Wine. Food. Reviews. Recipes. Lap it up.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

July 4, 2007 — Free at Last

Virginia_AndersonMy mom, Virginia Mae Anderson Finch, died yesterday evening at the St. Vincent Hospice, about a month short of her 80th birthday. My dad George, brother Evan, wife Katz and I were with her at the time (7:32 p.m.); Evan's wife Grace was at work at the Clarian hospice, where she is a nurse.

Mom had been battling a host of infirmities, including diabetes, congestive heart failure, emphysema and thyroid cancer. She had been bouncing around between St. Vincent Hospital, Marquette Manor and the St. Vincent hospice since April 14, and had undergone about a week's worth of radiation and chemotherapy before deciding to opt out of treatment and go to the hospice.

She did so well at the hospice that she was discharged, so she returned to Marquette Manor and began rehabilitative therapy. At Marquette Manor she really thrived, and was the most cheerful, energetic, animated and healthy for those two weeks -- the period that Evan poetically refers to as "her Indian Summer" -- than she had been since her beloved sister died a couple of years ago.

She suffered a stroke while in bed on the night of June 25 and never regained consciousness. As per her wishes, no extraordinary measures were taken to prolong her life, and she died peacefully 10 days later.

Visitation is scheduled for Friday, July 13 from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the Flanner and Buchanan in Broad Ripple; a memorial service will be held at the same location on Saturday, July 14 at 11 a.m. Memorial contributions may be made to the Eagle Creek Park Foundation with a notation that they are for the Virginia Finch Fund; they'll be used to redo the old Nature Center, where she was a volunteer for more than three decades, into a Center for Ornithology. (Maybe if they collect enough donations they'll name it after her — The Virginia Finch Center for Ornithology has a nice ring to it, don't you think?)

To make a contribution, make a check payable to the Eagle Creek Park Foundation and mail it to:

Eagle Creek Park Foundation
Virgnia Finch Fund
7840 W 56th St
Indianapolis IN 46254-9706

* * *

Turkey_RunMine was a stay-at-home Mom, and I learned a tremendous amount from her. She was a good cook, and could whip up a great meal from scratch. She taught me the basics of cooking, and when I moved out on my own and started in experimenting with the recipes in Food & Wine, she's who I called for advice — before there was Google, there was Mom.

She was creative and artistic, and could figure out how to make about anything, from a painting to a jacket to seven papier-mâché dwarf heads for a number in our high school's Band Spectacular. People knew how good she was, and frequently asked for her help. I doubt that she ever said no, at least not until a stroke she had several years ago robbed her of the dexterity in her right hand. (Fortunately, she was left-handed.)

She was an environmentalist before the word existed, and a conservationist as well. She collected her cooking scraps in a bin in the kitchen sink, and turned them into compost to use on her gardens and house plants. She separated her bottles and aluminum from the trash, and made sure the old newspapers went to some good use, whether they were recycled or donated to someone who had a new puppy. Her sensibilities about not wasting anything that could be reused and taking care of natural resources weren't the result of an environmental epiphany, but came from the reality of growing up during the Depression and World War II.

She was a naturalist, and taught me all about the flora and fauna in the yard around our house, and in the fields and woods beyond. She taught me to be respectful of and kind to other living beings, with the possible exceptions of flies, mosquitoes, fleas and weeds. One of her great loves was gardening, and she transformed the flat, vacant lot that my parents built their house on into a lush natural oasis filled with trees and wildflowers that she rescued from woodlands that were being bulldozed for development. I absorbed a great deal of her knowledge about that, too. When I undertook putting naturalized areas in the yards of my own houses, she brought me lots of interesting plants and told me all about them. They were her friends, and she wanted me to know them too.

Xmas_CrownShe was generous with her time, and brought the full force of her intelligence, creativity and energy to bear on any project she tackled. She was a Cub Scout Den Mother, a Band Mom, a Starlighter, a Pi Phi. But the volunteer role she was most well-known for was as a naturalist at the Eagle Creek Park Nature Center, where she spent more than 30 years introducing thousands of school children (and quite a few adults, no doubt) to the wonders of the natural world.

And of course she drilled into my head dozens of Momisms, as all moms do: If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. (Ever notice that there are no bad reviews on this blog?) God helps those who help themselves. Just because everybody's doing it doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. Pretty is as pretty does. Leave the world a better place than you found it.

On that last one, she led by example. ’Bye, Mom, and thanks for everything.
Anonymous, 7:32 PM