My mother passed away this past week. She was only 70 years old. I shared this message at her funeral. Friends and relatives asked that I share it on line.
Today we celebrate the life of Judy Ann Hiscocks Becker. She was our mother, aunt, sister, grandmother, and dear friend.
I want to start with a little story. It should be no surprise that this story comes from one of my favorite episodes of the Andy Griffith Show series, entitled “Opie the Birdman.´” If you were to ask me why it is my favorite, I am not sure I could tell you. There are funnier episodes, more touching episodes, and maybe even episodes that have a more powerful message. But this one is special. If you’ve seen it, you will probably agree.
The episode begins with Opie putting together a slingshot. Andy, Barney, and Opie are in the courthouse, and Barney is attempting to show Opie how to use the ancient weapon. Barney explains that such devices were used way back in biblical times, referring to David and Goliath, but Barney becomes confused when Opie asks where David got the rubber for the sling. Barney begins to say that David just cut up an old tire, but he stops himself in time. Andy, on the other hand, tells Opie to have fun with the slingshot but to be careful with it.
Opie promises his pa that he will be careful and goes on his way shooting at tin cans and other stuff. When he gets to his house, Opie hears a noise in the tree in the front yard and without hesitation, he shoots toward the noise. Opie watches in amazement as a little bird plunges to the ground. At first, he doesn’t’ want to believe what has happened. He begs for the bird to fly, pleads for it to fly, but all to no avail. Finally, he runs into the house sobbing. Later that evening, Andy confronts his son about the bird. Opie admits that he killed the bird but he didn’t mean to. He tells Andy that he is sorry. Andy responds by saying that being sorry is not the magic word that makes everything all right again. Actions bring consequences, and the bird that died was the mother. Three baby birds are now crying for their mother who is not coming back.
At this point Opie has a decision to make. He can wallow in his guilt, or he can do something to make the situation better. Although he cannot bring the mother bird back, he can do something for her babies. Opie takes it upon himself to care for the little birds and puts much effort into raising them the best he can. At the end of the show, Opie has to make the hard decision to let the birds go. He knows he has done everything he can to ensure that the birds will be all right, but he is still not sure he has done all the right things until he releases each bird. When the 3 birds are gone, Opie looks at the cage and comments how empty it looks. Andy agrees that the cage does seem empty, but he looks up, hears the birds singing, and with a big smile he points out how full the trees are. This tragic story had a wonderful ending.
We’ve lost our mother… And we need to find our way. We want everything to be right again. But that should be much easier, because mom taught us well.
She taught us independence…..and survival. When you are one of 11 children, raised on a farm with no indoor plumbing, you learn to survive.
She taught us about family. She loved her grandchildren. And she has the book, and at every Hiscocks picnic and golf tournament, she would write down the names and birthdates of all the new “branches” to the Hiscocks family tree.
She taught us how to laugh. There’s a quote next to her high school yearbook picture which says, “Laughing, giggling, smiling too. When you’re around Judy, you can’t be blue.” She had a wonderful sense of humor. I ran into a classmate at the Greenhouse yesterday. Offering her condolences, she said, “I liked your mother, she made me laugh.” She shared many a laugh with the Bonnie and the girls, the Peacocks, and each and every one of us.
She taught us how to cook. Well she taught Kim how to boil water. She taught us boys how to clean the house…….okay skip that.
She taught us how to relax, on a pontoon …on the deck…at Lake Jefferson…or at home in her chair watching the Young and the Restless, Survivor, or Dancing with the Stars…or over a cup of coffee with my sister Kim or whoever stopped by that morning.
She taught us patience…..necessary for a Game of Shang-Hai… and living with Mike.
She taught us how to work hard. That’s all she knew. She worked nearly all of her precious life. But she never complained. She actually liked her job. And she was a good employer. Some of her best friends were employees. They will miss her, too.
She taught us how to parent. Being a mom to a special needs child is not an easy task. But can you honestly think of 2 better people in all the world to raise our beloved Andy, than Mom and Mike? Raising Andy was truly her greatest accomplishment.
She taught us how to budget. She always said we don’t have a “pot to piss in” but when Tony went to the State tournament in Baseball she slipped $50 bucks in his luggage with a note saying “Hit a Home Run for Me” … and she found a way to send 3 kids to college.
She taught us to make good choices. Whenever we would leave the house or get into the car with someone else she would yell out the window, “Don’t be drinking and driving!” Which was her way of saying I love you.
She taught us how to dance… How to be humble…. How to cope… and how to forgive.
She taught us that it is okay to be a little ornery sometimes.
She taught us to be kind, to care for one another, and she taught us how to love.
And as we grow older, we begin to realize how we as humans have the ability to cope. Sometimes terrible things happen, and if we could foresee these events, we would say we could never handle them. However, they do happen, and we do handle them. We handle them by relying on our friends, our families, on God and on the fact that we are not permanent residents of this world. Sometimes the death of a loved one reminds us that this life is very short and that each day we are given should be treated as a great blessing. The realization that we are called to a higher standard and will answer for our lives one day. An opportunity to tell our loved ones how we feel about them. An adjustment of priorities. A realization of our destiny.
There is a rolodex of daily bible verses on my sister’s piano. I thought today’s verse (May 28) is especially fitting.
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:31
That little brick house on North 9th street, no bigger than a bird cage, is empty now. But the trees and heaven seem much more alive. Thank you mom for teaching us all how to fly.
Mayberry excerpt by Joey Fann, “The Way Back to Mayberry, Lessons from a Simpler Time”