Memorial Service for Maxine Clarke

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My mother, Maxine Clarke, died on June 22, 2010. She was 91 years old, and was ready to go. She had been bedridden for the previous year, legally blind for ten years before this. She had been meditating each day, seeking patience and acceptance.

My daughter, Megan, had been providing the caregiving for my mother during the last six years. Just a few minutes after Maxine passed, a friend of Megan’s, Mystique, had a dream. In this dream Maxine was being carried through a crowd. She was waving and throwing flowers. She said, “I’m out of here!” If ever there was a true dream, this was it.

We held the memorial service a few weeks later on July 24th, scheduled so that other family members would be able to make the long drive from the San Francisco Bay Area to Eureka, California, a drive of about 300 miles.  This post is from that day.

The memorial service was at Patrick’s Point State Park, among the trees near the Pacific Ocean that Maxine so loved. 

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It is 4 pm, and there is still fog here. The temperature is in the mid 50s F.

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For the service, Megan set up an altar on a tree stump. There are photos of my mother and a sculpture done by one of her friends decorating the alter, as well as flowers, a candle, and ashes, the last remains from the cremation.

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The group that gathers is mainly relatives. Below, Chelsea and Andrew, two great grandchildren and their mom, Crystal. Next is a friend, and Polly, a daughter-in-law.

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Below are David, a grandson, Laurel, granddaughter, and her husband Paul. David and Laurel are Polly’s children. Polly was married to my brother Tom, now deceased.

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In the photo below are Sandy and her two children, Casey and Trevor, then (seated at the table) James, a great grandson, with Kevin behind him, then Megan, granddaughter.

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Richard is presiding, wearing white ‘temple clothes’ from India.

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Richard waves incense and gives the invocation:

Om, Om Namah Sivaya, Om, Om, Om.

     (Siva is He, whose Consciousness fills the universe)

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Then a few verses from the Bhagavad Gita are recited (from chapter two).

“Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the material body there is no endurance and of the eternal [the soul] there is no change. This they have concluded by studying the nature of both.”

“That which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul.”

“The material body of the indestructible, immeasurable and eternal living entity is sure to come to an end.”

“For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. She has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. She is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. She is not slain when the body is slain.”

“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.”

“The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.”

“This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. She is everlasting, present everywhere, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.”

“It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable and immutable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.”

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Richard then talked about Maxine’s life, followed by comments from others.

A few details from this talk:

Maxine was born in 1918,  a fraternal twin with Wilma. They were that last two children of Georgia and Wilkerson (Bill) Adams. Both parents were born in the 1880s, and had been married before, with children, so Maxine and Wilma were the last of a long line of kids. Wilma was outgoing, Maxine was shy.

As a child Maxine had holy spiritual experiences, unusual in Oklahoma, where she grew up. She would go by herself to the banks of the Red River, where she strongly felt the presence of Jesus. This was not something that she could talk about with any of her family or friends. She also discovered her love of reading, and devoured books from the local library.

At age 16, she was told by her mother that she had to get married. The family had suffered severe losses from the Depression and the Oklahoma dust bowl that followed in the 1930s. I think forcing Maxine into marriage was a way for the family to feel like she would be supported. Mother agreed, on one condition, that she be allowed to go to college. (No member of the family had ever gone to college at the time.)

My brother, Tom, was born in this period. After a few years, Maxine and Russell Burroughs divorced. They had felt more like brother and sister than husband and wife.

Soon after this, Maxine met my father, Richard Clarke, at Oklahoma University in Norman, Oklahoma, where he was studying chemical  engineering, financed by his membership in the US Army ROTC. He ‘swept her off her feet’ and shortly after, told Maxine that he was taking her to a dance, instead took her off to get married. They had a few happy years. Then WWII started, and my father was being called  into active duty as an artillery officer. I was born just few weeks before he departed for Europe.

I was born in an ambulance on the way to the hospital in the middle of a snowstorm. The ambulance attendants were saying, “Lady, can’t you wait? You are messing up the ambulance and our boss will be mad. He’ll make us clean it up before we go home.” Somehow during all this, Maxine surrendered to God. Then suddenly the ambulance was filled with light. I was born in this light. Mother said that this was the first time she experienced this light of God. She arrived at the hospital with me on her belly, her face radiant with joy.

In the years that followed, Maxine divorced Richard, who seemed to have changed during the war, moved us to California (San Jose, then Los Gatos), supported us by writing, selling about one story a month to the ‘confession magazines’ (with titles like “I fell  in love with a younger man”). She then got a government job as a Social Worker for Santa Clara County. She enjoyed this work, and went on to get a Master’s degree from the University of Southern California, becoming one of the first registered Family Counselors in the state of California.

