My wonderful mother is gone. What a hard battle she fought. While some might say that she lost her war, I say SHE WON! She finally decided to leave her COPD riddled vessel behind. She was reluctant at first, I think mainly because she had been strong all of her life. She was worn out, beaten repeatedly by just trying to breathe. She had once said that if you take a pillow, hold it over your nose and mouth, THAT is close to what it was like for her to breathe. Try it, you will NOT like it. It took mom until the end of October 2011, when she realized hospice might be a way to try, it didn’t HAVE to mean the end. PAT SURFACE did NOT give up, but she WAS able to relax a little more as the steroids part of her life was no longer keeping her on edge. When you go into a hospice program, they encourage you to say your goodbyes and get your affairs in order, you know, not to WAIT, and of course, that makes sense. Mom made her calls to say goodbye in the same sentence that she announced that she had entered hospice care, so we all raced home. If you knew her, you would know that she was a VERY strong woman, she was not happy that illness had driven her to this point, but as a true survivor, she made the best of it. When Fred and I left her THAT time, she was with family, including her 2 sisters, Shirley and Sharon! She was smiling, happy, and still mobile. It was sad for us, but a positive mental picture for closure.
On Friday, December 23, 2011, this was not the case. Mom was gone, a shell remained. Her eyes were shut, she was unresponsive and her breathing was labored and short. She always loved to have us up on the bed with her, so I got up there and held her hand, all afternoon. I was cheek to cheek with my mama! Some movie was on TV, turned down low of course, but something we would have laughed at. Mostly I just talked to her, telling her all good stories of what a fantastic mother she had been. I also told her of her current condition, as I would want her to tell me if the situation were reversed. Then I told her some more funny and happy stories, some that we had just laughed about back in October. After a couple hours, I was drifting in and out of sleep. Then I felt something, not like some strong surge of energy, just the last of HER I think, as she peacefully joined another spirited allegiance. I felt relief, for HER! After such a horrendous struggle to try to LIVE, I think her relief passed into me. I went into a sort of shock right then, and still feel like that, even now. You see normally I would be weeping, sobbing, uncontrollably and desperately grieving, like all the rest of the family was, but oddly enough, I wasn’t. When a loved one dies, you have to deal with it each day, in your own way. My mom gave ME peace. Wow.
Nothing stopped her. Once she got an idea that she was passionate about, she carried it through to completion. Whether it was helping one of her grandchildren conquer math problems, teaching a daughter how to perfect homemade fudge or the easiest way to good gravy, no matter what it was, if she set her mind to it, SHE COULD DO IT! You just can’t say that about everyone, myself included. When we were growing up, our town was going to put the interstate right down our street – HA! My mom put a stop to that. It was a long and ugly battle in which she had to fight city hall, the state, the feds and then some, but in the end, the unstoppable Pat Surface WON!
Her patience, understanding, compassion and genius, made my mom, Pat Surface, an MVP in the lives of so many. For me she was a font of information, she always had the answer or knew where to get it. I relied on that from her until the day she died, perhaps too much. She LOVED to learn. A woman so overwhelmingly intelligent to begin with, had a quest for more, and why? So that she would have the answers for all of us! She was an extremely talented problem solver and her lifelong learning paid off constantly. A VERY simple example I can share is from when I was a little kid. It was my turn for show and tell and I could think of nothing. The other boy told me he was bringing an eyeball in a baby jar (as his dad was an eye doctor). My dad was no doctor and we were poor, what to do!?! My mom had the answer of course. We had a box of promo sponges from my dad’s job. She showed me what to say and do. She sent me to school with one sponge to use for my presentation, and one sponge for EACH of my fellow classmates. The eyeball was a big hit I can tell you and I had a pie pan with a bit of water in in it! Oh my. So, I sat this flat, yellow-orange sponge in the water, the sponge absorbed the water and GREW, right before their very eyes! GENIUS on my mom’s part, a show and tell where each kid sees something, learns something and then GETS something. The crowd went WILD! My mom’s smarts, generosity and compassion, made ME a hit in my class that day. What a winning combo she had, and oh how that taught ME.
Generous and giving, those words best describe my mom Pat Surface, and as Tracey Pat Surface, I can say that with 100% certainty. As the oldest child, I received bountiful portions of her generosity all of my life. What did she give? EVERYTHING SHE HAD. Whether it was advice, a recipe, a kind word, her love and warmth, a band-aid, a ride, some cash, an art piece created by her, her knowledge about something difficult to grasp – she would tell you in a way that you could understand, and the list goes on, YOU NAME IT. As the eldest, I have over a half century of examples, most of which I shared with her during her life, but especially in this last year, right up to the afternoon I spent with her, as she lay dying. And THAT experience she even shared with me, showing me, how wonderful it is, to be WITH a loved one, when they leave this world and pass on to the next. How NICE it was of her, to let me witness the EASE with which she left the earth. Pat Surface will be remembered for her incredible gift of generosity, to always give MORE than you have, to give OF yourself, whatever it is that YOU have to offer.
Pat Surface was a brilliant, multi-medium artist. Her work would be known worldwide RIGHT NOW, except that she was modest. My dad was in sales and my mom always remarked that SHE couldn’t sell hundred dollar bills for a dime. It was not her way to toot her own horn and show off or sell her OWN work. For the rest of us though, she was the best agent/manager on earth, beyond compare. If we glued a piece of paper successfully to another, you would think we had created a museum piece. My mom could do it all! Oils, watercolors, chalk, charcoal, ANY of it. Hand drawn China plates, ceramics, pottery, arts/crafts, the whole shebang. To top it off, if you expressed an interest, she could teach it to YOU. She could sew ANYthing. Easily with a pattern, but she had a flair for creation and we all wore her hard work on our backs, with pride, all of our lives. A leather tux, a tutu for a dolly, brand new socks, a raincoat, a man’s suit, prom dresses, and I do mean brand new, not repairing said items. People brought their problems to her all the time, she would figure it out, help them, or do it herself, and hers was a professional job you can rest assured. Mom had SUCH a great mind, an engineering mind like her dad, my grandpa, Arnold Yoder. She built several rooms in the house I grew up in, and I don’t mean redecorated, although, after building them, she did that too! Rewiring, indirect lighting, putting up paneling, carpentry of every kind. I had seen men use electric tools, but the first time I saw my mom with a circular saw, I was impressed, scared (because I was a little kid) but impressed. She would find these grand old, sometimes antique, pieces of furniture and make them new. Watching her strip, refinish and reupholster many, many BIG pieces of furniture, I learned alot and soon joined in. All of that…I witnessed myself! Her creativity will live on in all of us. The family of Pat Surface and those who knew her, are all better people for having experienced her artistic sensibilities, love and passion.
The full obituary with all of the information about my mom and the services for her, is forthcoming in the Quincy Herald-Whig this coming weekend, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2011. Thanks to Dad, Jenny and Steph for putting that together in honor of my mom. The full obit will also appear on the Hansen-Spear website, under Patricia D. "Pat" Surface.
A short notice was placed by that funeral home yesterday:
Fred and I have also published the information on our websites, these are the links so far:
Photo property of Tracey Surface, all rights reserved.
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