I understand the World Wide Web – I think. I mean, I know what is published on an open site is available for anyone – anywhere – to view. But somehow I never thought that pertained to me. What I mean to say is…it never occurred to me that anyone other than those who comment care to read what I have to say. But over the past few weeks I have been made aware that there are others - specifically, family members and friends from long ago.
So for these special people – and anyone else who might be interested – I am posting the eulogy that I read at my mom's memorial service. It was a small, private affair, and I thought that those who were unable to attend might appreciate being a part of the celebration of her life in this small way.
April 5, 2011
This is a bittersweet day for me – in many ways.
Many of you know Mom's one real wish was to live long enough to see her great-granddaughter born. Megan was her first grandchild and she desperately wanted to meet Megan's baby.
And many of you know that Mom had a difficult time these past few weeks letting go. She was ready to go – that was for sure – but the hospice workers were continually baffled by the fact that she lingered long after their medical knowledge thought possible.
Many times the nurse would ask me to try to think of who might need to say good-bye --- what significant dates might be looming in the distance --- what closure did Mom need before she could peacefully leave our world and journey to the next.
In response to all those questions, I decided that perhaps Mom was waiting to hear from me. So I wrote her this letter – which I will read in a moment. But that was obviously not the case – because Mom lived for nine more days. In analyzing this situation, something that I am prone to do, I reasoned that perhaps I was supposed to write the letter not necessarily to share with Mom – but to share with others.
But this morning I realized that Mom was not holding on for any of these reasons.
I believe that God's timing is always perfect --- I don't always FEEL that it is perfect, but I do believe that His timing is sovereign. And so I believe that Mom held on as long as she did because this date – April 5, 2011 – will not only be remembered as her Memorial Day, but as of 3:11 this morning, it is the date of her great-granddaughter's birth. Mom may not have lived to see Brynn – but Mom will most definitely be a significant part of her life.
March 17, 2011
It is St. Patrick's Day, but I suppose neither one of us feels very lucky today. I have struggled to know what to say these past couple of weeks; I am not a great conversationalist in the best of circumstances. But it occurred to me that I could write you a letter. We seem to have conducted most of our difficult matters through writing, and I thought this might be a more fitting way for us to say good-bye.
I have great admiration for you, Mom. We never openly discussed such complimentary thoughts in public, but I think deep down I knew you were proud of me – at least overall, I did make a few doozy mistakes – and I have been proud to call you my mom. I never tired of hearing your story – and when I would put it in my own words I called you the "modern day Cinderella" I can't imagine losing my dad at the age of eight and not being allowed to talk about my feelings. I can't imagine being sent away to live with an aunt at the age of eleven – and expected to wash her dishes as a proper payment. I'm not sure how I would react if my mother remarried and had children at the time that I was of child-bearing age. In today's world I believe this would be labeled a dysfunctional family – and quite often in these kinds of situations the cycle just repeats itself. You were not properly mothered – yet somehow you learned to become a proper mother. You were there for us and always put our welfare before your own. This is probably the biggest life lesson that I learned by watching you.
You allowed me to follow my own dreams – without commentary on their impracticality. I distinctly remember sitting in the Freeman's house when I was 8 years old and their oldest son showing me postcards of his year in France and I vowed in that moment that I would one day do the exact same thing. This was my first stirring of the travel bug – which has only grown stronger as I have grown older. You allowed me to take a trip of a lifetime to Paris my junior year of high school and that still remains one of the highlights of my life. You allowed me to major in French in college – not a degree with a lot of practical application – but a degree of the heart. And even recently, you allowed me to pursue an advanced degree in English literature – a dream that I did know that I had until later in life. Your heartfelt encouragement, and your financial assistance, helped to make this dream another reality. While I may not finish the degree, I have gained all that I had hoped to. I learned that I am indeed qualified to teach literature even if I am not certified, and I have been given the opportunity to teach at the college level – a dream that I never expected to become real.
Watching you model motherhood and experiencing your quiet faith in my own talents, you have also shown me how to help my own children develop wings – and when they were old enough – you showed me how to instill in them the courage to fly away on their own. While I know that I made many mothering mistakes, I do believe that equipping children to be independent citizens is the priority of the mothering profession, and you modeled that perfectly for me.
When Rodger and I grew older you instinctively knew that it was now time to do for yourself. All the sacrifice that you willingly made during our formative years now grew into a need to give back to you. I remember when you took the job at Mitchells and how much you enjoyed that bit of freedom. You developed your own friends and you were appreciated for your own talents. You began collecting angels – such a fitting theme for you – and you even traveled to conventions and made friends across the country. You modeled for me that life does not end after the children are grown; in fact in some ways, life begins. I have taken this to heart now that I have reached that magic "half century" mark, and I am trying to find interests outside the family and my profession that will bring me as much joy and happiness as I believe these endeavors brought to you. You have modeled for me how to grow old gracefully and how to accept each situation as it presents itself.
