Elizabeth Adda Robinson Ratcliffe
In Memoriam

Expanded Text Bruce Ratcliffe did not read at April 17, 2016 Memorial Service[1]


Your Presence In Our Lives For 9+ Decades

When Lewis was having his trigeminal neuralgia treated surgically (which worked!), I must have come for a visit. I can’t remember the details but much later, cleaning my desk, I found seven small 3 by 5 inch notepad papers, the type people used to use B.C.P. (Before Cell Phones), filled with Mom’s scrawl. I was able to transcribe them. With the outcome of Lewis’ operation uncertain, and the length of her remaining time on Earth anybody’s guess, one might expect a self-absorbed, self-pitying, morose world view. Instead, this is what she said:

Thank you, Bruce, for all your care. I’m so very grateful (gratitude full). It’s 2AM & my breathing is getting more labored.

Life has been a wonderful kick-in-the-pants journey & maybe my writing this note isn’t really the end for me. I will might still be alive tomorrow. But I feel ready to go—no regrets.

Please give all your siblings my love, and you, too. You have been a real Human Being—(remember “Human Bean”! Ha Ha.) Good job!

A bit of explanation to “Human B-E-A-N” is in order. The family name-giver, Patty, gifted each of US with a name so descriptive it stuck: Dad? To protect his head, from which most hair had taken leave at an early age, when sailing, wore a certain cotton cap. It looked vaguely like a turtle shell, hence our patriarch became “Turtle Man”. And our song (composed by Steve?) was “Turtle man gives a hard shell finish, TURTLE MAN” (Some of you may remember the jingle from the Turtle Wax Company). Flaxen-haired Steve? As skinny as a famous mystic that fought for social justice, was “Mahatma Blondi”. Dave, was “Lopey Loggits” (uncertain derivation). Our dog, Pingo was named by our Mom, Chinese for “peaceful dog”, which she certainly was. But Patty composed a song we’d sing when overcome with admiration for our constant canine companion:

||:Yeesh, yee—ee hay zhee-are, oh Yeesh, yee—ee hay zhee-are:||
(Repeat as needed.)

Patty’s name for me, even skinnier than Mahatma Blondi, with a love of tree-climbing, was “Spider Monkey”. That descriptor alternated with “as skinny as a bean pole”, hence, Mom’s reference to me being a real Human Bean pole.

Note paper scrap page 5 continues:

P.S. Tell Patty how much I appreciate her being here with me & so full of love & care. I might miss Dave’s arrival—who knows? (Of course she didn’t, either that time or the countless times Dave flew all the way from Boston to care for his Mom so selflessly we were all able to take the full measure of what love made real in action can accomplish.)

I did love Steve’s being here tonight. I’m happy you two shared time together—Maybe I’ll still be here tomorrow.

When Lewis comes back—I hope so—but if not be sure to tell him he’s been a wonderful addition to my long life. He knows I love him dearly. I hope his operation is helpful.

What struck me about Mom’s thoughts was how, even at what she thought might be her last moments on Earth, she drew joy from those around her—AND reflected it back to those same givers of joy, making them recipients of her admiration. A joke I tell about Mom’s raising me involves her penchant for excessive praise: “Bruce, what a fine job you did eating your birthday cake!” If I’d washed the windows well, that might be cause for maternal praise for a job well done. But praise for eating sweets? THAT is excessive. We were all showered with such over-the-top raindrops. And we must have believed it, believed we were really great, because Steve, Patty, Dave and I all went on in our lives to attempt “impossible” tasks—at least what would seem impossible to someone who had never received the gift of believing they could do impossible things. And here we all are, involved, each in his or her own way, in giving back in various creative ways. The delusion Mom gifted us has had the desired outcome.

Mom’s final words, on the last scrap of paper sum it up well:

There is so much to say to all of my closest family—EVERY one has added to my joy & appreciation of this amazing gift of Life.

Its now 2:30 & I’ll try to go back to sleep. Please thank everyone.

  1. In helping to organize the April 17 service, I was concerned about having sufficient time for everyone attending to share their own memories. Bruce had wondered about preparing a longer-than-five-minute expression and I responded I thought it would be best to make a five minute version. In retrospect, the best course would have been for Bruce to share his full version. The additional memories included here further detail the riches we four children were given by our Mother.
    —David Ratcliffe, May 8, 2016

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