This is a eulogy for my mother. I shared it with family and friends during a gathering in celebration of her life on August 7th, 2016. In time I want to expand upon it as I continue to process the grief of losing her. For now though, I want to share it as is once more in written form so that if they want to my dad, my siblings, or anyone who loved my mom can visit this page and read it.
I’m not sure if sharing a eulogy in a blog post is at all appropriate or keeping with proper etiquette. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past week though, it’s that I don’t think that there is an appropriate way. We move forward and deal with things as we must. While this eulogy was a send off and a gift for my mother, I would like to think of it also as a gift for my family. This belongs to you. It is here for you to read at anytime. I hope that the sharing of words and memories of mom can provide some small measure of comfort and peace for all— especially for Dad, Kelly, Kevin, Michael, Jimmy, and Billy.❤
For the past week I have been looking through old photographs of my family. They range from about ten to fifteen years old and go all the way back to when my mom and dad were kids. Some were even from when my grandparents were young. I found these pictures in a trunk at mom and dad’s house, where they were stored for safekeeping until someone could get around to organizing them into albums and frames. The person who I know for sure must have had plans for these pictures was my mother. I know because when I opened the trunk I smelled the lasting scent of smoke and singed paper. Some of the older pictures inside survived a house fire that happened when I was about six years old, and they did because of her. After she made sure we were all out of the house she stayed behind to throw albums, baby books and framed photographs over the deck railing from the second floor of the house. For years my mothers actions that day were a puzzle for us all. Though we understood the significance of old pictures, they were only that. Pictures. How could she have even thought about them at such a time? The house went up in flames almost as soon as we got out of it. I wondered why she would have risked herself for things which, though precious, were only things that could still be held in our memories and told in stories.
Just as soon as I opened the trunk on July 31st 2016, I looked down at all the many pictures as though they were buried treasure. For the first time in my life I truly understood why those pictures were worth saving, and it is one of many reasons why we owe mom more thanks than we could possibly ever give her.
Since that day I have looked over photo after photo. The smell of smoke lingered and
followed me home like an old ghost as I spread them out across my living room floor. These were the earliest ones— baby pictures, baby books, my parents’ prom, wedding day, and honeymoon. Others were more familiar and memorable to me, and these were from after we moved to the big brick house in Marion. I thought for the first time in a while about what our house was like back in those days. I remember walking in the kitchen door after school and seeing mom standing at the sink, table or island making a delicious dinner of lasagna, pork chops, macaroni soup or any number of other delicious favorites. She would often have scented candles lit, and there was almost always music playing on the huge five disc CD player and stereo in the dining room. She was a country fan, but sometimes mom liked to
listen to oldies; usually in the summertime when we went garage saling. Other times it was rock and roll— Alice Cooper or the Doors. I felt a keen connection to mom through her music, and often noted the patterns of what she would listen to based on her moods or even time of year or day. I liked a lot of the music that she did but sometimes I would try to get her to listen to bands and singers that she didn’t know too well. She was stubborn and always insisted that nothing could top the music that she had known and loved for years. Still, she would always listen to a new song when I asked her to. Mostly I would get a nod of approval or a headshake if it was a flat “I don’t like this.” Right now I can only think of one 90’s band that she really liked. It was Oasis, and one night we listened to “Be Here Now” all the way through from track 1 to 12.
“These guys are good,” she said at one point. “So what, are they like The Beatles of your time?”
“I’m not sure, but no. I don’t think so.” Is what I said.
Sounds, sights, smells, music. They all came back to me with every picture that I flipped through. The candles, the food, the smell of leather, tack, coats, boots and hats that we got after mom and dad bought the horses, the trip we took to Niagara Falls. There were so very many heartwarming memories which I hadn’t thought of in years. When she was well mom was the light of our house. It was both of my parents wish to see us living out a happy childhood and together they succeeded; but mom was the artist in her vision and at the helm of every family adventure. She was the listening ear, the silly laugh, the knowing smirk. She was the reason why sometimes when I was at school and had a sniffle, I wanted to go home even though I wasn’t all that sick. She was the shoulder I cried on after a bad day, and the “I love you” after every phone call.
The timeline of the pictures from the trunk came to a scathing halt at somewhere around ten or fifteen years ago. I’ve been sitting here frozen for some time now trying to put into words the years that followed, and just how much I came to realize the powerful effect my mother’s health and state of being had on our home down to every last family member, frame, fabric, and brick. As she changed, so too did her Household. That was how powerful and intense my mother was. All that was internal for her was echoed outwardly into every facet and fiber of her surroundings, no matter what stage of life she was in. Though the past decade was not without its moments of joy and happiness also, I cannot talk about them without getting into the complicated, multi-layered nature of mom’s illness. Today as we gather to celebrate her life, we will remember instead her vibrancy, her light, her love. We remember her Rock and Roll, her laughter, her hugs. We remember the smell of her cooking as we walked through the door after school, and her favorite candles. We remember Thanksgiving turkeys, Easter egg hunts and presents piled high under the tree on Christmas morning. We remember heart to hearts on the porch as powdery moths fluttered at the light and listened to long conversations on summer nights. We remember coffee and cigarette’s, we remember chicken soup and tea when we were sick, we remember the parrots, parakeets, horses and baby deer that she sought to love and save. We remember the person she was, and for us her children we remember her as a parent as well. Dad has always been the rock and anchoring beat, but she was the music and the wave who moved us. Until we meet her again someday, we are now tasked with learning how to dance without her.
Always remember, “Though she be but little; she is fierce!” I never thought in a million years that Shakespeare would be who I would quote to remember my mother by, but fierce is exactly who she was; transcendental and far reaching. My mother knew how to make herself known. As long as we keep her in our hearts, she will echo back at us with every beat.