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Dear Kay,

There was so much love in the room, Kay. It was dazzling.

Robin Smith’s memorial service on Saturday mesmerized everyone in attendance. As I drove to the service, held at the school where she taught second grade for 24 years, I wondered how on earth a mere memorial service could capture the spirit—the essence—of this woman whose generosity of time, love, and talent was such an inspiration to me.

Every year, Robin taught her students to knit, every one of them. My son Clif was lucky to have her as his teacher, and he became a knitter, for his brief tenure as a knitter, because of Robin’s patience and love.

The memorial service was packed—all ages, from current students to long-grown alums of her classroom. Throughout the audience, you could see people wearing the handknits she had made them. She was prolific, fast, and creative. Our conversations about knitting, through the years, covered a ton of ground. She loved making stuff, and she was really good at it.

I asked Robin’s daughter, Julie Schneider, if she would allow me to share her eulogy. It is a joy to have the opportunity to share Julie’s thoughts about her mom and the creative life they shared.



Eulogy for My Mom, the One and Only

Written and read by Julie Smith Schneider at the memorial service for Robin Lynn Smith held on Saturday, July 15, 2017 at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee

My mom was never shy about speaking her mind and telling it like it is. And she made her wishes clear for when her time came. She said, “I only want a religious service if the minister can stop herself from saying the phrase, ‘in a better place’ or stuff like that.”

And euphemisms aside, I agree with her on another level too: because, what better place could there be than here on this planet with us? She loved her life here with us: her family, friends, students, neighbors, and the random strangers she had a knack for befriending.

What better place than here? Here with toasty cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, with fresh markers and bright-eyed second graders on the first day of school. Here with Dean Dinners served on handmade plates, with a fountain pen poised over a letter, with knitting needles cast on with soft wool for a new project. Here with mountains of books left to read, with smooth round stones to collect from the shores of Little Cranberry Island.

What better place than here?

My mom will always be my mom. She is part of me indelibly. I see the lines of her face in the lines of my face. When I pull a sewing needle through the layers of a quilt, I follow the motions she taught me, trying to replicate her tiny perfect stitches. And I pass on the finished quilt as a gift made of love and thread, just like she would. I bet everyone in this room has a present from my mom; in her gifts—handmade and otherwise—she was incredibly generous and prolific.

I’ll think of my mom every time I garden. I’ll think of her when I harvest fava beans and garlic and cut blooms to put on the kitchen counter. I’ll think of her when I name the flowers I learned from her and her gardens (at home and at school): peony, foxglove, bee balm, columbine, nasturtium, lupine, forget-me-nots.

I’ll think of her every time I teach someone to sew or knit. Who remembers the rhyme my mom used to teach knitting? Say it with me if you do. “In the door, around the back, through the hole, and off pops Jack!”

I’ll think of her when my dad makes a pun and I laugh and Andrew groans. She tried to teach me to roll my eyes when my dad told a bad joke, but instead she ended up with a second member of the household who embraced even the worst wordplay.

I’ll think of her when I do the New York Times crossword puzzle—in pen—and maybe cheat a tiny bit, but just enough to keep the momentum going or to solve the last few pesky squares.

I’ll think of her when I hear Gillian Welch songs. I took my parents to see her play this past December as a Christmas present. Gillian Welch cassettes were a staple of many a family road trip to upstate New York and Maine. But I have to say it didn’t occur to me until the notes were floating through the pews of the Ryman Auditorium that evening how close to home the lyrics would feel at that very moment. When “I’m Not Afraid to Die” started, I turned to water inside. But even in the most emotional moments, my family has a way of finding the joy and the humor that’s intertwined with the gravity and sorrow. We went home that night with matching cowboy-boot-shaped beer koozies that my mom later shared online without explanation.

I’ll think of my mom when I roll out pie crusts. My mom loved cooking for a crowd. Her go-to ginger cookie recipe made at least 10 dozen cookies and she never made less than a full recipe. Though my dad did the daily cooking in our household, holidays were my mom’s time to shine and champion our family traditions. Thanksgiving meant a traditional menu of the hits: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, cranberry jelly, and cranberry relish—all homemade, of course. (Sometimes I would make a salad and that was considered a little edgy.) And for dessert, a counter lined with pies: pumpkin, apple, and pecan, and loaves of cranberry bread.

I’ll think of my mom on Christmas morning when we gather around a tree decorated in a hodgepodge of handmade ornaments. My mom would play Santa doling out the gifts. Somehow she often ended up with the final present to open herself. She would probably deny this, but history tells another story. One year (circa 1996) she wrapped up a plastic figurine of Quasimoto that came as a cereal box prize. Every year that followed, we would wrap it up and give it someone else, as a special surprise. If she didn’t have it in her gift stash that year, she’d worry that the tradition had faltered. But we never forgot. Goofy little traditions like these are a secret glue for our family.

