Today my dad and my two brothers buried my mom. Here is my eulogy to this woman to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude.
The last 20 minutes of the life of Miriam Grace Holt
Family members had spent a good part of last weekend in Miriam’s room. Though totally mute for many days now, she turned her gaze on me as I attempted to sing some simple songs to her, picking out the chords with difficulty on my ukulele.
I had no evidence that her body was processing any of this until I was leaving that first day [Friday] – as I stood over her to say goodbye, her frozen face flashed a grin. I reached out and put my hand on her head and said “Mom, I love you”.
But the steady deterioration was evident in the next visit [Saturday], and now, Sunday afternoon, the end surely had to be near.
The constant in all this was dad. He sat there by her side, holding her hand, speaking softly to her, reaching out and stroking her cheek, hoping to hear his name one last time.
Dad and family members spent the whole of that last Sunday afternoon in her room, intermittently in silence listening to her labored breathing, glancing at the golf tournament on the room’s TV, and holding her well-worn Bible in order to read Scripture to her in a shaky voice so close to tears.
There was little or no response from mom that afternoon, except for two times when mom suddenly raised her hand and held it to her forehead… as if to shade her eyes from the glare of a bright light.
By late afternoon we decided that dad needed rest. Though he protested, I drove him back to the house. Jill would consult with the hospice nurse and call us back if something changed.
That call came a few hours later at 9pm. Mom’s blood pressure had dropped and her gasps for breath were now much fainter. We drove back, sensing that this was our last time. Dad quickly was back at her side, holding her hand, speaking softly to her. We watched and listened in silence for the next two hours.
The last 20 minutes of mom’s life.
Now, after these initial two hours [about 11:20pm], her youngest son Dave had temporarily relieved dad. Dave was sitting at mom’s bedside, holding her hand.
I stood watch at the foot of her bed. Standing there and watching her weak breathing, I had a growing sense that the end was now at hand. I wanted to move quickly to her bedside and hold her other hand, but I was afraid that I would make a scene, that I wouldn’t be able to hold back the tears that were just waiting to burst forth, that this was just my imagination, just another false alarm.
I struggled with this over and over in my head. Finally, I just did it – I moved over to her bedside and knelt down. As Dave continued to hold her right hand, I place my hand over her left hand and leaned forward. I spoke softly into her ear.
“Mom… Dave is holding your hand and Nate is holding your other hand… if you’re ready, we can walk you home.”
My tears broke loose. I tried to whisper the 23rd Psalm into her ear but I’m sure I messed it up. I recited the words to the lullaby that she would sing to me each night as a child, in the darkness of my childhood bedroom as I would fall peacefully to sleep. There was no way that I could try to softly sing it into her ear now… I could barely say the words.
But her body was not ready to go home. Her breathing, though very faint, continued.
Dad came back and took Dave’s place. He took hold of her hand in both of his and held it to his face and wept quietly.
And now… the final five minutes of the life of Miriam Grace Holt.
Dad began to speak about the only girl he had ever loved. About the teachers they shared in grade school, the funny things that she had done… things that had captivated his young heart.
Mom’s eyes suddenly opened. Dad saw a tear forming. He reached out and touched that tear, and continued to express how she, as that young farm girl, had endeared herself to him. That he loved her so much.
I was still kneeling on the other side of her bed, listening to dad and watching mom’s shallow breathing. As dad continued to speak and hold her hand in his, mom’s breathing paused. Nothing. Then a faint breath. Then a much longer pause. And then one last breath. Then, no more.
She was safely home.
Though she loved her sons, her body wanted her husband Bill to hold her hand and to walk her home… walk her safely home to Jesus.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to this woman. I end with this poem.
Mom… thank you for…
Letting us boys play in the dirt,
And allowing us to rough-house,
For encouraging us to swing as high as we could get,
And trusting us to God… not stopping us taking risks.
Thank you for letting us jump off the roof and into the pool,
Riding bikes without helmets, and in cars with no seatbelts (how in the world did we survive?!!)
Thank you for stitching up our wounds with sewing needle and thread,
And for diagnosing our scraped knees and bloody fingers with the simple words: “You’ll live.”
Thank you for letting us build a seven-level tree-house (though not OSHA approved),
And for letting us climb trees all the way to the top,
For letting us boys go camping… spring, summer, dead of winter,
Spanking us when we deserved it, and praying for us a lot.
Thank you for making my school lunch sandwiches with delicious home-baked bread… (which I would then exchange for cash),
And that nickel for every Bible verse I worked at learning.
Thank you for teaching me the value of integrity, honesty, and accepting responsibility,
And for making us boys do our Saturday chores (I still love vacuuming).
Thank you for simple foods like meatloaf, casseroles, and weenie-beanies,
And for teaching us how to do without, the meaning of “Waste not, want not”.
