Today we said goodbye to a wonderful part of our lives, Bill’s mother Sally. It has been tough on Island Bound as we wrestled with how we felt during the last weeks of Sally’s life before her passing. Bill is usually the blogger in our family but I wanted to write this post as a tribute to Sally and the wonderful family that she created. I am sure Bill will censor me if I get it wrong. I was lucky enough to become a part of that family 25 years ago and for that I am truly thankful. I first met Sally when she came to visit Bill in Columbus in 1991. I had a furry kid at the time, my golden retriever Samantha. Samantha had one bad habit that I could never get her to stop. She would welcome you by holding on to a part of you. Usually it was the sleeve of your shirt by your wrist or your wrist if you had no sleeves. She was the gentlest dog, but her security blanket was holding on to you so you were forced to pet her. She knew you would tell her not to do it, but she didn’t care, she did it anyway. When Sally came through the door, Sam said hello in her usual way. I could hear Sally calling for Bill trying to figure out what the situation was. She wasn’t sure if she was getting attacked by a strange dog or if she had a new best friend. Once she realized she had a new best friend, we all had a good laugh and I knew I had met someone special.
Sally had 4 sons, of which Bill is the eldest. Bill always swears he had the best mom in the world. She loved them unconditionally. She would do anything for her boys and her boys would do anything for her. Sally was the glue that kept her family together. I will fondly remember all the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays where Sally’s house was overflowing with grandchildren, friends and extended family. Everyone having a good time laughing and telling stories about all the crazy things they had done as children. Sally had the patience of a saint raising her boys, because there was no shortage of stories. When everyone got together, the noise level in the house went up to 10. Bill and I never realized how quiet our house was until we would go to Sally’s house and all his family was together. We had 2 daughters who did not wreak the havoc that 4 boys and their families could. Sally never cared about the kids jumping on the furniture or all the furry grandchildren running and barking. Sally was happy to have her family together. Sally loved each of her children for who they were. She influenced them to be the best version of themselves, but she never condemned them for making mistakes or even choices that she would not have made. This coming from someone who lives on a sailboat is a testament to that. Her life was all about other people whether it was through public service or just meeting someone and putting a smile on their face. Sally became Grandma Sally to everyone. We knew this because if you ever took Sally to Giant Eagle, it took you 3 hours to say hello to everyone she knew in the store while you bought a loaf of bread. The example she set for everyone was a positive force behind whom each of her children and grandchildren are today.
In Sally’s later years, she suffered from dementia. Her family was forced to make the decision to move her out of her house filled with memories and laughter into an assisted living facility. Sally was not at all happy with this scenario and she never stopped wanting to go home. We all struggled over the years as Sally’s ability to recognize her family waned. We continued to support Sally and each other with stories and laughter once again. The memories and the stories are now forever a part of who we are. We were sad that Sally could no longer grasp the memories that were being made as her great grandchildren came into the world and her children and grandchildren continued to thrive.
The last few weeks, we had the discussions about how we felt about “losing” Sally. We said we had lost pieces of her over the last few years due to the condition that robbed her of her memories. A few weeks ago Bill and I visited Sally for the last time. We didn’t know it would be the last time and our visits were sometimes met with trepidation because you never knew how they would go, but we went anyway. We had the best time with her. We sat with her and laughed while she made up crazy stories about all the things that were jumbled in her mind. We were just glad to be there and she was glad we were there. She didn’t know who we were or who she was, but we knew even if she didn’t. We met Judy who had been serving Sally breakfast and lunch every day since she was unable to go to the main dining room. We were glad to know Sally was still surrounded by caring people who appreciated her. She told us that Sally made her laugh and brightened her days. Some things never change. We were glad to get a piece of Sally returned to us.
I started this by saying that we said goodbye to Sally, but not that we lost her. Sally’s spirit lives on in the stories and in her family. I see it in her sons as they prepared themselves and their families for the end of her physical days. How they honored her final wishes and planned how to celebrate her life. I see it in how they raised their children. I see her in our children as they raise their children. They don’t stress about the mess and noise, they laugh and create their own memories and celebrate each day as a gift. They love people for who they are and family comes first. Sally created a wonderful family and now she can rest. Her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will carry her torch. We are saddened by her passing, but grateful for the lessons she taught us and the memories that will sustain us. Live, love, laugh and the rest will take care of itself. Sally can finally go home and get her family back.
“The sounding of ship’s bell is well rooted in the history and tradition of the maritime industry. The bell marked time on board and divided the day into shifts or ‘watches’ for the crew. At the end of the last shift, the end of the last watch, eight bells rang out – Eight Bells and All is Well. A sailor’s time for rest.” – Source: Boat US web site.