You learn more from your mistakes than your successes.
So here I am to try, and to fail, so I can learn.
Paul Fail. For The Win!

16 March 2012

Mom 1943-2012

I wanted to share why I've been gone so much this year.  I lost my Mom to cancer in February.  It was very aggressive and, by they time they found it, had already metacised and spread.  She died six weeks after diagnosis.  Mom grew up in Southern California and then spent the rest of her life in Santa Cruz.  We did two services for her.  The one in Santa Cruz was a very open and people were asked to share their thoughts.  My Eulogy below was the final one given that day, and is my own personal remembrances.

I should add that neither of these were given as written.  I did not write them down until after, and only then because of the encouragement from some of my friends.  I had only cryptic notes and a general sense of what I wanted to say, then spoke off the cuff from there.

Hello, and thank you all for coming out. We greatly appreciate it.

You know, everyone's Mom touches their life, for good or for bad.  So as children it is sometimes easy to forget that our Mom's touch the lives of others as friends and family.  So, even as an adult, it is staggering to see so many of you here, and also deeply humbling.

Kahlil Gibran has a quote which I'm not going to try and remember precisely, but, roughly it points us to that; everyone knows that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. But the flip side of that is also that it is as strong as its strongest link.

You and Mom were each other's strongest link.

I'd like to share some of my memories now, starting with when I was about 4. I was playing with my brother in the yard and had climbed into the plum tree. Then I dared my brother that, "I bet you can't hit me with a dirt clod."

So, of course, he pick up a dirt clod and hits me with it on his first throw.  Well, as any true 4 year old would, I ran into the house crying and pointing, telling Mom that, "He was throwing dirt clods at me!"

Well Mom got us both into our respective rooms, talked with my brother and then came into my room. She sat down, looked me in the eye and asked, "If you didn't want to get hit by a dirt clod, why did you bet him he couldn't?"

Now this is not just a staggeringly good question for a 4 year old, but for anyone at any age, and I know that it has helped shape me in who I am.

Mom also had a love of Books and Words that shared with me. I know it has helped push me in my own writing, but she shared it with so many others, too. From the kids at the school to the seniors at Aegis, she loved to read and to share.

She and Dad were also wonderful in letting my brother and I find and follow our own paths. She liked to share the story of Dad, my brother, and I watching a College Football game.

Dad was simply enjoying the game, but my brother was horrified that he might have to play football to go to college, while I was horrified that I might have to go to college to play football.

Through it all they supported us and gave us wisdom.

Mom also loved the Serenity prayer*:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

The wisdom's the tricky part, of course, but Mom did fairly well with it.

Another saying Mom shared with me once came from her flying days. We were driving home from school and talking about how brave pilots must be, and astronauts, and the like, and she told me this saying from when she was a Flight Attendant:

If it's not your time, don't worry about it.
If it is your time, don't fight.

Mom lived up to those words.

Her diagnosis was so overwhelming that she accepted it, and that has made dealing with it so much easier for the rest of us.

Because she was at peace with it.

One of the difficult things during a time such as this is to tell people.  Every time you say it or write the words out they become, "real."

So, one of the times I was down, Mom just got off the phone with someone, probably someone here now, though, in all honesty, I have forgotten who it was. But Mom had told them the news, had hung up the phone, and said, "That's the hardest part."

"I understand," I said, thinking of each time for me that those conversations had made things "real."

"I just hate ruining their day," she finished.

Even then she didn't feel bad for herself, but for those on the other end. She was still more worried about everyone else, and sharing that strongest link.

The last time I came up, Mom was in the hospital bed, and my room looked out at her. I got up, opened my door and saw Dad in the chair next to her, looking at her.

He wasn't looking at her with sorrow, or pity or even loss...

But simply with Love.

That is a moment that you cannot share, unless you have truly lived your life in that Dash**, shared that Love for 46 years, and been each other's strongest link.

When I got up here I thanked you all for coming. It is what every speaker always does and it's such a part of speeches now that no one really pays attention to it any more.

So I want to say it again. And I want for you to all know how truly thankful we are for you being here, and truly, for being each other's strongest link.

Thank you.

*Dad has been in the program for 25 years, so I have become intimately aware of the Serenity Prayer.  However, whilst giving the eulogy itself my brain froze and I made it as far as, "God..."  Luckily there were many in the audience who knew my folks through the program and they started saying the prayer with me.  Indeed, most of the room said it together and it was a deeply moving moment that would have most certainly given my Mom chills.  I know it did me.

**There's a poem Mom loved called, I believe, "The Dash." It talks about the first date on the tombstone being the day you were brought into this world, and the last date being the day you left. But all that's on their to represent what you did in this world was the "Dash." The Pastor talked about that poem and quoted from it, so that's what the reference is.


After the Santa Cruz service, we held a Catholic Mass in Mom's honor.  The CHurch said that, if we wanted, we could give a three minute eulogy before the Mass itself started (God bless the Catholics, eh?).  This was a much more difficult eulogy to give, not just because of the time constraint, but because I would be the only speaking of her life.  It was a daunting task for me, and though I felt the weight of it, I feel like I did a good job and that Mom would be proud of me.

Thank you all for joining us this morning.

I would like to speak to you today, not so much about what my Mom did in her life, but who she was.  One of the first things that stands out for her is her outgoing, friendly personality.  She readily and easily made friends and, as testified to by so many here who knew her over the years; once she made those friends she did not readily let go.

Mom was very caring, and she very much stayed in touch with her friends, her family, and her friends who became family; because she truly wanted to know about them and their lives.  One of Mom's favorite things was to catch up with her friends and find out what was going in their lives, in their children's lives, their grand-children's lives, and even, occasionally, great-grandchildren's lives.  She wanted to know because she truly cared about them, and really did want to know what all was happening in their lives.  And, almost always, she would insist on a snapshot of everyone there.

Mom was also a giving soul, and would usually send out a thank you note to her friends including prints of the pictures that were taken.  She would also send you anything she found that reminded her of you in addition to sending out cards for Birthdays and sympathy, for just thinking of you and for encouragement.

She was a helping person, too, and was often one of the first to be called when you needed something.  She would give you a shoulder to cry on, a much needed laugh, or even a swift kick in the *ahem*!

Notice I said, "need" and not "want."  Mom was also a good enough and strong enough friend to give you what you truly needed, not necessarily what you wanted.

In giving advice, Mom often gave the Serenity Prayer as solace:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Mom didn't just recite that prayer, however, she lived it, too.  When the diagnosis came she accepted it for it was with the quiet strength and dignity that marked so much of her life as you all know.  So it is fitting, after her passing, that you should join us her to celebrate that life.  She was baptized here, she was married here, and now, with her oldest and dearest friends; who have been there for so many other milestones in her life, we celebrate this final one here.

Thank you again for coming.

Mom was 68. She will be truly missed.

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