Clear Lake United Methodist Church
Stephen Shullman (Read by Diane Tincher)
Anne has been a friend for over forty years. It is impossible to sum up in a few words, the times we shared, meeting up, speaking on the phone or more recently talking on FaceTime, the good and the bad times we were both part of.
I first met Anne when she visited my late wife Carol: her sister and me in Amsterdam in the summer of 76 shortly before we were married. Anne travelled with us through France and England and attended our wedding. Anne was a warm, witty and enthusiastic companion and a loving sister to Carol. We had great times during her subsequent visits often with her lovely children Diane and Michael. We visited the Tincher’s as a family in 93, having a fascinating time at the nature reserve where Anne helped out, going to see the alligators, and swimming in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as getting a warm welcome from your community.
Anne remained a good friend after Carol's tragic and untimely death in 2002. David: my younger son, Anne and myself had an amazing time cycling up and down the hills of San Francisco, through Golden Gate Park and along the pacific coast in 2004, when we also got to meet Michael's delightful family. These are unforgettable memories that I will always treasure.
Mom is a gift that God gave to us. I feel so much gratitude in my heart that she is my mother. She had such a sweet spirit about her and you could feel her gentle nature even at the very end when she spent almost the entire day sleeping. In some ways she was my best friend and most cherished confidant. I admired her so much and often wished that I could have been more like her. She was compassionate and always wanted to help out in any way that she could.
I always thought that it was really cool that mom and dad met in organic chemistry when they were in college. They were married for 53 years. Since there are so many years between when Mike and I were born, mom and dad had been married for 20 years before I was old enough to have any memories of them as a couple. Mom initially struggled with moving to Houston. Dad’s career had necessitated 2 moves before I turned 5, and a few years later we moved to Houston in 1985. Fortunately, mom soon found the Armand Bayou Nature Center. Mom and dad also joined this church and found a home with the Forum Sunday school class. These 2 things in particular helped mom to adjust to living in Houston. It was also really good for her that she was able to quit working and become a fulltime housewife.
Family was really important to her. I remember that she always wanted us to have dinner together as a family. She would fly to California as much as she could to be there for her mother before she died. Many, many times she shared fond memories with me of her extended family that she grew up with in California. She never stopped supporting and encouraging me through my many childhood problems and then 20+ years of struggling with severe depression.One of my memories that I feel really exemplifies mom’s character happened during one our trips to England and Scotland. After spending time with Aunt Carol’s family, the 2 of us made a trip up to Scotland. Shortly after arriving, I got pretty sick with a very painful sore throat. She took me to a local clinic and because of the health insurance policies in the United Kingdom the people at the front desk had no way to accept any kind of payment. She insisted that she pay for their services and ended up just leaving some money on the front desk.
One thing that I will always remember about her is how much she loved nature and cared about preserving the environment. We recycled absolutely everything in the house. We had more bags of bags than any one family could ever reuse. She always took her cloth bags with her when she went grocery shopping. Unfortunately, I never took up the same habit. She started a compost heap in the backyard and would collect the vegetable garbage throughout the day and take it out every night. Sometimes she would come in and excitedly talk about how there were so many insects in it that were consuming the remains. She even collected the dryer lint for her compost heap. It made her happy that she was able to use her homemade mulch for our plants in the yard.
She was a volunteer at Armand Bayou Nature Center for 25 years. She gained so much joy from working at the nature center and being able to share her love and knowledge of nature with others. I remember so many weekends she would lead nature walks through the forest and set up different demos to teach about things like pond life and reptiles. With her degree in microbiology, she loved to take samples of water from the pond and put it under the microscope for people to look at. She also taught classes to elementary students at the nature center. I remember dad and I volunteering at the Fall Festival and attending different events at the nature center because she loved it so much.
She also had a passionate love of music. She played the piano by herself and with friends almost her entire life. At one point she did duets with a saxophone player at nursing homes. She did organ/piano duets with a good friend of hers, and she accompanied another friend who was a singer. She also played the piano for the women’s relief society and the primary children’s choir at the Clear Lake 1st ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. She also loved going to the symphony, opera, and theater.
