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  • Martha Rasche

My Mother's Eulogy

Mary Ann (Beckman) Rasche

Sept. 4, 1926-April 13, 2024

Funeral, April 17, 2024

 

On the first Saturday of September in 1926, in a two-story white house on a farm on what today is the Jasper-Dubois Road, Clara Brames Beckman and her husband, Anthony Beckman Sr., became parents of a baby they named Mary Ann. The little girl would forever go by both names, Mary Ann.

 

Theirs was a home where Low German was spoken until the older children went to school and learned English. The family prayed the Rosary in German and on their knees, every evening after supper.

 

From a young age, Mary Ann was pulled into farmwork: feeding chickens, collecting eggs, picking strawberries. She was so steadfast in her work that when neighbor Ernest Rasche was courting her and one evening came a little early to pick her up, she told him she had to milk the cows first.

 

Mary Ann had three older brothers, Anton, Maurice and Ambrose. She had one younger sister, Agnes. In their childhood, Mary Ann and Aggie enjoyed swinging on the front porch and lying on their backs under the pear trees in the yard to watch the clouds take different shapes overhead. They remained close throughout their lives, talking on the phone to each other daily as long as they both were able.

 

Her brothers’ wives were Alvina, Lillian and Marie. Aunt Lillian and Aunt Marie are still with us, and we thank them for the joy they brought to Mom’s life. Mom always said Marie Schroeder was her first and best friend: The two girls, born only four days and less than one mile apart, were classmates and walked to school together. They remained neighbors all of their lives, became sisters-in-law and, most recently, Marie and Lillian paid visits to Mom at Brookside, and we are grateful.

 

Mary Ann married Ernest in October 1947 and two years later welcomed son Robert. In short order after Robert came three daughters: Dorothy, Clara and Barbara. In our family, these four are called The Big Kids. Five years later came Rosie, and five years after that came me, Martha, followed by Ralph, Sandra and Patrick. We four are the Little Kids.

 

Before you start feeling sorry for Rosie being an only child there in the middle, you should know that she could slide in with The Big Kids or The Little Kids depending on the activity.

 

We will remember Mom as observant, patient, polite, practical, friendly, smart, frugal and hardworking. She loved nature as evidenced by her love of gardening, both vegetables and flowers, and her enjoyment of the outdoors and its creatures. Birds, especially, caught her fancy.

 

She enjoyed the sounds of farm animals, especially a rooster crow. She often sang or whistled while she went about her work.

 

Some of her favorite sayings were Providence provides, We make the best of what we have, Make do or do without, One day at a time, God helps those who help themselves, We try to do the best we can and what we can’t we let alone, If it has to be it has to be.

 

When we would go to her with personal decisions that she’d probably rather we not make but that she didn’t want to stand in the way of, she would say, “You have to know.” I am sure she said that when I told her I wanted to join the Peace Corps, and I suspect she told Dorothy the same thing when she first started teaching overseas.

 

The Big Kids recall working hard in the potato patch to yield spuds our dad could sell to St. Raphael School to be served in the cafeteria. The older girls remember Lilt permanents, given to all three of them the same day. The saying was that the first was the worst, but by the time Mom refamiliarized herself with the process, the third turned out the best.

 

By the time we Little Kids came along, Mom was one to help us spread our wings. While the older kids didn’t ask to join extracurricular activities, Sandy remembers Mom as an active band parent, and when I was chosen to make a 4-H flower arrangement at the state fair, Mom found another family in the county who was making the trip to the fair that same day so we could hitch a ride.

 

Not long ago, Clara came across a map, drawn in Mom’s hand, showing some 50 area farms where she drove Ralph and Pat to catch chickens while in high school.

 

Unlike our dad, who suffered from depression, Mom always had a sunny disposition and even these past 2 ½ years at Brookside was delightful to be around.

 

Mom had spunk. After growing up in a time when an occasional trip to St. Mary-of-the-Woods to visit Beckman and Brames aunts who were Sisters of Providence was a very big outing indeed, she flew for the first time in her life at age 79. She visited the Beckman homeplace in Germany and was able to communicate in Low German, the language of her youth, with her Beckman and Brames relatives.

 

This was the second time in her life she was led by Dorothy’s wanderlust. The first was in 1975, when Mom, her aunt Mary Brames and I joined Dort for a camping trip to and from California, visiting some of Aunt Mary’s first cousins along the way. Family, and the threads that join them, were important to her.

 

During a lifetime of religious devotion, she traveled to Chicago to see Pope John Paul II.

 

She served her church and this community by being on the parish prayer-line, and being a Eucharistic minister and weekday reader until age 90. She taught religion, and visited the homebound and those in nursing homes. She quilted and made noodles for the church shoot for many years, and the last Sunday of October always found her baking a dozen pies at home and then working in the community-club kitchen.

 

She received the Celestine Distinguished Service Award and the diocesan Simon Brute award, 25 years before Rosie and then Rob and Clara received it.

 

She lived the beatitudes. She raised us to live them also. If we fail, that is on us, not her.

 

In addition to other ways we take after Mom, Clare has her green thumb with flowers and kept Mom’s room at Brookside outfitted in daffodils, tulips, irises, roses... Pat has a green thumb with a hardy vegetable garden. While at one time Mom would give a “garden tour” to many of her guests, pointing out heirloom plants from her homeplace, her godmother, various neighbors and friends, most recently it was Pat giving Mom a tour of HIS garden.

 

Pat also makes Mom’s homemade bread and a couple of months ago surprised her with a visit to have raisin pie, Mom’s recipe replicated. On birthdays and special occasions, some of Mom’s grandchildren beamed if she gifted them a loaf of her homemade bread.

