Friday, May 23, 2008

Who really remembers?



Lately I've been thinking about my mom. Jane Stevens Eckstein is currently spending her days in a nursing home surrounded by people who've been warehoused for various reasons. The residents are elderly (for the most part), ofttimes senile, require constant medical supervision, and frequently have no family left to visit or care for them.

When she was able (before the stroke that placed her in the nursing home) Mom was more active than many people half her age. She did volunteer work in the community, pursued photography, traveled the US and Canada with my dad in their travel trailer and wrote for the local neighborhood newspaper and sale sheet.

All throughout her life she was awarded certificates of appreciation and awards for her service. I've found in her home Items dating back to World War 2 that were awarded or mentioned her as a valuable asset to the organization for which she was working at the time. She did a news letter for the Civil Air Patrol based at the now defunct Garland, Texas Airport and won awards for her writing. She spent many years of her life working for Arthur, Anderson and Co. LLP doing their printing and designing their accounting reports and annual reports and is mentioned in several of their annual reports with high praise.

She spent many more years actively involved in Scouting and designed project books and Leadership training materials (as a volunteer) and led many leadership training seminars. She was honored with an award especially created for her service and was the influence that caused the local Circle 10 council of the BSA to finally present their highest award to women as well as men. This was an award called the Silver Buffalo that previously had been presented to male scouters only. The award created for her was called the Silver Fawn and only four were ever made. After that the Fawn was replaced with the Silver Buffalo for both men and women. Mom was the only one who did not exchange her Silver Fawn for a Silver Buffalo when it was offered.

She was the first female recipient of The Judge Dee Brown Walker Award for outstanding work with scouting in the Dallas area. This award was created by Judge Dee Brown Walker and very few were awarded yearly so it was a startling departure from tradition for her to receive it.

She was active in the Kiwanis International and has several engraved plaques of special recognition for her service. In addition to this she served in the Southeast Dallas Chamber of Commerce and has more special recognition awards from them for her service.

There are several three ring binders here at the house full of certificates for her service.

In 1999 she was nominated for and received the Eckard's (later absorbed by the CVS chain) One of One Hundred award for outstanding volunteer service in her community. This national award was presented annually to one hundred women from all over America for their work in the community. From over 2000 women nationwide she was selected One of One Hundred and flown to Atlanta for three days and nights of being treated as the very special person she is. She was in her late seventies at the time.

She spent countless hours working with the American Red Cross teaching first aid classes and working with the Emergency Services at fires, tornadoes and other disasters.

The preceding list of honors is incomplete but gives an oversight to a extremely active and involved woman who did much for her community.

When my father died many years ago, he'd also received several honors of his own including the Silver Buffalo and the Dee Brown Walker award (presented "after" my mother had already been honored). There were maybe 25 people at his funeral of the hundreds in whose lives he'd made a difference by working in Scouting or the American Red Cross. He was all but forgotten. I had the displeasure of fending off greedy relatives who all wanted a cut of his possessions after the funeral.

Mom tirelessly continued her work after his death.

She's now over ninety and in a nursing home, away from her life, activities and her possessions. She's in a wheelchair and spends her days being bored by the television, enduring the indifferent attentions of the nursing home staff and wishing to be elsewhere.

My recurrent thought is "Who really remembers?"

When people grow older and are no longer active why do their life's accomplishments mean so little anymore? Living history in many of these people is uselessly thrown away or forgotten the moment they step from the public eye.

It's true that my mother didn't change the course of history in any major way but she made a difference in many lives. She touched thousands in many different ways whether as a Emergency Worker for the American Red Cross or the Boy Scouts of America or as someone in the community that just cared. A small craft book that she published for Scouting (and copyrighted) has been translated into 8 languages and seen thousands of copies made all over the world. Her copyright was shamelessly ignored in other countries and she never saw a penny of royalties but she shrugged it off as a gift to the children of the world. Sadly enough her name was removed from foreign copies even though the book traveled with Scouters around the world.

There are thousands of little people like my mother who dedicate their lives to good works and die forgotten although their work may turn up in bits and pieces around the world.

In this journal I'll tell some of my stories and some of my thoughts and maybe the electronic media that is the Internet will carry the memory of these people around the world and in this manner my mother, my friends, and I might live on forever. But today the Internet is under attack from sources ranging from commercial interests to governmental agancies so this journal may survive or it may not. Immortality is transient and ephemeral it seems.

If along the way, you find something that you like whether it's a story for children or just a random musing of mine that you like then borrow it. Just say "TomCat told this."

But then too, Who really remembers?

1 comment:

soccerdad17 said...

Yes my Mimi was a strong beautiful woman. As best as I remember she always put everyone else in front of herself. I love her and will miss her everyday.