Thank you for teaching me how to tithe,
And how to be generous, whether I had little or lot.
Thank you for dragging me to church when I hated to go
And for encouraging me to turn the TV off without a fight,
Thank you for sacrificing to send me to church camp every summer.
And as a child, thank you for singing that prayer song to me each night.
Thank you for attempting to raise us to be followers of Christ,
Thus extending the family faith to next generations
Not by just saying, but by doing
Through your prayers and encouragement and godly life lessons.
Thank you for teaching me the meaning of “You’re burning a hole in the day*”.
Turn the water on, then OFF… to rinse each dish… this was a childhood lesson,
And to save every penny, and to scrape every bit out of the jar,
Thanks for allowing me to personally re-experience the Great Depression.
Mom… we love you.Nate Holt.
Reeb Funeral Home, Sylvania OH
September 13, 2012 * “Burning a hole in the day” = electric lights on in broad daylight ( ! ) ============ Text of the funeral service, delivered by my son Andy, is here. ============= Eulogy delivered by my daughter Rachel: It’s been 25 minutes into this car ride and I’m starting to nod off in the back of my Dad’s minivan. Mom is in the passenger seat reading the newspaper and Andy got the captain’s chair (while I’m stuck in the back…) The next thing I know we are making that familiar turn onto the long driveway of a very familiar house. We’re in Gibsonburg, it’s most likely a holiday, and the family is getting together.Before I can even scramble out of the backseat, that sliding door is opening and out comes Grandma with a huge grin and a loud “Yoohoo!” ringing through the air. Grandpa is close behind greeting us with those familiar Holt side hugs.We walk through the breezeway, past the laundry machines with the Tupperware containers of cookies stacked ready for dessert, and into the bustling kitchen. Not surprising, Uncle Dave and Aunt Jill and crew are already there.Moving out of the kitchen I pass the piano but not without Grandma asking me to play a little something. More often than not, I refuse…I’m not sure why I would refuse, it made her so happy to hear me share her love for the piano.
The house is brimming with photos and memories, and it didn’t matter how often we visited – I still loved to look around. The piano had photos of all of us grandchildren. The bookcase had mementos from her past trips and children’s books I remember her reading us. The beat up Skipbo deck is set out on the card table. We all wonder if today we can finally beat Grandpa.
It’s time to eat. Time to do the dinner table dance – where we all hesitate around a few different spots until landing in a seat. My favorite was on the bench, but it was risky because those spots closest to Grandma meant you couldn’t get away with passing the veggies on by. Finally we are all seated and Grandma clears her throat, turns around to the cabinet and pulls out tonight’s reading. It could be a newspaper article, it could be a Bible passage. Whatever it is, it stands between Grandpa’s famous ham and me. I can still hear her voice as she shared with us something she picked out for this particular meal.
Sounds like a typical family gathering, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My grandma was a loving, joyful, smart woman. And I’m going to miss her.============= Here is Miriam Holt’s obituary Miriam Grace Holt, age 87, surrounded by family and held by her husband’s hand, passed away peacefully early Monday morning, September 10, 2012 at Swan Creek Retirement Village.She was born in Sugar Ridge, OH, on April 20, 1925, the youngest of five born into the farm family of Ray and Mary Muir of Fostoria, OH. This farm-girl was a tom-boy who would try to keep up with her older brother in climbing trees, jumping out of haymows, hitting home-runs, and riding the plow horse without a saddle as fast as it could go. She met a boy, Bill Holt, in first grade at school in Bloomdale, OH. She married him in1947 shortly after he returned from WW2 pilot training and she graduated as a registered nurse from the Toledo Hospital School of Nursing. Together, they started a family in Bloomdale, bearing three sons, Nate, Steve, and Dave, and then built a home near Gibsonburg, OH where they resided for the next 56 years.Miriam was accustomed to dealing with hardships, having lost her father at age 7 and then helping her mother and siblings hold on to the family farm through the depths of the Great Depression.She encouraged her boys to be men of integrity, to excel, and to not be afraid to take risks. Since she was a nurse, ER treatment for her boys was unnecessary. She sewed up their lacerations with needle and thread and inspected their bruises and wounds with a prognosis of “You’ll live”.She was a woman of great faith. At age 17 on New Year’s Day 1943, she penned a resolution “… I have consecrated my life to my Savior, I must act accordingly. This includes daily reading and communication, witnessing, etc. – that He may live thro’ me, and I trust Him completely, and give Him back his tenth and more.” She kept that promise – demonstrated in the way that she lived her life, in the way that she prayed for each of her sons and families they formed, her prayer and generous support for overseas missionaries, and her decades of active participation in the Fremont Alliance Church.
Miriam was honest, loyal, and resolute (some might describe it as a bit stubborn). She was fun-loving, kind, generous, and hard-working. She loved her sons, her husband, and her Savior. Though she has been promoted to glory, she will be missed.