Sunday, December 28, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mom...

Had she lived another year, my mother would have turned 90 today.  I think of her every day, but she was prominent in my thoughts today.  I wanted to write something meaningful about her, about her life, about what she means to me, but I am still having difficulty putting my feelings into words.  This seems a bit strange for someone who describes herself first and foremost as a writer.  And so I decided to post the eulogy my brother, Tom, wrote and delivered at her funeral in the fall of 2013.  I don’t think I could do justice in describing Mom as a person with as much eloquence as he managed at such a sad time for us all.

“I want to thank Father Tom and the music director for making this a holy and special mass.  I want to thank all of you who have come, for celebrating this mass with us, and for your prayers for Mom over the recent past.”

“Over the last week many people (such as nurses and doctors) have asked about Mom.  What did she do for a living?  What organizations did she belong to?  What did she like to do? Etc.  At first I was embarrassed because I was drawing a blank.  Don’t get me wrong, I had lots of wonderful individual memories that I could have shared, of happy moments, of sacrifices she made, of her strength, or her sense of humor.  I’m absolutely sure that everyone here who knew her has their own favorite memories, and we should be sharing these with each other.  But her life seemed very simple, so, I answered the questions by saying, that she was a really great mother, and a great wife, and a great cook (as you can plainly see).  And I also felt, at the same time, that I was leaving something out or saying something that was inadequate.”

“In the last two days I realized what was wrong.  I was trying to evaluate or describe or even judge her life (at least the parts I knew) based on the way I have to evaluate the importance of the many people I encounter in my life and my work:  what important jobs they have, what great things have they accomplished, what successes have they had, what obstacles have they overcome, what important people do they know, and how many peoples’ lives did they change.  This is how the world around us might judge our importance, or our greatness.”

“But the problem is that none of this stuff really defines greatness.”

“In the end the only thing that will determine our true greatness is how much we loved.  How much we loved.”
“It is the singular teaching of Jesus Christ, who Mom loved and worshipped.  It is the singular focus of the life of Mary, who she honored.  And each of the saints that she learned about and respected and had a special fondness for.”

“When Jesus caught his disciples arguing with each other about who was the most important he told them 'anyone wanting to be the greatest must be the least, the servant of all'.  I believe that that kind of love was at the heart of most of the things Mom did in life; the focus of her life, despite any flaws she had.  She LOVED.  She loved greatly.  And because of this, we were in the presence of someone great even though her simple life kept it from being obvious.”

“She was not a great cook because she liked cooking; she became a great cook because she loved the people she was cooking for so much.  She certainly could not have always loved being a mother with all the trouble and heartache I must have caused her; but she became a great mother because she loved her children so much, despite all the flaws we had, even the ones that she was powerless to fix.”

“Now what I wanted to say to all the questions at the beginning of the week was clear.  This was a person of greatness.  A great daughter because she loved and still loves her parents; a great wife because she loved and still loves her husband; a great grandmother (no pun intended) because she loved and still loves all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren; a great friend because she loved and still loves her friends; and she is now saved, because she loved and still loves Christ, and is with him in that love right now.”

“I hope that my memories of her will inspire me strive for her kind of greatness, and that your memories of her will inspire you as well.”

“Thank you Mom and God bless you all.”