Last week was the third anniversary of my Mom’s death, and I pulled out the eulogy I wrote for her.
I’d like to share it — and a little bit of us — with you here:
When Mom spent time outside in the sun, she loved to wear a light blue baseball cap that said across the top: “Life is Good.” We believe that, don’t we, that Life Is Good! And so we grieve today when someone we love so much is not physically here with us anymore. We know we will miss her each day. We already do.
But this life that is good, is more than what we have experienced so far. You know, today, here we are all of different faiths and traditions. I love that! Let me share with you our faith, the faith that Mom shared with us.
She believed, and we believe with all our hearts, that death is NOT the last word, that no love is ever lost, that just as Christ is raised from the dead and lives forever, so shall we too be raised from the dead and live forever, if only we try to live here and now as he lived.
Mom depended on God’s love and care, and taught us to do the same. She had a special devotion to St. Anthony (especially when she lost things) and to Mary, a model of faith and trust for all of us. I believe these are among her companions, with her brothers and sister and parents, and our Dad, as she has now joined that great cloud of witnesses in faith our scripture tells us about.
I can’t say that Mom never worried, but she knew that “things worked out.” Let me tell you about riding in the car with her when I was in 10th or 11th grade or so. We were on Main Street, headed toward Wakefield and we stopped at the four corners in Wakefield. I was distressed because I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I finished college, or even what I wanted to study when I went to college. Without missing her place in traffic, Mom asked me if when I started first grade I worried about high school. “No,” I said. So, she said, there was no need to worry now. When you get there, you’ll know what to do, she said.
That advice holds up today: God has prepared us for today, so Mom would tell us today to live your life as well you possibly can, and do your best. “When you get there, you’ll know what to do.”
When Mom was born in 1917, women did not have the right to vote in this country. Yet she believed that “her girls” could be whatever they set their minds to be. Always reading and learning, whether on the subjects of gardening or nutrition or identification of plants and birds and trees in the wild, she set an example of lifelong learning for us all. Mom was not active in party politics, but she believed in the importance of each person’s participation in their community. She always voted, and she was active in church and town committees. She would be among the first to bring a casserole when someone was sick, or to send her famous Lemon Bread to a friend.
Mom delighted in the outdoors and loved to walk – on Volkswalks, or through the woods, or along the beach. If a tree needed to be taken down near the house, she was as capable with a bow saw as she was baking a casserole. Few things pleased her more than watching the warm promise of spring unfold as the crocus and daffodils and tulips poke through the last remnants of winter’s cold snow.
When Alzheimer’s Disease came, Mom was a resolute force against it. During the last years of her life she lost her memory and her faculties, but hung on with determination to her love of life and her sense of humor. When she could no longer communicate with words, she could still smile. One of the phrases she kept ‘til the end was: “Thank you.”
One of Mom’s favorite books that she kept at her bedside was “Gift From the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Her daughter Reeve Lindbergh offered the following thoughts about her mother Anne that I think describe our lives with Mom in the last few years:
“It took me almost the whole of the 10 years we had together after her initial hospitalization, but I think I finally learned what she was teaching me: that human relationships can exist beyond interpersonal interaction, beyond eloquence, indeed beyond the kind of communication that my mother and I had both practiced all our lives, using the written and the spoken word.
She taught me that there is something more important, something I can only call presence, and even then I’m not sure I have named it correctly. It was her last lesson for me, and it may have been the most important one: that it is possible to love someone just by being with them, whatever their condition or mood; that it is possible to love someone without expecting an expression of love in return; that it is possible to love someone without the confirmation of her familiar identity, and even without the confirmation of mine.
This was not so easy. During her last years, my mother sometimes did not seem to know who I was, or seemed to think I was someone else, and not necessarily someone she liked.”
Even after our Mom’s verbal communication was mostly gone, there were occasional moments when she would speak with a rare clarity. In February 2009, when I was leaving Mom after a short visit, I told her, as I did every time I left her, that I’d be “back again soon.” I was taken aback when she looked me lovingly in the eye and replied, “My dear, I will be waiting for you.”
When the family was younger and we all lived together up on Main Street, whenever anyone left, even just to go to school or work in the morning, Mom would wave good-bye at the door. And when you were expected home, Mom would be in the kitchen or family room, ready to wave hello and to welcome you in. I like to think that when each of us reaches the end of our lives here on this earth, that among that cloud of witnesses, there will be Mom waiting at Heaven’s door waving to welcome us in.
St. Augustine said: You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our heart can find no rest until it rests in you. I am confident that Mom at this very moment enjoys true rest in God.
God bless you!