Her spiritual experiences continued. One high point was at Stanford Hospital, where she was hospitalized for severe back problems. Again, one night she surrendered, then the room was filled with light. The next day, the doctors could no longer find any problems with her back and she was released from the hospital.

Maxine had a very good career as a Family Counselor, helping people and making friends who would stay as friends for the rest of her life. The spiritual experiences continued throughout her life. For me, these experiences opened the doors to my own spirituality.

Here is a close-up photo of the altar. Mother loved the photo of her in the red hat, so we used it as the centerpiece.

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Then Sandy, a friend of Megan’s who had gotten to know Maxine, and her two kids sang an old spiritual song, “I’ll fly away.”

Some glad morning when
this life is over,
I’ll fly away.
To a home on God’s celestial shore,
I’ll fly away.

I’ll fly away, O Glory,
I’ll fly away. (In the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, bye and bye,
I’ll fly away.

When the shadows of
this life are gone,
I’ll fly away.
Like a bird from prison bars has flown
I’ll fly away.

I’ll fly away, O Glory,
I’ll fly away. (In the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, bye and bye,
I’ll fly away.
Just a few more weary days and then,
I’ll fly away.

To a land where joy shall never end,
I’ll fly away.
I’ll fly away, O Glory,
I’ll fly away. (In the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, bye and bye,
I’ll fly away.

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Richard read one more verse, this time from the Katha Upanishad:

“The wise soul is not born nor does it die.
This one has not come from anywhere nor has it become anyone.
Unborn, eternal, constant, primal,
This one is not killed when the body is killed.”

Therefore the wise grieve not for the living nor the dead.

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Sandy sang a last song, one that Maxine loved, “Imagine” by John Lennon.

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

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Then those present paid last respects by throwing flower petals onto the altar.

Here is Polly.

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James.

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Crystal, David’s wife.

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David.

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David’s children.

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Kevin, Megan’s husband.

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Sandy.

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Carol.

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Finally Richard.

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After this, came the waving of the fire. We could not find camphor in Eureka, so we used a torch.

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During this, Richard recited a verse, adapted from Sanskrit:

“The Light within joins the Light without,
Light of Lights, illuminating all.
You are filled with Light. You are only Light.
Light of Lights, illuminating all.

Om, Shanti, shanti, shanti.” (Om, peace, peace, peace)

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The altar is beautiful with the flower petals tossed upon it by those who love Maxine.

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Here are two photos, first from the 1940s, then the 1960s, showing Maxine in all her glory.

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And a later one, from the 1990s, I think.

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After the service, Megan carried the ashes down to the ocean. She was accompanied by James on the right, and Mystique, on the left.

Note that James is not wearing shoes. We are going to take him to visit India soon, and he is getting ready for barefoot walking.

 

 

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The green of Patrick’s Point is wonderful.

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The ocean appears.

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We climb down to  it.

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James and Megan do the honors …

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And release Maxine’s ashes into the Pacific Ocean, which was what Maxine had wanted.

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Afterward, the trek back up the hill.

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I look back to where my mother’s ashes were released. The ocean is absorbing them now.

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One last look, from up the hill.

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As I walk back I am again taken by the vibrant green of the vegetation.

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Finally I pass through this opening on the path. My heart is filled with gratitude for what my mother has given me, and joy for her passing.

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I hope this posting will provide some solace and closure for family members and friends who were not able to join us today.

Goodbye, Mother. In your own (dream words), “I’m out of here!”

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4 Responses to “Memorial Service for Maxine Clarke”

  1. drsundaram Says:

    a great method of remebrance and new out look by you. she is sure to shower her choicest blessings

  2. kashluck Says:

    She has blessed you all by showering flowers while saying ” I am out of here”.

    The words “I am out of here” mean that she is out of her physical body.
    Hence, she as the soul (not as the physical body) has blessed you all.
    A great blessing indeed.

    There was a feeling of peace and love in me while i was reading the posting. No feeling of sadness.

    Thanks and gratitude to the soul for all the good things done whilst being in the physical body with the name of Maxine.
    May you be at peace and merge with the divine.

    A. Raviprakash

  3. rmbowes Says:

    That was a beautiful service Richard. I’m quite impressed with your mother’s wonderful life.

    It was thrilling to read of your birth in the ambulance that was filled with the divine light. I know that those types of things actually happen because I saw it myself one time.

    Thank you for sharing.

  4. spirit2go Says:

    thank you for posting this very intimate remembrance of your mother. I enjoyed so much, the simplicity of it all. The beauty and sweetness. I wish much the same for myself. Pretty sure Maxine was watching the ceremony and positive she was touched and felt loved by you all so much.

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