On Saturday, November 5th, 2011, our mom, Phyllis, left this world. She was at home with her poodle, Little Girl, when a heart attack quickly took her life.
She was able to live independently in the cutest home she could ever wish for, a place she dubbed: “Skylark Cottage”. With the walls painted in a spicy “Apple Crisp” (a color she selected from Home Depot, via a verbal description, and likely the tasty name), and her beloved collection of memorabilia, including Disney swag and family items.
She had the joy of sharing her life with a rescued poodle, which became her constant companion. Her joys included daily calls with husband, Jason Rawlins (who resides in Anaheim), and feeding her voracious reading habit with her Kindle e-reader, downloading books on a whim at 3 in the morning!
Her TV, which she called, “my 40-inch Window to the World”, was always providing her fun entertainment and good memories. She became really adept at managing her DVR! She prided herself on being the first to let her family know of a celebrity death, and we all tried to beat her to the punch.
Mom was always a staunch supporter of her family, and over the years adopted many people as family when they needed one. As we grew up, she was always ready to help another in need. She had such a way of giving her time, attention and love that she created bonds that lasted a lifetime.
While my brother, Barry and I were young; Mom provided daycare in the community of Garden Grove. Some of those children and their families are in touch with us today. The ripples in the pond of her touch reach out further than the eye can see, and we know they will continue in the lives of others.
In the 1980’s, she returned to school to obtain her word processing certificate. She then worked for Data Power in Santa Ana. After that stint, she was with a temp service that sent her to UCI Medical Center, who hired her in the Physical Rehab and Medicine department. She excelled in her position, bringing her skills and personality to the office. She loved working with the new Residents and “training” them, as she liked to say.
In 2000 she was able to take a retirement from UCI, and in 2002, decided to move to San Diego. Her third residence in San Diego was the culmination of all she hoped to enjoy in her retirement. A detached cottage, fun colors, no noisy neighbors, and a puppy to keep her company (well, she never realized she wanted a puppy until Jody rescued Little Girl, and they became a match made in Heaven!), and close proximity to the beach communities (well, “near enough to know it’s there!”)
She was pleased to have the chance to spend time with family at the home of Dennis & Jody, whenever possible. She would always “hold court” in her corner of the room, and find something in common with the many guests.
Mom had her silly traits, and we enjoyed an unconventional childhood, while being raised in Garden Grove, CA. Though we were without a car the majority of our youth, she would find a way to borrow one for little outings. Mom would pack our wicker picnic basket and load us in the car. We’d drive into the Hollywood Hills, or other places in LA, looking at- and making up- stories about the homes and people inside. She would drive us through Forest Lawn, where we’d have to hold our breath as we passed the gravesites. Of course, she would drive slower and slower! We would eat our picnic lunch in the car, parked in front of a mansion, while the rain would be beating down on the roof. Good times!
While we were young, Mom would hide in a closet and jump out to scare us…of course, she couldn’t say a word when we’d do the same to her. There was a lot of laughter in our home. Mom created opportunities for us to spend time with our nearly-same-aged cousins, Barbara and Laurie. They became additional siblings for us, and their parents offered extra love. Those moments in time are bright spots in my memory, and cherished in our shared lives.
Mom would want to know that those who remember her, do so with the knowledge that she simply wanted to give the best she had for each one of her friends. We often don’t represent that desire in the moment, but she only recalled the good in her life and friendships. She had a desire for each of her family and close friends to seek all the joy they could in life, and to love each other.
She has recently found a closer relationship with granddaughter, Loren, connecting on topics such as Glee, and the social and artistic messages in the writing of the show. She was excited to attend her recent graduation and watch her blossom into adulthood with flair! She was looking forward to an upcoming sleepover with Loren, in advance of her 18th birthday. Many will miss mom, but the loss felt by her sweet granddaughter, will be incalculable. By sharing stories of her life, we will give Loren and our family a more rounded view of who she was to others.
In recent years, Mom has watched in awe, as students in her community of City Heights sought four-year college educations through the programs of Ocean Discovery Institute. She recently read through the stories of a dozen high-school students, sharing their difficult starts in life. The first two chapters for each student are about themselves and some form of identifying moment in their lives (many of these stories tragic in nature). The third chapter for each student is a reflection of themselves after their summer studies in Bahia de los Angeles, Mexico, and back in San Diego. Mom couldn’t believe such a huge transformation had occurred in each student. She was in strong support of this organization and it’s programs, especially as they are building a Living Lab in order to increase the number of students served from 5000 per year, to over 20,000 students served in the City Height community she had grown to love.
When I received a call from the California Organ Bank, the kind woman indicated she had called the nurse twice in order to make sure this would be a good time to call me. She proceeded to tell me that Mom was a registered Organ Donor (a fact I knew, as Mom and I filled out the documents together). I replied that I thought “Mom might have used up everything herself!”…(a chuckle here is okay). She went on to tell me that after reviewing some records, it appeared that Mom’s corneas could provide sight to two people! She was trying to be gentle with me, but I encouraged her to proceed and said, “let’s get this going”. She did the requisite recording and data confirmation and then went on to medical and social history. She was pleased I could answer so confidently about all the details. When we got to the end, she asked if there was anything else. I shared a little story with her. I told her Mom was completely freaked out by a particular episode of Twilight Zone, called Time Enough at Last-1959, where a guy who is bothered by other people around him and only wants to be left alone to read his books. When he survives a nuclear war, he is thrilled to have the library to himself and all the time in the world to read. As he is sitting on the steps of the library, he drops his glasses and they shatter. This disturbed Mom, because she could empathize with the guy. She loved her books, and in recent years found an ideal companion in her Kindle. To know that her corneas can provide sight to two people would make her so happy.
Mom’s life will never be done. She may not be physically close to us, and only a phone call away, but she is with us even more…in our hearts and lives. Seeing all the wonderful posts and texts in the past couple of days, the ripples of her life will resound. All the travel she hoped to do will be through each of us living our lives to the fullest. When you see something amazing out in the world, think of her and know she would be sharing from her heart some of the kindest observations. She may have been our Mom, but she was everyone’s friend.
On behalf of our family, and submitted with love,
3127 42nd Street
San Diego, CA 92105
Preceded in death by:
Her parents: Robert E. Eisele & Faith E. Eisele.
Her husband, Jason Rawlins of Anaheim, CA
Her sister and partner: Colette Eisele & Flo Palumbo of Apache Junction, AZ
Her sons and spouses: Barry Wood & Brenda Miller of San Clemente, CA; and Dennis Wood & Jody Carey of San Diego, CA
Her granddaughter, Loren Wood of San Clemente, CA
Her sweet, co-dependent poodle, Little Girl, who has been her lifesaver in many ways.
In lieu of flowers, donations would be gratefully accepted in her name, Phyllis H. Wood Rawlins by Ocean Discovery Institute by clicking here: http://oceandiscoveryinstitute.org/donations.php , or sending through the family, made payable to the organization and mailed in care to their office:
Ocean Discovery Institute
2211 Pacific Beach Drive, Suite A
San Diego, CA 92109