Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Honey Bunny's Eulogy

On October 5, 2017 Don's mom, Joyce Pillsbury, passed away peacefully. This is the eulogy I wrote for her funeral. As I stood in front of the 70 or so mourners, the words changed, but I stayed true to the sentiment. At the time I was wishing I could add some pictures. In this format I can.


Thank you for all gathering today to celebrate my mother-in-law, Joyce Pillsbury’s life, a woman we affectionately call Honey Bunny. When our daughter, Ashley, was born mom called her Honey Bunny, which Ashley quickly repeated back to her in the same way I started to call my grandmother, Ta-Ta. Rather than call her Joyce or mom, I’m sticking with Honey Bunny.

For the past few months I have been carefully cleaning out Honey Bunny and Pop-pop’s (that is what we called Bob) house where they lived for 54 years. If you have never had the experience cleaning up someone else’s life, I highly recommend it. I learned a lot about my in-laws – many of which I will not repeat, but others I do want to share with you.

Honey Bunny, Shirley, and Carol
As many of you know, Honey Bunny grew up in Lancaster, Ohio. She met Pop-pop after the war as a student at Otterbein College. Pop-pop had served in the navy and was pursuing his college education. He and his bride moved to his hometown of Trenton, NJ where they eventually moved to Ewing and raised their four children. Those four children each had children and they have eight grandchildren.

Her parents on their 25th wedding anniversary
My first realization was they never threw ANYTHING out. This is typical among people who grew up during the Depression, but the project took on the aura of opening a time capsule. Included in the detritus of life was every letter she received. I learned she was an excellent pen pal. She wrote faithfully to her mother (who was still living in Ohio at the time) and her friend Shirley from Otterbein. Shirley died a few years ago, and she continued the correspondence with Shirley’s husband, Del, who died last summer. She kept every Christmas card and letter from everyone.

Through the letters I scanned and the numerous newspaper clippings I learned she was nervous about becoming a wife, a mother, and later a widow. She was a lifelong Christian who put her faith in God, even as she continued the tug of war as she took the worrying back from him. Oh how I can relate!

I learned she was a voracious reader of non-fiction. I knew she had many books (I’m estimating around 4,000 of them) in the three bedrooms, kitchen, living room, and dining room. Perhaps half to three-quarters were related to art – textile arts, knitting, crocheting, watercolor painting, graffiti art, cartooning, etc. It wasn’t just that she owned these books, she first labeled where she bought it, when she bought it, and how much she paid for it. Then she made notes in each book – which the knitters especially love reading because she noted which patterns she tried, what type of yarn she used, and how it turned out. As far as I could tell there was only one duplicate – a book by a local artist and friend we bought her for Christmas one year, but which she had already owned.  Each book was cataloged. My inner librarian is in awe.

We all know she was a self-taught water color artist. I brought a few of her paintings here. There are many more back at my house if you
would like one, two, or a dozen or more. She was quite good. She enjoyed learning from Joanne Augustine. I spoke with Joanne this week. She said they loved having Honey Bunny in their class because she was so sweet. There were secretly jealous about how quickly she could paint something so well. She was also incredibly modest about her art. She is missed in her classes.

I learned she loved her Bobby very much. Well, that wasn’t a surprise.

A few weeks ago I had a dream about Honey Bunny. She was at least 10 years younger wearing her ubiquitous blue jumper. She had taken an Uber to our house from Attleboro. Behind her was a shriveled up, mummified man I clearly identified as Pop-pop. She was asking for the keys to her house because she wanted to “go home.” I would not have been shocked to wake up the following morning to a phone call from the nursing home saying she was gone. Instead she thoughtfully waited until we returned from a family vacation. (I later found out, she also chose before another sibling was heading to Hawaii on a dream vacation.)

Don remembers her final words to Pop-pop as he was taking his last breath 13 years and 3 months ago were “Bobby please don’t leave me, I can’t live without you.” We take comfort that through their faith they are reunited in heaven together.

Thank you.

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