A Tribute to Frances Bishop

Eulogy delivered by son Tim Bishop at Military Street Baptist Church in Houlton, Maine, on January 16, 2012

Frannie Bishop
Frances B. Bishop

Thank you for coming to pay tribute to Mom. I would also like to thank those of you who have been so supportive of Mom as her ability to take care of herself declined. Your faithful service allowed her to fulfill her strong desire to remain in her home as long as possible. People visited, ran errands, gave her rides, prayed for her, and simply loved on her. And then there were those others who were as family to her while her own family was located so far away. God has an interesting way of filling holes in one’s life, and there were people in this community who certainly met some needs in Mom’s life. You shared the intimacy of your home and family, for which she was most grateful. You have made a saint very happy. Thank you.

Mom was very resilient. With a positive, can-do attitude and a strong faith in God, she overcame setbacks that would have stymied others. She allowed her challenges to strengthen her character rather than break her.

Let’s consider some of her attributes, set as examples for those she leaves behind.

What do you call someone whose needlework looks as good on the backside as it does on the front? You might call them multitalented with a streak of perfectionism.

What do you call someone who hates to impose on others? How about independent!

What do you call someone who could mix up a batch of fudge while playing a game of bridge? How about versatile, fun, intelligent, and good to have on hand.

What would you call someone who prayed and read the Bible every day? How about a committed child of God, one who learned to be content in all things.

What do you call someone who can whip up a full-course meal in a half hour? From my perspective, amazing!

What do you call someone who attends a basketball game the night before prepping for a heart procedure? I would say someone who has put her trust in the Lord and is fun-loving, someone who wants to live life to its fullest.

What do you call someone who won’t quit bugging her son about disposing of his, as she might put it, ratty old couch? You might call her someone who has been threatened to be buried in it if she didn’t stop. However, because she didn’t stop, you might call her persistent.

What do you call someone who can typically solve the four Jumble words in less than 10 seconds? What would you call a crossword puzzle whiz? I would call them smart.

What do you call someone who set her schooling aside after the eighth grade to help her Dad with household chores? You might call them someone who loved family and put them first, someone willing to make a sacrifice, someone who embraced responsibility, and someone with a strong work ethic. You might also call them determined. Mom was just five years old when she lost her mother, who died in childbirth, leaving behind four children. Her father was a section foreman for the railroad in Maysville, located between Presque Isle and Caribou. The story goes that she and her sister couldn’t wait to get rid of the housekeeper. Although Mom learned a lot of life skills from their housekeepers, they were just somehow not a part of the family. By facilitating their dismissal, they could have Daddy all to themselves.

What do you call someone who, until the very end, could spontaneously recite humorous limericks and poetry learned in childhood? How about a happy person with a great memory and an irrepressible spirit, someone who learned how to think and communicate in a simpler and more innocent era, someone who wasn‘t afraid to teach and apply wisdom by quoting anonymous folks! These memorable sayings would often come forth in the car while on a trip. They were just there for the enjoyment when time was on our side or when she felt a pithy dose of wisdom or encouragement was needed.

Mom was a storyteller at heart, and she told them well. Many of us were comforted by her narratives, no matter how many times we heard them.

What do you call someone who, although their first eight years of education were within the four walls of a one-room schoolhouse, went back to high school after a three-year break? How about someone who, although painfully shy, was able to take on a challenge, someone with innate intelligence and a hunger for learning who couldn’t allow her aptitude to go to waste, and someone who wanted to please her father whose wish it was that she continue her schooling.

What do you call someone who doesn’t get their driver’s license until their mid-thirties and then, a few years later, although unfamiliar with city traffic, drives three children through the streets of Boston? You might call them courageous. Although she lived in an isolated and small town, she had a broad perspective. Her mission trips to Boston were to provide medical assistance and unusually narrow shoes for her daughter, stay connected with her oldest son, indulge her sports-minded sons with an experience at Fenway Park, and provide all her children some exposure to life outside the confines of a small community. She was forever a mother and forever putting others first.

