My mother passed away on February 9th, 2017. She had not been in great health, but her death was still unexpected, it was a swift epileptic seizure, that left everyone in shock. I drove to Las Vegas the next day, and we began the funeral planning and grieving process.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t in shock the entire time. I went through the entire week with a sense of nausea and weakness. Many of us turned inward, and did not share our grief as openly as perhaps we could have, or perhaps should have, but the death of such a loving person comes as such a devastation that sometimes there is little other recourse. When it came time for me to speak at her service, I did not do her justice. There were so many things I wish I had said, both while she was alive, and at her funeral, so I will try to say them here.
When I remember her, I remember most her kind voice, and kind face. Growing up with her as my mother, it was easy to confuse her personality with motherhood, and a quintessential sense of mothering, but now I can see that that wasn’t entirely correct, she was just a good and kind person. She had a kindness that everyone could see, animals and children seemed to notice it most acutely, but most adults could see it as well.
She loved books, and words, and her love of those things spilled over to me, and she made me into a reader. I am grateful that we shared this personality trait, it gave us many moments where we could share bits and pieces of of books that had touched our hearts, and we shared the sense of gladness that comes from having a kindred spirit to share those kinds of things with.
Looking back on my time with her, and what I know of her life, there are so many wonderful things about her worth mentioning, but I think the thing I will remember most is her laugh, and her sense of humor. Her laugh was a frenetic and uncontrollable thing, that would send her on a tear that sometimes made you worry if she was going to be able to breathe. Her laugh overpowered her, and often left her with tears, but you had to be careful because it would often return to her before she had caught her breathe and went into another fit of laughter before she was through, and then again, until at times she stopped only out of shear exhaustion. In terms of her sense of humor, she was a goof. She loved dumb jokes, usually the dumber the better, and that is not to say she didn’t appreciate clever humor, but I don’t think anything could make her laugh as much as the “Airplane” movies and “Police Squad” shows did. The “surely you can’t be serious” and “don’t call me Shirley” joke will be funny from now until the end of time, and I owe that to her. It’s strange how it doesn’t occur to you to thank someone for a wonderful gift like that.
She was very diligent and studious. For a time she had a job at 7-11, and she earned a reputation for being honest and hard-working, that got her promoted to assistant manager and manager very quickly. She never got the opportunity to finish college, but I will always remember the way she studied during the times she tried to go to school, and her knowledge was invaluable to me when I was going. I remember that she loved Biology, and that she got good grades in that class. I spent time looking through her physiology books, and remember that I became the strange kind of kid that says on Valentines day “you know, that’s not what the heart really looks like.” When it came to words, she was better than any thesaurus. I don’t think there was ever a single time that I asked her and she didn’t know the meaning of some word or another. To me at least, she seemed to be an expert in meaning, and not just the meaning of words. She was my compass for meaning in the deepest sense of the word.
It is the nature of sorrow that we are tempted to let it taint and color the nature of things around it, and indeed, sometimes it seems that she had a sorrowful life. It is sad to think of the condition and circumstances of her death, or that at times she seemed to drift away to some other place, but none of that is fair to the life she lived and the kind of person she was. She was bright and intelligent, deeply caring and full of laughter. She loved her sons more than life itself, and she never once stopped hoping and caring for them.
I think the most important lessons she taught me was that being kind and gentle is not weakness. I think many people had a hard time understanding the way that she lived her life, by answering anger and cruelty with kindness and gentleness, but it turns out that only the strongest kind of people can live that kind of life. When it comes to how we live our lives and the values we stand by, she went out a winner. She finished her life without turning mean, cruel, greedy, petty or spiteful.
All the best things I have in myself, I have from you, Mom. I love you, and I pray that I can live my life being half as good a person as you were.