Sunday, May 10, 2009

Eulogy for My Mother

My mother died last Monday after a long illness.  Below is the eulogy I wrote for her funeral.


First, I want to thank our Pastor for reading this for me.  Mom always asked me to write a eulogy whenever someone in the family died, knowing full well that if I were to present it myself I would end up balling like a baby, which of course would make everyone else cry harder, and we would never get through it.  So, thanks Pastor Jim for helping me out, again.  Mom didn’t ask for this one directly, but like so many other things about her, I just know it without having to be told.  Mom, I’m trying hard to make you proud.

I can’t sum up what my mother meant to me, so I won’t try.  What I can say is that she was the most influential person in my life, and it has been hard for me to admit that.  She is the person I have known longest, has always been there for me when I needed her—even when I didn’t know it or want it—and because of this I am who I am.  My wife, my kids, even my grandchildren owe some part of who they are today to the impact my mother had on me.

Growing up, I’ll always remember my mother as this stalwart wall of protection, love, and rules.  She was the lawgiver in our family, the one with magical powers to see through lies and sense evildoers around corners.  She was there at all my baseball games, bike races, swimming meets, boy scout ceremonies and hospital stays.  She was at once over-protective and surprising lenient.  As a parent, I think I understand how well my parents found the careful balance between keeping us safe and letting us flourish.  Bekkie and I weren’t easy to raise, and they did a pretty good job.

As a child, I was always amazed that such a tough, iron woman, who saw through all my lies and suffered none of my BS, who managed my constant fights with my sister, who survived by broken bones, concussions, and third-degree burns without flinching (at least where I could see), who always carried herself with such confidence and power…would scream and run at the sight of a harmless little cricket.  When I was young this was very confusing for me, and I honestly still don’t get it.  She could be so strong at the same time so very fragile.
There was this time when I was four and decided I wanted to go play at the park.  So I went.  I just walked out the door and down the street to go play at the local school playground.  Don’t think that my mother wasn’t good at keeping me safe, it’s just that I was better at getting into trouble.  After a half hour or so of playing I got bored and started walking home, though I had no clue which way that was.  I even got to ride in a Sheriff’s car, which for the moment was pretty cool.  I don’t have many memories of my early life, but I do remember clear as day my mother standing in the middle of the street waiting for me.  I remember the look on her face when I got out of my first cop car.  This was maybe the first time I realized that my decisions affected others in a big way.  It was a lesson she never let me forget.

Mom was a precious work of modern art:  delicate and priceless and often completely misunderstood.

She was quirky, weird, and eccentric, and in our family that was high praise.  Ask anyone who knew her.  Have them tell you the story of “the pink nighty and the bear,” or ask about my mother’s most famous creation: turkey soup.  There are thousands of little ways we will remember her.

I’ll remember her teaching my dog to say “please” while she fed him Smarties from the giant bag she always had hidden near her chair.  She always had candy hidden somewhere, especially when she wasn’t supposed to have it at all.  This kids and animals knew it.  We knew it and there was nothing we could do.  And my dog is still fat.

I’ll remember the long conversations with her, and let’s be honest, most conversations with her were long.  Often a conversation that started with “I know you are in a hurry” would last an hour.  She could talk to anyone about anything, as long as you didn’t feel the need to stay on subject.  My mother liked a two-way conversation, but that was never a necessity.  She had an interest in everything and wanted to hear about your day, your life, your thoughts on something she had seen on TV or read about.  I think she felt the need to be engaged on a close and personal level with us, and talking was her favorite way to express this.  

Even the last couple of years, when she was getting weak and her illness was a burden, she never lost her enthusiasm.  She was always full of life, which is why we are still in shock that she is gone.

You can’t understand my mother without grasping the depth of her love for my father.  My parent’s marriage is a model for my own and their love should be a goal for us all.  In a world where most marriages end in divorce, they stayed madly in love with each other for over forty years.  Their example has been a subtle lesson for me all these years, and I hope my marriage can do theirs honor.  Dad, this is a gift I only recently began to appreciate, and I thank you both for it.  My wife thanks you for it.  What better way to teach children to love than to have parents like my Mom and Dad, leading by example every day of our lives.

My children got to see their love up close and I hope they were paying attention.  Think of what my parents created, what they endured, how they survived and adapted and thrived.  It’s a rare, special thing.  It inspires hope just to know such things are still possible.

Mom, thanks for bearing me and bearing with me.  Thanks for letting me grow up, for being there the countless times I needed you, and even for all those times I didn’t think I needed you.  Thanks for being there for my children and my grandchildren.  I hope they remember all of who you are and pass that on to their children and grandchildren as I will try to do.  Happy Mother’s day.  We’ll miss you forever.

The life that I have is all that I have
the life that I have is yours
The love that I have for the life that I have
is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have, a rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause
for the peace of my years
in the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours

(Leo Marks)

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