 

Speaking of grandchildren. What a sparkle they gave to her life. Matt, Christa and Emily; Sarah, Grace and Ella; Tessa and Tori; Kohl and Audrey. Followed by Clare’s grandchildren and her and Barb’s step-children, step-grandchildren and step-greats. She was always interested in them and their goings-on, and they knew it.

 

A few years ago Mom began to develop frequent UTIs, which caused her to lose her balance and fall on multiple occasions. She arrived at Brookside in July 2021. Mom chose Brookside because she had volunteered there years before and up until Covid had been helping me there with writing and craft projects.

 

So for 2 ½ years we children spent every day with her. From the beginning, our common thought was that she had nine children and we couldn’t let her die alone. She didn’t.

 

Besides, she had never lived alone before, moving from her homeplace in with Ernest and the aunt and uncle – Tante Mary and Uncle Joe Beckman – they had in common. Then came the children, and except for four years in the Navy Robert lived with her ever since.

 

For the most part, Rob visited her at Brookside every morning, and he and Barb even spent stints there for rehab last year. That’s taking family togetherness just a little too far! Rob often had a jigsaw puzzle going, and Mom enjoyed sitting beside him and working in some pieces.

 

We know there will be a wide gulf in Robert’s life now with her gone. Rosie, too, has spent every Sunday for many years wherever Mom was.

 

What struck me most about our visits with Mom at Brookside was the one-on-one time it allowed each of us. Each of us filled a unique niche.

 

Ralph showed her photos on his phone of her farm in the changing seasons, nature and wildlife. On a day in late February when she wasn’t as cooperative as usual, an up-close photo of a hawk in the warehouse where Ralph works brought a smile.

 

She helped stuff countless envelopes on behalf of Rosie’s homebound and bereavement ministry at St. Joe’s, and Rosie played dice games with her where she still could show her prowess at math. With me, she enjoyed playing Scrabble and having impromptu spelling bees to keep her mind sharp.

 

She read nearly every word in The Message and often three area church bulletins each weekend. She said many times how grateful she was that she was still able to read.

 

She and I read books together, starting with a book I had on my Kindle and thus took home with me each time. Mom had to wait patiently until I returned and resumed reading. When we started on paperback copies of some Little House on the Prairie books, I would leave the books there and she would read ahead, leaving me behind in the storyline.

 

Most of us children became more comfortable saying “I love you” to her, and she responded in kind.

 

At Brookside, Mom usually went to bed at 8, after watching the Mass on EWTN. One night a relatively few weeks ago, she got up at around 11 to go to the bathroom. Then she meticulously washed her hands, combed her hair and put a headband in. When she reached for her hearing aids, Sandy said gently, “Mom, you don’t need those. It’s 11 o’clock at night.”

 

Then Mom reached for her dentures. “Mom, it’s time to get back to bed. You don’t need your dentures,” Sandy told her.

 

When Mom was resettled in bed, Sandy was ready to go home.  “I love you,” she said to Mom. Mom replied, “I love you too – but not always everything that you do.”

 

One of the books Mom and I read together was “Anne of Green Gables,” by L.M. Montgomery. That was late winter last year, and I realized upon reading the following passage that it would one day be OUR story so I made note of it.

 

In the story, Matthew Cuthbert is Anne’s adoptive father.

 

“Two days afterwards they carried Matthew Cuthbert over his homestead threshold and away from the fields he had tilled and the orchards he had loved and the trees he had planted; and then Avonlea settled back to its usual placidity and even at Green Gables affairs slipped into their old groove and work was done and duties fulfilled with regularity as before, although always with the aching sense of ‘loss in all familiar things.’

 

“Anne, new to grief, thought it almost sad that it could be so — that they COULD go on in the old way without Matthew. She felt something like shame and remorse when she discovered that the sunrises behind the fir trees and the pale pink buds opening in the garden gave her the old inrush of gladness when she saw them — that Diana’s visits were pleasant to her and that Diana’s merry words and ways moved her to laughter and smiles — that, in brief, the beautiful world of blossom and love and friendship had lost none of its power to please her fancy and thrill her heart, that life still called to her with many insistent voices.

 

“‘It seems like disloyalty to Matthew, somehow, to find pleasure in these things now that he has gone,’ she said wistfully to Mrs. Allan one evening when they were together in the manse garden. ‘I miss him so much — all the time — and yet, Mrs. Allan, the world and life seem very beautiful and interesting to me for all. Today Diana said something funny and I found myself laughing. I thought when it happened I could never laugh again, and it somehow seems as if I oughtn’t to.’

 

“‘When Matthew was here he liked to hear you laugh and he liked to know that you found pleasure in the pleasant things around you,’ said Mrs. Allan gently. ‘He is just away now; and he likes to know it just the same. I am sure we should not shut our hearts against the healing influences that nature offers us. But I can understand your feeling. I think we all experience the same thing. We resent the thought that anything can please us when someone we love is no longer here to share the pleasure with us, and we almost feel as if we were unfaithful to our sorrow when we find our interest in life returning to us.’

 

“‘I was down to the graveyard to plant a rosebush on Matthew’s grave this afternoon,’ said Anne dreamily. ‘I took a slip of the little white Scotch rosebush his mother brought out from Scotland long ago; Matthew always liked those roses the best — they were so small and sweet on their thorny stems. It made me feel glad that I could plant it by his grave — as if I were doing something that must please him in taking it there to be near him. I hope he has roses like them in heaven. Perhaps the souls of all those little white roses that he has loved so many summers were all there to meet him.’”

 

 

 

All of us will feel Mom’s absence immensely, and we will forever know how fortunate we were to have her for all these years.

 

One Saturday not long ago, as some of us were leaving Mom for the day, she gave us our marching orders: “Take care of each other. Help each other.”

 

With her as our role model, we undoubtably will.

 

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