And I’ll think of my mom on birthdays too. My mom made a point to celebrate the lives of those around her. She was always ready with handmade gifts and handwritten cards. And for some milestones, she went even further, drawing on her reserves of ingenuity, love, and, sometimes, stealth. For my dad’s 50th birthday, she threw a surprise party, stashing beer under the bed in my teenage bedroom. She was very trusting. On the big day, she filled the washing machine with ice and bottles. And for his 60th birthday, she orchestrated another surprise party: a dinner with close friends at City House, which by that point had become like a second home for my parents.

For her 57th birthday, her last, my mom and I went on our final road trip, a daytrip to the Alabama Chanin headquarters in Florence, Alabama, something of a pilgrimage for fans of handmade. I’ll never forget this day: the perfect sunny blue skies, the glowing autumn leaves, and the Amish buggies. And, of course, my mom was knitting in the passenger seat. We ate lunch together and went on a tour of the factory. (Factory tours were a staple of our family road trips in the summers growing up.) We drove back to Nashville straight to a birthday dinner with my dad, buzzing with so much happiness.

During the last few months, I recorded conversations with my mom, capturing her voice, her stories, and her talent for “solving the problems of the world,” as she liked to put it.

She told me this, “A life of gratitude, that’s probably the thing I would hope most for you and Andrew to have. To be grateful for every day. As Jacqueline Woodson put it, the gift of another day. You know, just to be happy for the days that you get. You can’t control how many you’re going to get, and I’m sorry that I’m not going to get a billion million of them, but I still got a lot of really great ones.”

She added, “No one is going to get out of this life alive, and I wouldn’t want to. The world is valuable because it is finite. And I’m very, very grateful for all those little, finite moments that I got to have.”

We both cried and laughed during those conversations. And I wish we could have more of them.

So I won’t pretend that my mom’s work was done here on earth with us. Or that she’s in a so-called “better place.” But I do know that she made this world a better place, and I’m infinitely grateful to have shared it with her.


  • Wow. A life well lived to make the Universe sing. Thank you for sharing the well crafted and touching. words of her daughter. What an inspiration in these strange and awful times to know that it is indeed possible to live a happy life in the truest sense.
    So sorry for your loss.

  • Thank you for sharing Robin’s story of a live filled with love.

  • Beautiful beautiful beautiful!

  • I met Robin on my first trip to Nashville. She radiated trust and trustworthiness, and joy. Am I misremembering that she was wearing bib overalls as we sat on the floor of Angel Hair Yarn, sewing up blankets and talking about everything? What a beautiful tribute from Julie.

    • 🙂 I remember that, too, Kay.

  • Beautiful tribute to her Mom. Robin must have been an a
    Angel on Earth.

  • Oh, Julie, what a beautiful tribute! I only knew Robin through the knitternets, yet I too received — for my daughters — matching handknit scarves a decade ago when I brought my second home from China. She will be missed, but she will always be remembered.

  • Very touching tribute from Robins daughter thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Oh.
    Thanks so much for sharing this most beautiful tribute. How lucky you were to have known this gentle spirit/force of nature. XO

  • “..valuable because it is finite.” Amen! An invitation to grab every hug and kiss, knit all the yarn, read all the books, take in all the beauty. Thank you for this!

    • Well said!

  • Julie, thank you for giving voice to your mother’s wisdom: to live life to the fullest with gratitude, grace and appreciation of family traditions and community. What a wonderful message! From a mother’s perspective, perhaps Robin’s greatest legacy is that her values will endure through her observant, sensitive and articulate daughter.

    • So true!
      Thank you for expressing what I could not.

  • How beautiful and how inspiring. Took me a while to read it to the end because my eyes kept filling up. Thank you, Julie, for sharing your Mom with the MDK readership. I remember Ann writing about her (then little) boy learning to knit, and I’ve often mentioned your Mom’s second grade knitting lessons to teachers and parents here in New England as an example of “more of this would be a good thing, don’t you think?” What a wonderful legacy, and what a fine person. Thank you.

  • Wow, what a wonderful tribute. It brought me to tears and reminded me to be grateful, oh so grateful. So sorry for your–and the entire community’s–loss Ann.

  • Such a lovely remembrance, such a wonderfully lived life! I’ll be listening to my Gillian Welch today and focusing on gratitude. Thanks for sharing.

  • I am weeping. I wish I had known her.

