A Day Off to Remember Mom

I took a day off yesterday to remember my mom.  Not that I don't think of her practically everyday, but yesterday was the 4th anniversary of her death.  The void will never be filled.  It gets easier, but it never goes away...that feeling that a very important part of you is missing.  I talk to her all the time and because we knew each other so well, I can even hear her voice responding to me sometimes.  But, it's not the same.  I miss her.

In her honor and memory, here's her original obit.  Originally Posted on April 24, 2011

Shirley Ann Schroeder Wade Hoffman

February 12, 1921 – April 17, 2011

Shirley was born in Chicago to Hattie Kentgen and Arthur Schroeder.  She was an only child for 10 years when her brother Arthur “Bud” Schroeder was born.  The family lived on Chicago’s north side.  Her father was an HVAC worker and her mother was a housewife. 

Shirley graduated from Carl Schurz High School and then went on to nursing school at Oak Park Hospital.  Upon completion of nurse’s training she worked for a general practioner, Dr. Raleigh Charles Oldfield in Oak Park for the next seven years.  She continued a nursing career for the next 40+ years working as a hospital nurse, a private duty nurse, a geriatric nurse and a psychiatric nurse.

In August 1945, Shirley married William Franklin Wade Jr., an Oak Park resident. Bill courted Shirley, who had already been engaged twice, with old-fashioned style.  In spite of his aeronautical engineering degree, he was a sensitive and reflective man who wrote poems which he delivered regularly during their courtship.  During the early years of their marriage they traveled and enjoyed the “Two Careers No Kids” lifestyle long before it became popular.  For seven years, their family consisted of a prize winning German Shepherd named Lady Holiday, “Holly.”  She was a show dog and won many prizes in the years that they entered her.  She was trained so well that she would sit on a “Sit/Stay” command at the corner of Lake and Chicago Avenue in downtown Oak Park on a Saturday morning, while her master and mistress shared lunch or did their errands.  Many of her prizes were beautiful sterling silver serving pieces which are as beautiful today as when she earned them.

Shirley and Bill began their family with the birth of their daughter Cynthia Kay on May 16, 1953.  She was followed two years later by a brother, William Franklin Wade, III.  The family was prosperous and happy.  The children grew and the parents remained a close couple obviously in love and delighted in their family.

The All-American family dream came to a crashing halt on January 3, 1968, when Bill suffered a massive coronary.  He died in the hospital on the day he had been expected to return to his family.  He was 47.  Shirley bowed but did not break.  She continued to raise her children vowing to provide a lifestyle as close to what they would have had had their father lived as possible.  She continued to work as an RN and began a second career as a waitress.  At some points she worked three jobs to provide for her family.

In 1974, Shirley attended the funeral of a woman who was the wife of a man that her deceased husband has worked with many years prior.  At the funeral she spoke to the grieving widower.  “You’ll be lonely,” she said.  “Call me.  We’ll have dinner.”  He did.  A week later.  They married after a year.  Walter Charles Hoffman was her second husband.  They were very happy together for 6 years until Walter died of coronary failure.

Shirley worked for another couple of years before moving out to Denver to care for her much awaited first grandchild.  Sarah Ann Wade (f. Bill) was born on November 8, 1989.  She was followed in quick succession by Katie Scarlett Kaplan (July 6, 1991 m.Cynthia) and then Jessica Lynn Wade (August 19, 1991 f. Bill).   Shirley went from only grand dogs to three beautiful granddaughters in short order.  She also moved with her son and daughter-in-law, Terri from CO to NE and then ultimately to NH before returning back to the Chicago area in 1994.

Shirley died peacefully in her sleep on Sunday, April 17, 2011.  She suffered from COPD, CHF and chronic anemia.  She is survived by her daughter, Cynthia K Wade of Geneva, IL, her son, Dr. William F. Wade and beloved daughter-in-law, Theresa K. Wade, both of Lebanon. NH.   In addition, she is survived by the lights of her life, three beautiful, happy, healthy and successful granddaughters, Sarah Ann Wade, 21, a junior at Pitt, Katie Scarlett Kaplan, 19, a sophomore at Waubonsee Community College and Jessica Lynn Wade, 19, a sophomore at Purdue.  Other family includes sisters-in-law, Loretta Schroeder, Batavia, IL and June Wade, Houston, TX, nieces Lisa Schroeder, Dr. and Mrs. Art Schroder, Amy Free and Mary Beth Schroeder and Lynette Wade.

Other family includes… her stepfamily Robert Hoffman of San Diego; Janet Hoffman Hardy and her husband Robert of Tucson, Az; and Linda Hoffman Dianis and her husband Jack of Concord, NH; as well as her grandchildren John Hoffman of Seattle; Scott Dianis and his wife Allison of Schenectady, NY; and Laura Dianis of Richmond, Va.; and one great-grandchild, Elise Caroline Dianis. 

My mother died at 5:05 AM on Sunday, April 17, 2011.She was 90 years old.  She lived a rich full life; one that was filled with few regrets.  She died as she had been born.  Tiny, frail, vulnerable. She died as she had lived.  Fighting against all the odds.

Only in death, did she finally accept defeat.  Or at least I think she did.  Truth to be told, I guess I won’t know for sure until it is my turn.  And I will die in the same way, for I am my mother’s daughter.  As certainly as she taught me to tie my shoes, she taught me to fight against all odds to live.  Not just to survive, but to thrive.

There will be no wake, funeral or memorial.  Even if she had not wandered from her Roman Catholic upbringing, her two children, my brother and I are not believers in either organized religion or the funeral industry.  My mother knew that and chose rather to have her entire body donated to medical research.  Even in death, she is ever practical and above all, sharing of all she has with others.

For those of you who wish to recognize her death in some way, I offer these suggestions.

Do not sit in a room remembering the one who died.  Rather go out and make memories with the living.

Do not send flowers to the dead.  Rather, offer flowers to the living.

Do not share a meal or a toast with a roomful for strangers.  Rather, choose never to eat alone, but always with the living. 

Do not speak words of praise of the dead.  Rather speak your love, appreciation and gratitude every day to the living.

Do not commission prayers or other religious rituals.   Rather, experience the wonders of life with the living.

Do not write a check for research.  Rather, share the most precious gift, the gift of yourself with the living.

Do not gather with semi-strangers to morn a loss.  Rather, celebrate every joy you receive with the living.

Do these things frequently, whenever an opportunity presents itself.  And if it doesn’t present itself frequently, create your own opportunity.

This life is not a dress rehearsal.  You cannot count on even a second take, let alone an opening night or a finale.  Grab hungrily and with gusto every moment this life has to offer.  Feel the good of life.  Feel the bad of life.   They are both equal gifts.  And you cannot have one without the other.