To all of you who have come today, family and friends, to those of us who have known Bea for a lifetime, and to those who have known her for a few years only, or maybe only briefly, to all of us whom she loved and loved her too, good morning and thank you for coming. We gather to celebrate the joy of having known her, to have called her Mom, Grandma, sister, and friend, and to mourn her passing that her loss leaves to us all.
For all of you here there is no need to describe what an incredible, strong, unique, and independent lady she was. You would have known that within the first moments of meeting her ... you would know of her fierce spirit, her loyalty and generosity, and the incredible heart she offered up to everyone she knew.
My brother Richard and I knew her as Mom. For us there could not have been one more protective, caring, and as strict and difficult to deal with, more fun or adventurous, and, when left to raise three boys by herself a thousand miles from family, more determined to provide for and raise on her own, mother.
Bea was born at a time when women were expected to adhere to traditional rules of behavior and roles, a limitation she resisted all her life. She not only resisted, but pushed aside those limitations by the nature of her character and out of necessity.
As a girl growing up, she wanted to play on the boy’s baseball team. She would begin to work at 14 years old to provide her spending money for clothes and the car she wanted badly. She would repeat stories of how once she obtained it, she enjoyed drag-racing and out-running the Kansas City cops, to the point they realized it was game.
Rebellious and independent as a teenager, she also would tell the story, laughing a little, of the day she married my Dad. She stood at the altar and checked to see if the window of the church was open far enough so she could leap through it before it was too late!
As small kids we would learn of her sense of spontaneity and adventure. We could fall asleep in Kansas City and wake up driving in the car somewhere in Louisiana, moss covered trees overhead on the road, on our way to New Orleans, for no other reason than she and her sister Margret had decided to go the night before. The same would later be true for a small town in Kansas for a bowling tournament, or, when we had moved to California, to Yosemite and San Francisco.
When her father passed away, she moved us from Kansas City to southern California, and, as soon as she could manage it, a picture-perfect home in the suburbs. She did it all on her own. Despite being told she could never do it, she did do it, and with determination and pride.
When we had grown and established ourselves, she would move again, this time to a beautiful new home in Wildomar, too big for her to handle but she would do it anyway, because that is what she had wanted.
All of us who knew her well will know nothing made her happier than traveling. Korea, Europe, Thailand, even into Laos, back to Korea, and Europe again. Even up until her last days she was planning her next trip overseas, even as it became clear to us it would probably not be happening.
If she had one flaw, and we all do, she would feel everything intensely; love and empathy for her children and friends, but also even anger. She felt and expressed nothing half way, but always with the entirety of her heart. That tough exterior would fade before sympathy or the nursing of a hurt, either real or imagined. But the one hurt she could not overcome was the pain of loss.
When my brother William became ill, she maintained a vigil at his bedside. For nearly 6 long months she would drive daily to the hospital in Simi Valley, staying overnight and returning home to Wildomar to come back to stay with him again. When he was moved to a hospital just a few miles from her home, she was at his bedside from morning until evening every day.
When we lost him, she would not recover. The pain of that loss was too much for her.
Her health began to decline, along with her memory, and that proud, defiant, independent spirit began to fade. We would stay close to her, my brother Richard and I, her close friends Patti and Connie, but it was clear she was declining, even as she tried to maintain her self-reliance and her personal freedom. That dignity meant everything to her. She had fought for it all her life, even to her last day.
The day she passed she was at her home, doing what she was determined to do, even though we had asked her to refrain from taking on tasks and leave those things to us. Maybe we were still comfortable with her being by herself, not only to allow her that, but because we thought such an indomitable, tough lady could never pass away.
But she did and now it is her loss that we must bear. Words can’t express how much we loved her, and how much she will be missed, and the lasting impression she will have had on all of us who loved and knew her, even as I know she is free from pain, both of the body and the pain of a broken heart. She is with my brother William and her beloved father now, and all whom she loved that have gone before.
At the same time, life has blessed our family with the birth of a new generation, a great grandson, Ryker William Freeman. I wish she could have lived to meet him. Had he had known her, he would have been the richer for the knowing. But we will tell him about her, and I am sure she will look over him with the same fierce protection and love that she gave her boys during her life.
When my brother William passed, I wrote his eulogy. I remembered the words my Grandmother would always say the night we left Kansas City for California, and every time she would visit or we would visit her. As we hugged and prepared to part, she would always say, “I won’t say goodbye, I’ll just say so long.