And you continue to teach me lessons even through these last few months. You have taught me that sometimes we must be willing to let go of our independence in order to receive the help we need. As someone who has always been fiercely independent, I truly know what a personal sacrifice this has been. I know that it was not easy to have total strangers come into your home and invade your space for 24 hours a day, and yet you not only accepted them -- you befriended them. I know that Yeme, Meg, and Jane consider you a friend – not just a patient. I have heard it said that our true personality comes out when we are sick, and your true personality is a kind, caring, southern woman who is soft-spoken , introverted, but willing to reach out and make a friend in any circumstance. Yeme has shared with me that she has learned how to be more organized because you have modeled that for her. You have impacted more people that you realize.
But I do believe, Mom, the most important lesson that you have taught me – and the one that I most respect – is you have taught me how to be brave enough to die with dignity. I still don't understand how you thought asking for hospice was selfish. Asking for hospice was the courageous thing to do. You fought the good fight – you gave each hospital round all the energy you had – you rebounded each time and made the most of each new day you were given. But you also knew when enough was enough – and with that insight you took the most noble step.
I have given lots of thought to this heritance that you and Dad have left behind. Your generosity is astounding and I want to make you proud. I know how hard you both worked and sacrificed for that money, and I do not want to disappoint either of you. There is a part of me that just wants to save it all – but I am not sure that is what you want. You have mentioned several times that you hope it makes my life more comfortable. It will. I thought perhaps you might want to hear some of the considerations I have made: I want to use a portion of the money – over the next few years – to make some much needed home improvements. We have sacrificed all our money for our kids – as was modeled for me in your home – and as a result these maintenance expenditures have taken a back seat for far too long. We will side the house and purchase new windows. It will be wonderful to once again sit in the family room in the winter and not feel the cold north wind blow past my ear. We will upgrade the kids bathroom where there is a bathtub that I will actually use and each relaxing soak will be thanks to you. We will update the kitchen – not elaborately, but I do want to repaint the walls, replace the floor, and brighten up the cabinets with a pastel color and new hardware. Each holiday gathering as I bake the turkey and prepare the vigil, will remind us of your generosity.
And I want to travel, Mom. I want to see all those places that I have dreamed of since I was eight. I want to return to London and spend considerable time there – researching the London of Dickens and Bronte and Austen. I want to return to Paris with Geoff and show him the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. I want to spend hours at the Musee d'Orsay looking at all the Impressionists and I want to picnic on the square of Sacre Coeur. I want to visit Italy and not only see the historical ruins of Rome and the waterways of Venice – but I want to visit the areas of Italy where Nana and Poppy lived. I want to experience that kind of rich heritage – even if it is vicariously through Geoff's family. I think if I visit those three countries I will feel satisfied. But I also want to visit our country. I want to visit Yellowstone for the first time and see all the wildlife and Old Faithful. I want to return to New York City for an extended period of time and take advantage of the culture --- see a play or two or three and visit the museums.
I have developed an interest in photography because I want to visit all these places and somehow capture the magic to bring back home. I want to hone my writing skills so that I can recall those memories in such vivid words that others can see the sites as clearly as I did. ALL these dreams will be made possible because of you and Dad --- and each and every trip will be dedicated to you.
I have even given some thought to using a portion of the money to purchase a lake house. I'm not sure that we would return to Bella Vista – but I do want to return to the memories that you established with each of the grandchildren. Those are the most fond memories they have – and I would like for your money to help cultivate fond memories for the next generation. Gram and Graddy will indeed live on – you can be certain of that.
I do not know what lies ahead for you – I don't think anyone does – but I do have faith that I will see you again. It may be years (I at least hope it is a few years way) – but those are earthly years. I believe that time in heaven is measured differently – and when we see one another again, it will be as if it was just a few short hours ago. I believe that Dad will be waiting for you at the gates, and when they discover your name written in the book of Life – and they WILL discover your name – you will be reunited with him and it will seem as if it has only been a few minutes since the last you time you spoke – rather than over five years. I believe the life you experience in Heaven will be all the joy of earth – times one hundred. I love the verse that tells us there will be no more sickness or death – or worry! Can you imagine that, Mom – there will be nothing for you to worry about J
And I believe that you will be able to look down and see all the milestones of this earth. You will see baby Brynn and you will have a significant role in her life. She will constantly hear stories of Gram and Graddy and she will love you as much as Megan, Brian, and Mandy loved you. You will see Brian's successes – and his marriage. You will see Mandy's graduation, and her baking adventures, and her marriage. You will witness all these glorious events from paradise and you will be assured that one day all of these people whom you love will join you in heaven as well.
This is what I wanted you to know, Mom. Perhaps it is more information than you cared to hear – but I think it is all the information that I cared to share. You have been a wonderful mother – and an even more wonderful Gram. You have impacted many for the good. You will be sorely missed.
And yet….I refuse to say Good-Bye for that sounds so final – and I truly do believe that this is not a final good-bye. We will see each other once again and we will live together in perfect harmony. So instead I will say, See you soon, Mom. Save a place for me….