She was also a woman of faith. From as early as I can remember we always went to church as a family. She would talk about her goal of following the Savior’s example and striving to become more like him. Mom joined the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 2007 while I was serving as a missionary in St. George, Utah. She didn’t even tell me that she was getting baptized beforehand. When she sent me the pictures from her baptism, I was so excited that looking back, I swear I was showing those pictures to anyone and everyone who would have been even remotely interested for weeks. Another one of my most favorite memories is when I was able to be with her as she went through the Latter Day Saint temple for the first time. She always loved going to church and also attended a woman’s Bible study up until her illness prevented her from doing so.
One of the sweetest memories that I now have of mom is when I was able to be with her and talking to her right as she died. She was very peaceful and I feel so grateful that God gave me the chance to be a part of such a sacred experience.
Mom was so strong through untold suffering the last few years of her life. Even while she was suffering, she expressed over and over that she was grateful that she had had a good life. I admire mom so much. I am so blessed to have had her as my mother. She set such a good example for me to follow, and along with dad, did all that she could to instill strong values into my heart and mind. I will always miss mom. However, any sadness that I feel because mom is no longer with us is almost completely swallowed up in the joy of knowing that mom is in Heaven: a place where pain and suffering do not exist.
I woke up this morning with my heart filled with joy. I feel so grateful that I get to be a part of celebrating mom’s wonderful life. I strongly believe that mom does not want us to feel sorry for her. I feel so happy for mom. She endured to the end of her life faithfully doing the best that she could at any given time. My faith in Jesus Christ and my sure knowledge that family is eternal are sustaining me. I know that if I follow mom’s example and endure faithfully until the end of my life that I will be greatly blessed to spend eternity with such a wonderful woman.
I want to share a couple of things that Mom taught me about love of nature and family. I must admit that I did not fully appreciate these lessons until much later in my life. But I guess that can be said of many of the important things that we learn.
You heard my sister talk about Mom’s composting & recycling, and the work she did at the Armand Bayou Nature Center. For me, I always remember Mom’s love of nature was defined by her lifetime membership in the Sierra Club. In case you’re not familiar, their website tells us it was “Founded by legendary conservationist John Muir in 1892, the Sierra Club is now the nation's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization.” I know this was important to Mom because I count this among my earliest childhood memories. She cared deeply about the environment and loved spending time outdoors. In fact, my parents honeymoon was even spent camping in Yosemite National Park.
As I was growing up, our typical family vacation was also spent camping. And mom in particular loved to hike. So on those family camping trips, a nice long hike was always on the itinerary. Well, unfortunately, I wasn’t much of a hiker back then. And not long into these hikes, I would inevitably start to complain. Generally I remember Mom being quite patient with me, so I know I really frustrated her on these hikes because she would sternly tell me to “stop my bellyaching”. As I think about it now, it’s one of only two areas where I consistently frustrated her (the other one occurring during the two years of piano lessons she made me take). But while I wasn’t particularly fond of hiking back then, I do have lots of great memories of those camping trips while growing up in the Midwest.
Well I went on to marry a wife who did NOT grow up camping. Karen declared that camping for us would be staying in the Motel 6. But I always hoped that someday I’d be able to share the experience with my kids; and fortunately Scouting offered that opportunity. My son, Sam, and I did several camping trips with Cub Scouts. First some family trips that included his younger sisters (and Karen gladly opted out). Later Sam and I even did a Boy Scout backpacking trip, complete with freeze-dried food and water filtered from a mountain lake. My kids developed such an appreciation for camping that they started working on Karen for two years before she finally gave in. Our first full-family trip was in Big Basin; a local Bay Area campground that coincidently was a favorite of Mom’s in her childhood. And for the last two summers, we’ve been fortunate enough to get a camping spot on the Yosemite Valley Floor. My whole family now looks forward to a camping trip every year.
And as for hiking; last summer my Son and I decided to try what turned out to be an 11-hour hike in Yosemite. As we hiked up that steep trail to the top of the Upper Yosemite Falls, I often thought of those hikes when I was younger (and no I wasn’t complaining this time.). In fact, it was especially gratifying to me when we made it to the top and enjoyed the awesome view from Yosemite point; almost 3,000 feet above the valley floor where we started. I thought of Mom many times that day. We enjoyed a view that you can only experience from that hike. I later found out that this was the exact same hike that my parents took on their honeymoon! So now whenever I go camping or hiking with my family, I always think of how grateful I am that Mom taught me the value of appreciating nature and outdoors.
