Thank you all for being here. It means a great deal to my family and me to see everyone here, honoring Betty's life.
Before I begin, I need to define the term website: A website is a place, accessible over the Internet by an address from where text and pictures can be retrieved. This is the story of a website. Some of Betty's grandchildren call her B-Mom, so we called the site "B-Mom.com". We created the site as a way for my mother and father Peter to communicate with their friends, and for their friends to communicate with them. The site had a logbook where anyone could post messages. Once created, each message was appended to the logbook for all to see.
The idea for the website and logbook came from a conversation I had with Betty in October. She knew she was dying, and was ready to start bringing closure to her life. But her friends didn't seem to believe it, and were not ready for the conversations mum wanted to have. Her friend Will Lange wrote to explain this phenomenon:
Probably the reason so many of us don’t write or call much, but just kind of stand around like a bunch of caribou, is that you are facing what we all have feared, and still fear, so much, and maybe we feel guilty that it isn't us.
B-Mom.com took on a life of its own, beyond everyone's expectation. Because everyone could see who was writing, and what was being written, there were many connections made and threads continued. Mum was a little embarrassed, but also enjoyed reading the stories
We have printed copies of this book for everyone, you can pick them up when leaving the church.
I'm going to read a few excerpts from the site:
From Jim Mays, November 22
After dinner one night, Betty asked me if I wanted to work at Hurricane, I responded positively.
"Well, then, you’ll first have to learn how to tie a bowline, in the dark, under water, behind your back!"
Gulp, what’s a bowline?
"That’s what Peter made me do before I married him!"
From Betty herself, November 24
What a wonderful gift you have all given me by sending your thoughts, love, prayers, and wonderful memories all interspersed with the kind of humor that has made my stomach sore from laughing so hard! All this is making me feel very joyful and thankful for such a fantastic group of friends. God bless you all, and have a happy Thanksgiving. Love, Betty
From POW, December 10
Winter sky tonight with Orion high in the east. Crisp for a change. Betty said tonight "don't tell anybody, but I feel great"...tentative, but nice after a difficult week of breathing difficulty, fluid management, and learning about taking the proper amount of drugs...
From Helen Weld, Youngaburra, Queensland, Australia, December 11
…it was such fun to have you and POW dock at Salt Marsh Cove for the night after sailing up the Damariscotta. That was a fun evening. A campfire on the riverbank, a wonderful vie w and wonderful company....the last time I saw you was early the next morning as you took off with the ebb tide. I grabbed the binocs at the bedside and waved you off into the rosy dawn. You were at the helm and POW stood at the bow. It is a good image. Now we are here and you are there. I am about to sign off for now and go for my daily swim … in the volcanic crater lake in the rainforest down the road from our place. I will swim in your honor and pray that you continue to have "up" moments and that you feel the love and gratitude for you coming from this side of the earth.
From me, January 10, 1999
Overcast and 18 degrees this morning. David, Charlie, Kirsty, Carol and I took the watches last night. The night was uneventful, but mum is noticeably less responsive this morning. She is leaving her body slowly, appearing to be asleep all the time, but probably hearing everything that's going on. We continue to be together, and with her, riding the rollercoaster that I suspect those reading this are too. We have our down moments, but not alone. Caroline and Bill Zuber just arrived for a day shift, and Carol continues to line up the help. Big pancake feed for breakfast, fun. Carol was playing her Celtic harp this morning as it got light, matching mum's breathing and filling the room with beautiful sound. More soon. -lw
From Will Lange, January 10
There never was a place that Betty was, that she didn't make sunnier by being there. I envy Heaven its imminent brighter day.
From me again, January 14
Fifteen below zero this morning, clear, wind North at 10. Cold. Bootes, the cat is complaining. There's currently a conflict between the laptop computer and the laptop cat, and the cat is losing. But he'll get his time when I'm done.
There is some unfinished business. For while I've been sharing the day to day of this extraordinary three months on these pages, I have not reminisced myself.
It is difficult to separate B-Mom from our family, to say what was B-Mom, what was POW, what was David and Charlie. That is gift one, for she brought us together through her hard work to the point where we were a team and could rely on each other. Betty the watch officer.
When I said I was disconnecting the speedometer on a rental car to save mileage, Mom's sharp reprimand stopped me in my tracks, and taught me a lesson. The extraordinary part was she did it in such a way as to make the lesson one of being honest, rather than one of not telling your mother what you're doing. That is gift two: Betty the strong person, calling a spade a spade.
Gift three is harder to see. Mom set us free. She didn't tell us what to do, she simply loved us and supported us in whatever we chose. She did her work early, making sure we had the skills and compassion onboard, then let go. I'll face that process one day with my daughter Nora, and I'm glad to have an example to follow.
The gift of B-Mom.Com for me was learning to know my mother. I knew Mom wove her holistic health practices into her nursing career, but to hear the details from her nursing friends on these pages brought her to life for me. And I knew she inspired a lot of people at Outward Bound, but again, the stories brought her to life. That she has been brought to life to stay on these pages is a gift we gave her, but also have given each other, and for that I am grateful.
Finally, B-Mom.Com was part of the support network. Mom felt it, and we felt it. In a letter she wrote on her birthday, it's clear that she was making the most of her time:
Physically, I'm not doing so hot, but mentally I feel more alive than I ever have. I feel like an 8 year old …no past, no future, no worries, and it is marvelously uplifting. I feel almost guilty that I'm enjoying this part of my life!
Mom wanted to die at home, peacefully. During the difficult last days, when POW was barely hanging on through the 24-hour care, the strength we felt from those on B-Mom.com helped.
Bootes the cat returned, and this time he won. I'm hunched over to the side, with a cat in my lap, and the typing is getting awkward.
Once again, thank you all for making these pages sacred.
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