Eulogy For Evelyn

Dateline: 7 July 2014

Evelyn and Jay Myers on their wedding day in 1936.
She was 21 years old.
(click pictures to see enlarged views)

Though it was nearly 39 years ago, I remember the exact day  I first met Evelyn Myers. It was Saturday, September 6, 1975. 

It so happened that I was smitten with Evelyn’s youngest daughter, Marlene. On the first day of our senior year of high school I asked Marlene if she wanted to go see a movie with me. I picked her up at her house in the early afternoon and she told me we needed to go to the Methodist church’s thrift shop first. Her mother was working there, and she wanted to meet me.

When we walked into the little basement shop, Evelyn was in the midst of tables full of old clothes, folding and stacking and making everything more orderly. I was nervous and don’t recall any details except that it was a short and sweet first meeting. I suspect Evelyn’s mind was at ease upon seeing me. I was a clean-cut, bright-faced boy with a quick smile.

Five years later, Marlene and I were married and Evelyn became my mother-in-law. I can tell you that not a single mother-in-law joke ever applied to Evelyn. She was a dear. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Marlene and I lived in a small apartment for the first couple years of our married life. We saved enough to buy a little plot of land. Then we moved in with her parents for a few years. Our only expense was to pay the electric and phone bill in the winter months when Jay (Marlene’s dad) and Evelyn went to Florida. We were able to save a lot of money for the house we wanted to someday build on our land. It was a real blessing to live with my in-laws, and when you live with someone like that you get to know them pretty well.

Evelyn was born in 1915. Her father, Earl Cuddeback, was a farmer. Cuddebacks were among the earliest settlers of this area of New York State. In the bygone days when Evelyn grew up, farming was a whole lot different than today. Farms were horse-powered, diversified family economies. Everyone worked. Evelyn had two brothers and six sisters, not including two siblings that died in infancy. 

After graduating from high school, she went to “nurses training” in Brooklyn, New York, and became a Registered Nurse. She met her future husband in Aurora, New York, a small rural town on the shores of Cayuga Lake, where Jay’s family were farmers. They were married in 1936.

Jay and Evelyn in the early days.

1936 was the heart of the Great Depression. Jay and Evelyn were not from families with money. They started their marriage with pretty much nothing. Precious few people alive today can relate to the hardships associated with starting out with pretty much nothing, in the midst of an economic depression.

These days the government has all sorts of programs to help poor people afford food and shelter and health care. But such programs were not around in the 1930’s, and I don’t suppose country folks like Jay and Evelyn would have thought much of taking charity. They were a farming family. They worked hard, lived frugally, and got ahead the old fashioned way.

Their first child was born in 1937. Another girl and three boys would come before Jay and Evelyn were done having children, or so they thought. Then came Marlene. Evelyn was 43 years old when she had Marlene, and she often reminded her youngest daughter that she had been a “pleasant surprise.”

Evelyn was a nurse but she wasn’t a career nurse. Marlene says her mother stopped working as a nurse in order to be a farm wife and mother. When Marlene was in elementary school Evelyn worked a short while as a county nurse. She would visit families with newborns. Sometimes Marlene went with her. She left the county job because she didn’t like all the paperwork.

Marlene remembers that her mother also took on temporary jobs as a private duty nurse, helping in the evenings with the care of dying loved ones (this was before Hospice care existed).

Jay and Evelyn on their
60th Wedding Anniversary.

When Jay died in 1997 Evelyn wanted to move into town. Jay had left her with sufficient finances to buy a simple little ranch house on a quiet side street, and that is where she has lived. Her children, from far and near, visited her often. Marlene and I live only six miles away. Our sons were able to grow up knowing their grandmother Myers, and loving her. 

Evelyn at 87 years of age (2002)

Yesterday, Evelyn Myers died in her home. She was 99 years, 5 months, and 29 days of age.

She was remarkably healthy into her old age, though her physical and mental abilities had declined in recent years. She was able to avoid any time in a hospital or nursing home because her three daughters helped her as needed, especially during the last ten years of her life.

Two weeks to the day before she died, Evelyn apparently suffered a slight stroke, which left her bedridden. Hospice was called. One of Marlene’s brothers and his wife came to help with the care. Evelyn was in no pain. She was not in distress. Her body simply went through a natural process of shutting down, and she died with a peaceful gracefulness that few people experience. 

Near the end, when it was evident that it would be the end, Marlene asked her mother a question... “Do you think you will be going to heaven soon?” 

Evelyn couldn’t speak well at that point, but she nodded her head. 

The thought of that exchange between Evelyn and the "pleasant surprise" little baby that would grow up to be such a good friend and blessing to her mother, especially in her old age, tugs at my heartstrings when I think of it.

I have given much thought to the kind of person my mother in law was, and I have come to the conclusion that she possessed two character qualities that are so commendable that I want to tell you about them.

