I can't believe it's been a week since the world changed forever and my mother quietly finished her long uphill journey. Many people have expressed their love and care to our family, and we have been carried by that love. But of course we are bereft, and I find my thoughts churning like waves after a storm along the Jersey Shore that my mom loved so much. I might try to write more about those thoughts another time. But for now, I will reprint here, with a few changes, the informal obituary I prepared for my mother's memorial service last Wednesday. Who was Evelyn Mellinger Eby?
Evelyn Mellinger Eby was a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend, a neighbor, a mother, and a grandma. Just three months ago, she became a great grandma, a fact that she gladly, proudly told everyone who came through her door in Oregon North at Landis Homes. Meeting Connor was a highlight of her final weeks. >>>
Mom loved plants and flowers and marveled at the Creator's work wherever she saw it. She (and Dad) tucked annuals everywhere around their house with the blue shutters on Main Street.
Mom's favorite family vacation spot was Ocean City, New Jersey, where she never tired of simply watching the waves roll in. Most desired Boardwalk stops were Mack and Manco's Pizza (which she always called Peesa) and Kohr's frozen custard. She liked morning surrey rides but wanted to be sure to steer clear of Fenwick's.
When she and Dad traveled to far flung corners with their Circle gang, she reveled in the natural beauty of tropical blossoms, islands, volcanoes, and glaciers. Bald eagle watching topped almost every other activity.
But that wasn't the only place Mom stashed money, for she had a giving heart. She and Dad helped purchase college textbooks and plane tickets to South Africa. Young people undertaking short term missions were likely to find themselves holding an envelope containing an encouraging note and some cash or a check tucked in to be used for the upcoming adventure. For decades, letters arrived from Christian Children's Fund expressing appreciation for monthly support. Quiz teams expenses were underwritten, missionaries opened envelopes with unexpected gifts.
Mom's life was framed by giving. And it wasn't just money. It was applesauce. Or plants from the flowerbeds. Or canned fruit. And even more often, her time.
For my mom always seemed to have time.
Mom never had any interest at all in any professional sports team, including the Phillies, to the annual dismay of Dad. But if a grandson (or in earlier years…much earlier... a daughter) was involved in a sporting event (or any event for that matter) it changed everything. If our tiny town gave a prize for the grandparents who had traveled the most miles to support the team, my parents would have been the winners for over a dozen years now, from the days Oldest first played soccer, then basketball, right up through Youngest Mystery's debut in t-ball...soccer... baseball. It wasn't the event, it was the person. Home school programs, graduations, Suzuki concerts, Christmas programs; Grandma was proudly present. (Grandpa too.) Grandsons enjoyed their individual time at Grandma and Grandpa's house each summer, and Grandma made time for playing games, reading stacks of books and stopping at Freeze and Frizz; she planned special outings like trips to Lake Tobias and the Philadelphia Zoo.
Even as sickness took its toll on her body, and she spent hours in bed every day with her feet happily protruding from her red blanket as she desired, Mom continued to be an attentive, caring listener. Wherever she lived, first in a personal care apartment, and for her last six months in her one small room in health care, she connected with her nurses and caregivers. An overheard conversation one day during a blood sugar check began with Mom's quiet voice saying, "Now tell me about your boys." Mom cared deeply and she showed it by listening.
Just a few weeks ago, when Max was reading scripture to her, he selected a rather obscure verse from his upcoming sermon, "Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22,23) When he asked her if she knew where it was found, she smiled and replied, "Somewhere in Lamentations." She knew and loved her Bible, and it was her heart's desire to live a life faithful to the truth, to be a tree planted with roots deep in living water.
To her last days, my mom modeled what she had absorbed from the Word, not perfectly but faithfully. She was like a tree planted by streams of water and her life yielded the fruit of faithfulness and generosity. If we desire to finish our lives with faithfulness and gentle joy as she did, we would do well to follow her lifelong example, meditating on and delighting in God's word, for therein will we find the relationship that is source and resource for a generous, compassionate life.