  • Oh my…crying at my desk at work…loving this post, thinking of my dear mom who died last December, missing her so much today, as I read this beautiful loving eulogy of another amazing woman and mom…thank you!!!

  • Thanks for sharing this. It helps to be reminded to be grateful no matter what or whom your loving.

  • What a beautiful eulogy. I never met your friend, and yet, here I am in Starbucks in tears. Thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you for sharing this. Very inspiring and a reminder that every day is precious. Sending love and support to all of her dear ones.

  • Ann, thank you for sharing this. What an exemplary teacher and human being. “You can’t say ‘you can’t play’.” What a wonderful person to have in your life.

  • Perfect. Thanks for sharing. Hugs.

  • It was a beautiful service. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Such a lovely lady! She will definitely be missed. Her spunk and joy was endearing. Thanks for sharing this on your site. I am so glad to have known wonderful Robin.

  • What an amazing woman. How good of you to share this and how brave of her daughter to be able to write about her mom’s life. I bet they have the best craft supplies ever in heaven.

  • I’m sorry I didn’t know her. She was obviously a remarkable woman with an equally remarkable daughter. My sympathy to everyone who loved her.

  • What a beautiful thing to share! I am sorry I never knew her. My condolences to you, Ann, and her family. She sounds like one that will truly be missed.

  • What a beautiful eulogy. I’m in tears.

  • Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute. Robin Smith is still teaching….how to live well and good.

  • How lovely! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Thank you for sharing the gift of your mom’s life, joy, generosity and wisdom.

  • Oh, that’s just beautiful.

  • My heart is sad to read this post. I met Robin a very long time ago when she worked as a long term sub at USN, before her tenure at Ensworth. 9 years ago when I began tutoring, I worked with a second grader in her class. He was knitting like crazy and made everyone in his family hand knit gifts that holiday season. So my heart is also happy to know how many lives were touched in many positive ways by this extraordinary woman.

  • I was one of those lunchtime visitors. During my last visit with Robin, she showed me how to make pompoms for a scarf I was trying to finish. Always the teacher! That last visit, she showed me every gush-worthy craft she was working on including an Alabama Chanin skirt and baby blankets. She said the blankets were for her future grandchildren. She was brave! I learned more than just the needle arts during our visits. She set a beautiful example for courage, grace, and how to live each day to the fullest. I am going to miss her. Love to the family. Judy

  • Thank you for sharing this. It made me think of my own holiday- and birthday-loving mom, though her gifts were carefully chosen second-hand ones, not handmade. (And her mashed potatoes came from a box.) Also, Robin and I are the same age. I’m so sorry that this wonderful-sounding woman is no longer on this plane of existence!

  • Oh, I am so sorry to hear of her passing. Robin and I spoke of knitting a few times, I sent her a pattern in June. Godspeed sweet Robin.

  • Thank you

  • Beautiful

  • this is an absolutely glorious tribute

  • How beautiful

  • I am speechless. Grateful for this sharing.♡

  • i wish i could have known this woman

  • Thank you, Ann, for sharing Julie’s words. They were difficult to hear during the profoundly impactful service. There is much to hear, remember, and model in Robin’s life and Julie captures much of it.

    There was something about “Ms. Smith” that reminded me of my own mother, something that cemented my connection with her when she taught two of my three children. I am grateful for Robin and her messages: live days filled with gratitude; find joy in the small routines and traditions in those days. So sorry she has left us.

  • ❤️

  • Please send me the daily letter

  • What a small world! My son knew Robin through the American Library Association! She knit some baby things for his girls. He had told me about the memorial service. Thank you for posting the eulogy. I can see why he loved her so much.

  • What an inspirational life and eulogy. Thank you for sharing these moving and uplifting words which I have been privileged to read. I am deeply sorry for your loss.

  • Thank you for sharing Robin’s eulogy. What a lovely tribute by her daughter. Inspiring words to be grateful for this day!

  • Thank you for sharing….we should all strive to do our best with this brief span we have been given

  • First of all let me say “thank you” for sharing your most personal thoughts and feelings of your Mother with us. People who never met or knew your Mother, but yet…knew of Mothers like her as having Mothers like her ourselves.
    Your recollections were so spot on and so heartfelt that it brought tears to my eyes and a melancholy remembrance of my own Mom as she filled our home with her knowledge, love and peace of heart. We are all so much richer and blessed for having been raised and have loved people so well. People that touch others in a positive way and enriched our lives.
    Thank you for sharing.

  • I think my life is better for knowing about hers xxx

  • Beautiful!

  • A life well lived. Thank you.

  • Wish more of us had known you MOM! What a Brilliant Woman and how Lucky YOU and Your Brother are to have been raised by HER!

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