It was a privilege for me to sit with Loretta’s sons and daughters-in-law yesterday to get a glimpse of your mother’s story. And we all agreed that today is an appropriate time to celebrate her journey, her story, her personality, her influence.
Loretta began her life story in 1920 in New Bedford, Massachusetts of French Canadian heritage, which lingered in her interesting accent with certain words. New Bedford was the world’s most famous whaling era seaport. The land was purchased from Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag tribe. In 1818 Irish immigrants established the Catholic mission that built St. Mary’s Church. The Portuguese arrived in droves largely due to the whaling industry and established the first Portuguese parish in the city in 1871 – St. John the Baptist. French Canadians secured a foothold in the city at about the same time and built the Church of the Sacred Heart in 1877.
This was the world of Loretta’s beginning: A strong Catholic influence in a hard-working world experiencing the Great Depression. At a young age, she went to work in the chenille factories, the fabric mills. Along with her siblings, Loretta knew the harshness of the northeast coastland and of a father who could be even harsher. Loretta’s mother would encourage her to scurry about and to pick up her toys when her father came home so that there would be no clutter in his way. She carried this compulsion to clean the house the rest of her days. You could eat a meal off her basement floors.
I little more info that didn’t make the cut.
1. During one of my overnight stays with Mom I got up to go to the bathroom (#1, not #2). In the short time it took me to tinkle Mom had made my bed. “MOM – I’m going back to bed!”, I said. “Crap, I thought you were up.”
2. Another time I called long distance from Thailand. “What are you doing, Mom?” “I’m cleaning out the basement window sills.”
She met Harold on a blind date while he was in the military; and he became the “love of her life.” She was ready to take a chance and moved to Missouri, where he went to work with Walt Bodine at WDAF TV. Ironically, Walt who sent a letter to Loretta upon Harold’s passing, passed himself to new life this past Palm Sunday, March 24. Walt, a devout Catholic, had battled visual impairment for years and once commented: “Being blind isn’t a tragedy; it’s just one hell of an inconvenience.” (Did I mention Loretta may have been exposed to some “sailor talk” growing up; maybe Walt was, too.) That generation knew hardship and tried to make the best of things.
And Harold’s passing as a young man in 1960 became a defining moment for Loretta. Her life’s mission was clearly the raising of her four sons, ages 2 to 14, at their father’s passing. She would need all the grit she could muster. Suddenly, she was completely responsible for these boys; and she couldn’t drive and had never written a check.
I was nine years old when my father died.
She was worried and didn’t want to make mistakes in the raising of her boys. There’s a time for everything our ancient writer of wisdom says; and this became a time for Loretta to become even tougher and more determined and committed to her boys. In her last few years after entering the Memory Care unit, she would repeat to all who would listen to her the grandest accomplishment in her life: “I raised 4 boys and they had to toe the line.” One of her great sadnesses in life was the untimely passing of her son Richard on March 29 of 1992 when he was 37.
She preached and modeled for her sons a strong work ethic and the need of a good education. All of her boys got a college education. And in celebration of their strong efforts, she received her GED at age 65.
Now what really came through to me in sitting with Loretta’s boys yesterday was how much love and respect they have for their earthy, common sense, strong mother. At every critical junction of their lives, she was there as a memorable presence. She always told you what she thought; and her plain, straight-forward speech gave you endless material for laughter.
This is an understatement. Always home, always there, always someone to turn to in time of need. She never put her own needs ahead of her children. One of her favorite sayings to me, since I was the one that gave her, without a doubt, the most trouble was: “If you get arrested don’t call me because I’m not going to bail you out!” I knew she meant it. She once had me picked up by the park ranger after she’d figured out that the senior skip day I told her I was participating in was not an “officially sanctioned” day off from school. Luckily, this was the extent of my run ins with the law!
Let’s just get it out there. Her famous tagline, her go-to comment about many things was: “That’s a bunch of crap.” This led to John composing songs to sing at family gatherings: Call “L-o-r-e-t-t-a; it’s all crap all crap to me – Loretta.” And “We Wish you a crappy Christmas. We wish you a crappy Christmas. We wish you a crappy Christmas and to hell with New Year. His younger brother thinks it may have stemmed from her days as an LPN when she once commented that her favorite procedure was “cauterizing hemorrhoids.” This sense of humor has carried the family through thick and thin.