Family was a central part of Mom’s life. She grew up in California one of three children with an extended family of ten aunts and uncles. I don’t even remember how many cousins she had; I lost track of all the names long ago. This community included her grandparents who were first-generation immigrants and who really only spoke Dutch. She often talked about how neat it was to have so much family around her. Her stories made a strong impression on me. An impression made even stronger because it was such a contrast to my own experience growing up in the Midwest; an only child until age 11. While I did have four Aunts and Uncles, they all lived thousands of miles away. My only two cousins were in England where Mom’s sister Carol lived. Mom would often talk about how much she missed her family and longed to move back to California someday. Every couple of years (when we didn’t go camping), we’d take a big family trip to the San Francisco Bay Area that would typically last two weeks or more. I remember at end of EVERY one of those trips, my mom would be hugging her mom and crying. She knew it would be a year or two before they would see each other again.
There was however, one time when Mom tried to teach me the value of family that didn’t quite work. When I was a teenager, we moved to a house in the Chicago suburbs. That particular house did not have an automatic dishwasher. Since Mom grew up in a house that also had no dishwasher, she declared that this is an excellent opportunity for us to have “family time”; washing and drying dishes together. Well I was absolutely astounded. Why would we not simply buy a dishwasher? I don’t know if she really believed that we’d be closer as a family over dishes. Or if she was pulling my leg like I often do with my own teenagers. But I know I grumbled and complained about it for months. Eventually my parents gave in to the ‘bellyaching’ this time and finally bought a dishwasher...much to my relief. While the message about family may not have sunk in back then, I do often think about Mom when I’m filling or emptying the dishwasher. And I never miss an opportunity to grab one of my teenagers to help with the task...although I admit, I don’t tell them it’s about family, I just tell them they just better help!
I think I really understood the message about valuing family though when our careers in technology brought us to Northern California; and Karen & I settled near where Mom grew up. Some of Mom’s extended family was still around in Alameda, and getting to know them as an adult gave me a whole new perspective. As Grandma aged, Mom would come more and more frequently to help her out. And when Aunt Carol passed away unexpectedly, Mom flew out to tell Grandma in person; she was so worried about how Grandma would take the news and really wanted to be there for her.
Now I think it’s time I finally explain why I chose to display this enormous picture of Mom enjoying an ice cream cone (that’s Blue Bell Peach in case you’re wondering). I haven’t been to many memorials, but I’m reasonably sure this is not what most people display, at least that’s not what I see in the movies or TV. But as I looked through hundreds of pictures, I realized this is a great example of Mom’s characteristic smile that I will always hold dear in my heart. She had that genuine, at times almost childlike enthusiasm about life that stayed with her until almost the very end. But even more than that, this picture reminds me of why family is so important. You see, when Mom’s cancer came back and she could no longer travel to see her grandchildren in California, it wasn’t even a question for me that I would bring my children down here. And with our incredibly busy lives, there were only two times a year that would typically work out. The 4th of July, and Christmas. This picture with the ice cream cone was from July 4th 2013, the first of what would become many family trips to Houston. And I remember that first year as the weekend approached, friends at work would inevitably ask “what are you doing for the 4th this year?”; I would answer well...we’re going down to Houston Texas to see my parents. There would often be this long pause with a thoughtful look (clearly not the answer they expected); and then they’d say something like “Isn’t it rather hot this time of year down there?” So it was one of those family trips that brought me this picture that I now hold dear.
When I was going through Mom’s writings, I came across this really great example that I think illustrates what Mom taught me about family. This was from a book that she put together for her own mother’s 90th birthday. And it says the following: “To my loving mother: I appreciate the values that you taught me growing up. I learned to value my family when you took me with you for the teatime and coffee-time at grandma’s house. I learned how families take care of each other when I saw you help Grandma and Grandpa. I remember that you took them to the voting booths so they could vote. You visited them when they were in the hospital. You invited them along on picnics and outings. Seeing you help your parents in so many ways set an example of what I would like to do for you. With Love, Anne”. ...I couldn’t have said it better myself. I love you Mom.