First, I knew Evelyn as a “gentle spirit.” I don’t recall her ever being angry. I don’t recall her ever gossiping. I don’t recall her ever saying a bad word about anyone. She was never bossy or meddlesome. She was always polite. She always exhibited humility and grace. And she was always concerned that I had enough to eat at the dinner table!

The other character quality that Evelyn had, which so few people in this modern age have, is that she was a contented person. 

Modern Americans are so conditioned by our culture to be discontented. New cars. New houses. New clothes. New stuff of all kinds. Even new spouses. Discontentment is everywhere around us, but Evelyn didn’t need new stuff and she didn’t want new stuff. She grew up in an era when “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” was a way of life, and she was perfectly content with that.

Also, in keeping with this idea of contentment, I think it is safe to say that Evelyn Myers was perfectly content with being a mother, and grandmother, and wife. She did not aspire to making a lot of money in a career outside her home. Her main focus in life was her family and her responsibilities to her family. 

So it is that the world at large will not remember Evelyn for some great accomplishments in business or science, but her family will remember her. Her children especially, and her grandchildren certainly, will remember Evelyn with an abiding love, and they are grieving at her passing for one simple, powerful reason.... because she loved them. 

Like every good mother, Evelyn loved her children with an unconditional love. 

No one loves you like your mother. 

This is the way God designed it to work. And when such a loving mother’s life comes to it end, and her family gathers to mourn her loss, it is a beautiful thing.

Farewell, Evelyn. Thank you for your faithfulness as a mother. Thank you for being such a fine example of a gentle spirit. Thank you for raising your little girl, Marlene, to be so much like you. Your example, your faithfulness, your love, has blessed your family, and I believe it will, in turn, bless the generations to follow. 

Marlene & Evelyn in 2012


Tim said...

What a very nice remembrance and eulogy.

Cynthia (C.L) Lewis said...

My condolences to you, Marlene and your family. What a lovely eulogy.

Anonymous said...

So sorry for your loss. I lost my mom 6 years ago on June 27. My life was so richly blessed by my mom. She was so much like Marlene's mom. A true blessing to those around her.

Mermaid said...

That was lovely.

Anonymous said...

such a beautiful eulogy.

mjolnir said...

It says something about the deceased when the living can have such positive and endearing remembrances. What a fitting tribute.

My condolences to your family for what I'm sure is a terrible loss.

Pa Mac said...

I'm praying for you, Marlene, and your family at this time, Herrick.
Pa Mac (Gary)

Rozy Lass said...

It's not easy to say goodbye to a loved one. What a wonderful woman! She is my kind of hero.

Mike R. said...

Thank You for sharing such a beautifully written piece of writing with us. I send my sincere condolences to you and your family. I am a nurse and I work in long term care with the elderly. I'm very happy to hear she lived so independently for so long and had help from family when it was time. God bless her and your family for doing the right thing.

Nick L said...

That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing her with us. I will be praying for you all. Nick L

Megan said...

That was a beautiful eulogy - so sorry for your loss!

Anonymous said...

What a fine memorial to a sweet woman. You have my sincerest sympathy at this time of physical loss but what a hope to see her again in heaven. God has blessed you well, Herrick. Thank you for sharing this legacy.

Glenda said...

Praise the Lord for such a wonderful testimony of love and what a beautiful godly example. My Mother-in-love is cut from the same cloth as your dear one. Special ladies for sure! She is from a Slovak farming family in Binghamton, NY. She is now 82 and needs us to care for her. God surround you with much love and grace as you heal from your loss. I will be praying for your family.

Herrick Kimball said...

Thank you, everyone, for your kind and thoughtful responses to this eulogy for my mother-in-law.

All of Evelyn's six children, and many of her grandchildren (13) and great-grandchildren (14) will be here for her memorial service this Friday. They are coming in from several states.

It will be the first time in many years that most of the Jay & Evelyn Myers family will be together in one place and, sadly, it may be the last time. It's not easy to get kin together when they are so dispersed.

So things are busier than usual around here and I'll not be blogging again until next Monday, July 8.

Thank you again.

SharonR said...

What a lovely lady. I love these examples of womanhood as God intended. That's a nice picture of Marlene with her mother. She is so pretty. I had a baby at age 42, so the picture and the story pulled at my heartstrings, too. Those last surprises are worth every bit of extra cost, interruption and work. :-)

Jbmaine said...


Frank and Fern said...

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful, personal experience. You have blessed us with sharing Evelyn.


Anonymous said...

This was written so beautifully!
My condolences to you all!

Anonymous said...

My mom just celebrated her 100th on June 29. I was born when she was 45 years old. I have 3 sisters and 1 brother. I like to think I am a blessing to my mom in her old age. I don't know what I would do without my 3 sisters. My brother needed brothers.

Lisa @ HappyinDoleValley said...

I am late in reading this post and send belated condolences your way. Thank you for sharing. :)

Joy said...

Wonderful story about a wonderful woman. Also noticed that your wife is pretty!