Marycare: A Eulogy For My Mother-In-Law, Mary B. Jackson

Jan. 23, 2023

On behalf of our family — Deb, Patti, Patti’s husband, Andrew, and myself — we want to thank you for joining us today to honor Mary’s life.

When you realize Mary lived to be exactly 98 and a half (she passed away on Jan. 13, 2023), to the day, you realize how much time our Heavenly Father gives to us, and gave to Mary, to create wonderful memories.

I’ve known Mary since September 2007.

Here are some memories.

See these? (I hold up a photo of some gardening hand shears).

Before I knew Mary, I purchased these hand-pruning shears for a house I owned, in 2006.

I gave them to Mary for use when Deb and I moved in with her in August 2008.

Mary loved these hand-pruning shears and she used them everywhere, never letting them go. She gardened from 9 in the morning to 8 at night in the summertime.

I went to my garden shed to retrieve the shears, in storage until the spring, yesterday. For the first time in all these years, they finally locked; they wouldn’t do that for me. I guess Mary decided it was time to give them a rest.

So these shears are with Mary, in her casket, with her for eternity. For gardening with Jesus, no doubt.

Speaking of gardening with Jesus . . .

Flower bulbs: Mary LOVED flower bulbs, many of which came from Dutch Mill Bulb, Palmyra, where she worked until she was 90.

She had no plan or theme to the garden; she just planted bulbs everywhere. Each year, what came up ended up being a surprise.

Mary felt blessed to have a garden with probably thousands of bulbs, including:

·    Eight different varieties of daffodils

·    Five of lilies

·    Four of tulips

·    Two of lilacs

·    Assorted hydrangeas

·    Four of roses

·    Three different azaleas

·    Seven different varieties of hyacinths

·    Numerous grape hyacinths

·    One beautiful Japanese lilac that smells “heavenly.”

Speaking of heavenly …

Mary, a devout Roman Catholic who always attended church with her husband, Bob, I think was closest to God in her garden. I honestly believe that.

One day Mary was in the garden, planting either begonias or geraniums (her two favorite flowers, next to lilies), and she often would work in the evening, after the sun went down, using the parking lot night light. My son Kevin was visiting, early in the evening, and he looked outside into the darkness and reminded me that my mother-in-law was still outside in the dark, somewhere. I told him not to worry; she’ll come inside when she wants to.

Lily is her only and beloved great-granddaughter. That makes sense.

Mary criticized my lawn care, and didn’t like me mulching the grass, because it left “bumps in the lawn.” We argued about mulching all the time. Finally, looking for affirmation, I contacted the Patriot-News gardening columnist George Weigel to help settle this dispute. He wrote back to us, something about, “I’m not getting into the middle of this fight.” But I promised Mary I would, for her 86th birthday, in 2010, bag the grass for her. She watched me carefully to see that I did so. I hated every minute.

I don’t think Mary enjoyed funerals or wakes. But she made us laugh one time at a female relative’s funeral, when Mary looked around the room and said, “I wonder how many people here remember .  . . oh, what’s-her-face.”

Certainly not YOU, Mary, I said to her.

All that aside, back in 2014, near her 90th birthday, Mary was diagnosed with vascular dementia that took everything away.

The last time I saw Mary gardening was the fall of 2010 when she was edging around the front, north-facing side of the house. She had that angry, frustrated look I’ve seen several times before someone is diagnosed with dementia. That was the last I saw of her in the garden. I remember planting in the spring of 2011, the year of the floods, and I took her out to help me plant some begonias around the Japanese maple in the front yard. She didn’t help much, just sat with me, smiling.

Mary loved flowers: begonias, first, which she planted in hanging baskets at the gazebo, and hundreds of geraniums.

Hundreds of geraniums.

Well into her dementia, in very early September this year, we took Mary to Stauffer’s garden center just down the road from here. I wanted to see her reaction to the flowers, see if I could make her day. We stopped in front of some really colorful hibiscus and some varieties of butterfly plants, and took her along a row of mums. There was no reaction from Mary.

BUT, when we arrived at the geraniums, Mary looked bright and happy and said, “Pretty flowers.” You could see her come alive, astonished at knowing where she was, and for a brief time, I could swear she arrived in heaven.

I’m sure she’s in a similar place now, talking to Jesus. Probably insisting on bagging the grass from the gates of eternity toward the heavenly kingdom.

Bless you, Lady Mary.