For Faye Haglund
by Guy Haglund
We often hear people say that life is short, but I disagree – my mom had a long and full life and I think she had the key – life can be long and rich if you fill it with new and meaningful experiences. Both my mom and my dad were my role models in that regard.
Faye loved to travel, and the two of them covered the continent from Alaska to Florida and from Maine to California, traveling by car, motorhome, trailer, homemade camper, bicycle, boat, train and plane. For several years in the summers they served as campground hosts in regional campgrounds all over the West and they made long-lasting friends in the process. Her travels also included international destinations: in Europe – a trip with Holly to Germany, Holland and Belgium; South America – to Chile with Guy and Lily; and of course the annual fishing trip to Canada.
She was also a homemaker, a seamstress, a cook, a quilter and a Scrabble and Cribbage master, and she and her neighbor and friend, Jean Oberfeld, had a daily Scrabble date for years. She was never lacking a creative project, including the day when she and her friend, Edna Haggberg, decided that the two of them should start remodeling the kitchen! And they did, start that is, with hammers and crowbars they did the necessary destruction, then they turned it over to Dad to help finish the job.
She loved the out-of-doors and was a real camper, fisherwoman and huntress. She and Roger discovered the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in the early sixties and for years we trekked up there for an annual family canoe trip. At that time the area was still a virtually undiscovered wilderness and we would portage from lake to lake seeing only ducks, loons, otters and moose – and the occasional bear!
Mom was a writer – she had a way with words and her poems and short commentaries were delightful. Once she even tried her hand at being a professional contest enterer, writing jingles for TV commercials, and sending in the entries, sometimes a dozen of them every day. And she had some success – over the course of a couple of years she won bicycles, TV sets, electric trains and such, but she never won the big, fat first prize. Let me read a quote from a piece she wrote that was published in the Star Tribune in 1956. I think it demonstrates how she knew what the really important things in life are:
“Weighing the things we [Roger and I] have and the things we want and will probably get, against the things we want and will probably never get, we come out only fair. But taking into account the three golden assets we have [sitting between us at the breakfast table]: Guy, nine years old, his outsize teeth hungrily biting into drippy self-buttered toast; Jacquelyn, a four-year-old edition of Rita Hayworth (red-rimmed sunglasses at 7 a.m.?) daintily south-pawing her cereal and fluffing her hair with the hand left over; Holly, five months old, happily smiling her approval of the teething biscuit which dribbles down her chin; We come out on top – Sum total: Wealth Untold.”
But as I’m sure you all know, in recent years her memory began to slowly abandon her, and in the end the cruel irony is that most of those memories were lost to her. How is that fair?
So during these last few years, it’s almost as if we’ve had to get to know a new person, and in a way we’ve tried to become her memory. Mom’s dementia not only caused her memory loss, but it broke some neural connection between her brain and her tongue. Much of the time I could tell that she had thoughts and ideas and maybe even memories that she wanted to express, but the words wouldn’t come. You could see it was frustrating, but it was also comical sometimes because she would come out with the goofiest and sometimes the most brutally honest comments and we would all laugh about it along with her. The most constructive conversations were centered on the photo albums. “That’s beautiful,” she would say, looking at a picture of mountain lake, “I’d like to go there some time.” “But you were there, that’s a picture of you in Yellowstone!” “Really?” she would answer.
The last conversation I had with her was last year in October when we were here visiting. One afternoon I spent a couple of hours with her in their room – she was lying in bed and I was sitting in the chair next to her, holding her hand. Dad was snoozing by her side. We talked about her life and I tried to get her to remember things. “You were born right here in Isle,” I told her. “Really?” she replied. “And after you graduated from high school, you went to work in Detroit with your friend Midge, do you remember that?” She wasn’t sure, but she did remember Midge. “And then the war started and you went to the Bay Area and worked in a factory.” “Did I?” she replied. “Yes, and then the war went on for years, and you were writing letters to Dad because he was in the Seabees, serving in the South Pacific.” “Yes, he was,” she replied. She was starting to remember a bit. “And then finally the war ended and all the guys came home. And what did you do then?” I was trying to get her to remember when they got married, but her reply cracked me up. After a few seconds pause she clapped her hands together and with a glint in her eye she answered: “We had a big Whoop-De-Doo!” “You sure did,” I told her.
So the memories were still there, not easy to access, but not gone. And now she is gone, but that pool of memories is still here with us. We keep her alive by remembering her in them. To me, that is the true eternal life. My mom believed in heaven and I’m sure she is there now. But she also believed she would live on in the natural world around us. She asked that the following poem be read at her memorial service.
---- Do not stand at my grave and weep I am not there. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glints on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in the morning's hush I am the swift uplifting rush Of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there.
By Mary Elizabeth Frye