In Loving Memory of
NORMA ALYS THOMPSON
June 19, 1940 - July 6, 2006
My niece Mary asked me to write the eulogy for my sister who also is one of my best friends. I am finding it difficult to condense down almost sixty years of friendship and being together. It was on Christmas Eve of 1946 when our parents brought me home from the hospital at 9 days old, placing me in a bassinet. Norma was 6 1\2 years old. She stood on her toes, peeking over the edge at me and looked up at Dad and said is 'this' what all the fuss is about? Well, she learned what the fuss was all about, and we both learned what having a sister really meant.
It was just three months later that our only brother and his wife had their first child, Cheryl. Norma and I became aunts, although to me Cheryl was like a twin sister. By the time we could crawl and walk, Norma was assigned the task of babysitter. Over the years Cheryl and I teased Norma and called her THE WARDEN. She did not cherish her assigned task of watching over us. She even made a sign for her bedroom door that said "KEEP OUT AND THIS MEANS YOU" with an arrow pointing down. One day Cheryl looked at the sign and said, she means you not me. So she crawled through our common closet with hers into Norma's room. The sign was changed to say " THIS MEANS BOTH OF YOU." She would have preferred to ditch us but didn't. We did, however, work hard at ditching her. We had added Cheryl's first brother, Ray, to our fun in the sun. And poor Norma continued to try to keep up.
It was in between all this that I realized how important my sister was to me. She soon became my friend, my confidant, my first aid station. Since I was the strong willed one with the mouth to express myself, it was Norma who was always there to nurse the wounds afterward. Our father was hero to both of us, and Norma, Cheryl and her brothers were my best friends .
Norma was always the creative one. Her artistic talent won her many awards over the years, especially in photography. Most of us, including even me, can click a camera and come up with a picture. She could transform that camera into a creative tool and come up with true art. When she had to quit her photography in the early 1990s, that hurt her more than anything for she lost part of her soul I think. Few people, especially the younger ones, understand that when you lose your ability to function in something you are truly gifted in, the thoughtless comments hurt almost as bad as the loss.
She had the ability to write wonderful stories. That even started at a fairly young age. She kept diaries for many years and wrote pen pals all over the world. She would sit every night, writing in her diary, especially after a date with Cliff. It wasn't until about a month ago that I finally confessed to her that Cheryl and I had quickly learned to use a hair pin to pick the lock on her diary without breaking it. We were SURE we would find something juicy or at least worth a bit of blackmail. Never happened. What we learned from the diary was that she was a lady, he was a gentleman, and their dates were truly boring to both of us. I thought she would never stop laughing last month as I was telling her all this. And she did not truly know that we had read them.
Life gave her three children - two sons and a daughter. And raising them was not easy, but she developed an individual friendship with each one as all parents do. Our Mother used to say that being the mother of a grown child was much harder than when that child was small. Until our children were grown, Norma and I did not fully understand what our Mother meant. As their lives become full and continue to grow, as they should, sometimes in the spreading of their wings Mother and Father get temporarily knocked over, sometimes bruised and hurt. But we pick ourselves back up and continue to be there because of the gift God gave us - LOVE.
Norma loved being a grandmother, and she cherished each of her grandchildren. She met her great grandson just days before her death. And she realized that the circle is really unbroken.
Pain and suffering were not strangers to her. I remember the day she was thrown from the horse and broke her back. She spent a year in a cast. And I remember the sometime crude comments and the lack of compassion that came from others. Yet, she kept on trucking. I remember the day she fell and shattered her knee. Her knee replacement of that knee this last August was either the third or fourth knee surgery to correct the damage.
God did not give her a high threshold for pain, but instead he gave her unyielding faith in our Lord Jesus and in God himself. An outsider might look at her last years as truly full of pain and sorrow. What that outsider might miss though is her ability to laugh - at herself and in awkward situations. It was on a night in December, many years ago that Norma was my Maid of Honor at my wedding. Ken and Rick were supposed to be my ring bearers but had come down with Chicken Pox. Mary was just a baby. As Dan and I did not trust our college friends with our car, Cliff and Norma were our get away drivers from the church. Cliff had left it up to Norma to fill the gas tank. The reception was over, and the four of us piled into their car. My wedding dress took up most of the back seat, Norma was in her floor length gown, Dan in his tuxedo and Cliff in his best dress suit. The car made it about three blocks when it ran out of gas in front of St. Catherine's Church on Federal. Cliff looked at Norma, saying "Did you get the car filled?" She had not, and to her defense to this day she truly did not have time. Cliff and Dan looked at each other in TOTAL disbelief. It was one of the very few times Dan was ever speechless. Cliff was so mad, he was speechless. Norma and I looked at each other and started laughing, and laughing, and laughing. They had to walk several blocks to get gas, and we were still laughing when they returned.
I will miss her beyond any words that I can express here. At the same time, I will cherish the years God gave me with her and the wonderful times we had. And we helped each other get through the less than wonderful times because of the deep faith God instilled in us. There were even times in our adult life that our opinions and lives clashed, but we put our deep bond above it all and kept on going. She has not truly left us. She only left her pain and suffering behind. She took the Lord's hand and walked with him in Peace and Love. And I am sure the Lord has many plans for such a wonderful and talented soul and will allow her to keep on checking on all her loved ones here.
July 11, 2006
MaryLee Thompson Saban
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