Ren’s Memorial Message

Many people wanted to read what Ren said at mom’s memorial. Here it is!
Read the rest of this entry »

A year, and then some.

January 30th, 2010.

A year ago today, it was freezing on the east coast.

I was receiving phone calls, texts, and emails from friends and family that flights were cancelled, or that they couldn’t leave their homes due to icy roads as the snowplows hadn’t made it by.

In Columbia, the gathering for Mom’s graveside memorial was taking place. By the time we got to the cemetery it was clear that although there was a small break in the storm, the skies had more to give. The minister, Ken Owens, a neighbor of Mom’s growing up and friend to both my parents, suggested that the gathering was arranged just as mom would have it. Everyone laughed, realizing that, indeed, strangers and friend alike were all huddled under umbrellas, wrapping each other with warmth as mom would on a cold day.

I have tried to look for that warmth since mom passed on January 14th of last year. I sought out pictures, recordings of both audio and video from our time in Houston and before, and even looked for it when I decided to take her bedroom as my own once I had a roommate move into the house. However, I found it none of these places.

As the ice started falling, one of my best friends and truly one of mom’s, too, got up to speak. Ren delivered a message that people still comment on to this day. In it reflected on mom’s character, making points that were agreed upon all around. Our friend Hannah, who flew out at mom’s request to play violin at the funeral, played two beautiful pieces, despite the weather. Our good friend George Cannon spoke also, as did I, and then slowly everyone made their way off, many coming to Ashland UMC for a gathering.

Remembering that day and all the warm words, memories, laughs and tears that were shared, only now do I know that the warmth is found is what is given, not what is sought. The warmth has come from unexpectedly finding notes mom had left around the house for me over the years. It has come from an old friend who didn’t know she passed away sharing a story of her that I’d never heard. It came when I wrote the word “Mom” in the snow and hit my head on her windchimes which I’d forgotten were hanging there. It came even today when I was taking a short video at the graveyard and a trains horn let loose immediately when I had finished recording. A courtesy mom would have allowed but given a sly grin about – possibly emoting the words “toot-toot” or “choo-choo” and throwing a smile.

Following the funeral and the gathering afterwords, all of my friends, many who had come from all over the country, all gathered for dinner downtown. Hilarity ensued, as did fun and games and a fellowship that will not be forgotten. Many use the time after someones passing for grieving, but Mom had told me that, although I may grieve her, she would be pissed off (her words) if I sat around depressed. I figured I had to get right on not being depressed or it would be hard to get out of the rut.

So far, I’ve been successful. I miss her greatly, but I continue to move forward and share her story, our story… so that others may know what a positive spirit she had.
There are hurdles, no doubt. Others have struggled in her absence, some will continue to, and I imagine even I will at times. But I knew as I stood by her grave, one year to the day since her funeral, and in beautiful sixty degree weather that she was there, and will continue to be there, and her influence will be given and discovered time and again throughout my life, and perhaps yours as well.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the past year and it’s passing in my life. Thank you for your support, memories, and laughter. Thank you for your friendship and your love, and for continuing on in the face of loss.

Keep being awesome.


P.S. To see what Ren said at the memorial, click here.

June 14th, 2010 – Six Months

Today, June 14th, has been six months since mom passed away.

Hard to believe it’s been that long. Sometimes harder to believe it hasn’t been longer.

There are a number of images of mom in my head that I can see any time I want to, whether my eyes are closed or not. I thought I would share a few in memory on this day. Read the rest of this entry »

May 18th – A Year Later

Mom was always remarkable at keeping spectacular company. Five minutes with the most reserved in character would find them friends. Made friends were friends forever, no matter how often they crossed paths. As an observation, that ability served her well the whole of her life. A favorite example is found in recalling that she was the student body vice president in college, having vowed to meet three new people per day in her undergraduate career.

On the 14th of May, four months after she passed away, I spent the day serving myself a reminder of the kinds of people I have been fortunate to surround myself with. To make fast friends and keep them, a skill among the best she could have shared with me. For my part I know the people in both our lives have been what continues to save me and keep me strong.

Finding me here today, May 18th, the day a year ago that we left for Houston to begin battling her newly diagnosed Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a precursor to her eventual Leukemia. Read the rest of this entry »

Sunday January 24th, 2010 Obituary & Memorial

joellen at beach

Joellen died peacefully on January 14th, 2010. She was the daughter of the late Robert Cleveland and Ruth Naomi Williams. Joellen was an educator, writer and philanthropist. She treasured her time as a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend and a lover of life to those she held close to her heart. A spiritual woman, Joellen cherished her interaction with those of other faiths, cultures and backgrounds. She loved life and lived it to the fullest each day. She was a woman of integrity and honesty. Her memories will be cherished by friends and family and her spirit will forever be with her loved ones.

Memorial Services for Joellen Marie Cook will be held on January 30th at Elmwood Cemetery in Columbia, SC at 12:00 noon. A gathering will follow at Ashland United Methodist Church at 1:30pm. In Lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Sharing God’s Love in Irmo, SC or the Cook Scholarship Fund at the United Methodist Church of South Carolina. More details can be found, here.

She is survived by her immediate family – her son, Pierce Embree Cook, III, her sister, Vicki Clement of Greenville, her brother, Jeff Williams of Charleston, and also by so many who touched her deeply through friendship, love and companionship.