What do you call someone who raises her young children by herself after her husband’s death in 1967? I call her resourceful and dependent upon her Lord. When my father died, Steve was just into college, Randy and Kathy were almost thirteen, and I was nine. It has always struck me how Mom was able to give us such a solid upbringing, especially when I learned that the annual salary of my first job out of college, which was $13,000, was more than she had ever been paid for the various jobs of significant responsibility she had held over the years. Yet, remarkably, we never really lacked anything. She encouraged us to grow and learn and to take on new challenges. All four of us completed college on a timely track and were shortly thereafter gainfully employed, a rewarding legacy for any parent.

What do you call someone who joins the gym at age 82? Or what do you call a 77-year-old who goes for a bike ride with her 42-year-old cycling son and carries him up the hills on a quad bike? You might call her crazy! Despite my counsel on the bike ride, she didn’t hold back and kept pushing. So, you might call her strong and well-conditioned, but I would call her young at heart, fun-loving, and just plain cool. You might also call her unaware of muscle cramps from strenuous exercise, at least until a few hours after this bike ride.

Actually, Mom had athletic training before she reached her 70s—she played organized softball when we were kids, at least until she broke her thumb. She played catcher. Being right-handed, instinct told her to catch the ball with her right hand rather than the glove.

What do you call someone who has seen great technological change in their lifetime, who grew up using a two-seater (and I’m not talking about a bicycle) and ended up surfing the Internet? You could call them someone who wasn’t exactly born yesterday, who belongs to the so-called “Great Generation.” Born on the heels of World War I in 1922, Mom grew up in the depression years. She learned valuable life skills during these times and passed them on to her children, whether biological or “adopted.” By necessity, she understood how to get the most out of money, which now is becoming a lost art. She witnessed the development of radio and the automobile and the invention of television and the computer. She lived through many wars, presidencies, and some incredible world events, like the stock market crash of 1929, the attack on Pearl Harbor, D-day, the assassination of JFK, the assassination of Martin Luther King (whom we commemorate on this holiday), landing a man on the moon, and 9/11. She also lived to see her beloved Red Sox win not just one but two World Series! Despite aging during these rapid changes in technology, she was open to growing and changing. In her 70s, she stepped into the computer age—perhaps you have received a few of her e-mail forwards. She also mastered the use of a VCR and, although the DVD seemed a bit more challenging, she used it as well.

What do you call someone who, in her 70s and 80s, often drives two hours to visit and support ailing relatives who have no one else? You might call her someone who is very giving and has the spirit of God living inside her.

What do you call someone who, in her lifetime, handled millions of dollars for others? How about trustworthy and responsible? She tallied the large daily cash-ups at the PX on the Presque Isle Air Force Base during World War II. She also handled the banking duties as an employee of Commodity Investment Corporation and as manager of The Fabric Shop. Simultaneously with these commitments, she was the Treasurer of this church for several years, even with three children still at home. Later in life, she served for years as this church’s financial secretary. She was good with money and faithful in sharing her gifts in work that promoted developing and growing in a relationship with God.

What do you call someone who was a good church secretary? Well, in addition to calling them efficient, able to multi-task, good with shorthand and typing, and someone who really has their act together, I think you call them confidential and a good listener with an understanding ear.

What do you call someone who babysits for folks well into her later years and develops close relationships with those children? You might call her an adopted grandmother, someone who loves children and whose maternal instincts continued to thrive, yielding unplanned bonuses for blessed friends over the years.

What do you call someone with these strong maternal instincts who carries herself in an unassuming yet dignified manner, serving others with a giving heart while earning the respect of so many in her church? Some have called her “the church mother.”

Mom dealt with significant pain and physical challenges during her last few years with us. She lived with the curse of post-Shingles neuropathy, from which she could not get relief. Arthritis also caused pain and significantly reduced her mobility. Add in a double-bypass and valve replacement, five serious infections, a broken hip, and pneumonia, and it wasn’t difficult to understand that God would soon be calling her home. In the end, Mom’s strongest desire, one that strengthened her resolve to live even in painful and declining health, was that her children and their families know God and live for Him. How noble and dedicated to pray without ceasing on behalf of those you love even while your own problems seem insurmountable.

What do you call the family and friends of such an individual I’ve been describing? You call them privileged and blessed.

And what do you call someone with all this depth of character who, unassumingly, with a sweet spirit, loved others at the expense of herself? Some might call her an outstanding individual, a model citizen, a loving matriarch. I would call her . . . “Mom!”