While being a home body, she also had some ability to let loose to her adventurous side. She once did loop de loops in an open cockpit plane.
On her trip to Thailand to visit John and his wife, she went para-sailing at the age of 72.
The Thai people could hear her laughing and pointed up saying, “Look at Grandma.” John’s wife likes that image of seeing Grandma Loretta sailing heavenward.
She also, at the age of 74, rode a roller coaster that did three 360 degree loops in rapid succession.
She was plain-spoken. Soon after her youngest son got married, she told his wife, “I don’t babysit; I raised 4 kids; I’m done with that.” After a visit home from Thailand, John was ready to head for the airport and she sent him off with the blessing: “I’m kind of glad you are leaving because you were starting to get on my nerves.”
And she became comfortable complaining a bit. Loretta’s oldest son’s wife remembers going to a family reunion with her and being alone with her in the car for a while; her comment was: “Thanks for staying in the car with me so I can complain.”
But her stories in letter format really became legendary. Receiving letters in Thailand, John and his wife were often baffled with what was really happening with Mom. She once wrote of a dog someone had left in the street by her corner; and now it was in her yard; and what was she to do with it; this dead dog; which later got up and disappeared (not dead at all). Her tales were intriguing.
Her phone calls were even more interesting. Once she called Thailand in the middle of the night to inform John that his cousin Chucky who was just his age – 38 at the time—had passed away. Very saddened John wrote to Aunt Lucy expressing his sympathy. Some three weeks later, in the text of a letter, sort of in passing, Loretta informed John that she had made a slight mistake. It wasn’t Chuck who passed, but Uncle Wesley. Chuck is here today; and Chuck, John wants you to know that when your time comes, he has already sent a card.
A part of the way Loretta survived was to laugh with you at her own frailties and quirks. I’ve always liked the quaint poem “The Watcher” and I think it speaks of your relationship with your mother:
She always leaned to watch for us,
Anxious if we were late,
In the winter by the window,
In the summer by the gate;
And though we mocked her tenderly,
Who had such foolish care,
The long way home would seem more safe
Because she waited there.
Her thoughts were all so full of us,
She never could forget!
And so I think that where she is
She must be watching yet,
Waiting till we come home to her
Concerned if we are late—
Watching from Heaven’s window
Leaning from Heaven’s gate.
Loretta was blessed with her four sons, four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren with two more on the way. She exemplified to you how to live a good life based in solid values and strong ethical principles. She was down-to-earth and earthy perhaps of necessity; but she taught you whether she intended to or not, how to laugh at life and make the best of the situation you are facing.
Loretta lived her life fully—through the struggles and joys—with an attitude of perseverance which is a treasure for all of you to remember.
Her youngest son was with her at her passing and shortly after giving her permission to go on home, she raised an arm as though reaching for heaven, and in a minute passed peacefully. She had told you all for some years that she was ready: “Just let me go; no tears at my funeral; I’m at peace.”
That’s a powerful thought and I’m sure it helps you today. There was a time for everything in her life; she approached it all with an attitude of perseverance; and when her work was winding down, she was ready to meet her Maker and to experience the peace promised to us in our faith. And so today we send her off with a blessing: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Master.”
Or as Loretta might have put it: “no more crap.”
I am who I am today because of this 5 ft. two-inch powerhouse of a woman. Thanks Mom!
In loving memory…your son….John Crapper.
My Mom knew nothing about the Church of the Holy Shitters and its environmental message. Her dementia was too advanced before I could share. She probably would have thought it was a bunch of crap. That would not be bad coming from my Mom.
It alludes me when I first started formulating the concept of the Church of the Holy Shitters. I’m certain, however, that the myriad of times I heard the phrase “It’s a bunch of crap.” uttered from my Mom while I was growing up played a significant role in germinating the idea in my psychic. Thank you Mom! Your legacy lives on!