"A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take."
-- Cardinal Mermillod
I haven't written for a month because I've lost the one whose place no one else can take.
My courageous, strong, intelligent, funny, sweet, loving mom put up a heroic battle against pancreatic cancer. She fought so hard to stay with us as long as she could.
Even though she was in a lot of pain, Mom didn't let it show -- especially to the grandkids. She spent as much time with them as she was able.
She ended her life surrounded by her husband and children and voicing her love for us as long as she was able to whisper the words.
There's no way I can do justice to my mom with just a few words on a page. I was priveleged to speak at her wake, so I'm going to post what I wrote out to say. I strayed from this when I actually stood up to speak, but this will have to suffice.
There’s so much I could say about my mom. So many of the things in my life that bring me joy are things that I learned from her– big things like the importance of faith and family and forgiveness -- and smaller things like a love for reading and how to cook and how to make folks feel welcome when they drop by.
Something I learned from Mom was to take pleasure in small things – like the first crocuses of spring that Dad would bring her or a game of Scrabble or a cup of coffee with a friend or cheering on the local kids. Some might look at Mom’s life and think she didn’t live a very adventurous life, but she wouldn’t have agreed. She found adventures in the everyday happenings of life. Being a wife, a mom, and a grandma were where she found her adventures. Teaching was certainly an adventure – some days more than others. But she had the life she wanted.
Not long after Mom was diagnosed with cancer and was told she was looking at maybe a few months left, she told me that she was okay with it. She certainly hoped to be here for a long time, but she was content with her life and didn’t feel that if she were to die right then that she’d missed out on anything. She told me there wasn’t one thing she wanted to do that she hadn’t been able to do. She’d married the man she wanted -- her sweetheart -- and had the best family she could have hoped for and better friends than she’d ever imagined. All of you here are a testament to that.
Mom strongly believed in the sanctity of all life, and she lived that belief. We’ve had some sad losses in our family, and Mom loved those little grandbabies that she never got to hold just as much as she loves all of her grandkids she did hold. It’s comforting to me that now she’s getting to know those grandchildren, too.
When her mother’s health and mind began to fail from Alzheimer’s, it wasn’t easy. But just as she loved the unborn, Mom loved and respected the dignity of the elderly and infirm. She loved those who were in difficulties that other people might rather forget. Mom was always finding something that she could take to the women’s shelter in Aberdeen and kept those ladies and children in her prayers always.
As Mom’s disease progressed, she had to live with more and more pain. I think there were times it was almost more than she could bear, but she just bore it anyway. She would put a smile on her face and say, “I think I still have a few good days in me,” and put on her walking shoes and carry on. Towards the end, she told me that she still had her good moments. Even when she was ready for the pain to be over, she continued to bear it for the sake of those of us who weren’t ready for her to go. And she chose to bear that pain for whatever good our Lord could wring from it.
We can learn so much from her – from how she lived her life. And from how much she loved life. Life is such a precious gift, and it’s a gift not only when things are well. It’s a gift in all it’s twists and turns from the moment God forms us in the womb until we breathe our last. Mom didn’t preach that to people. She lived that.
At Thanksgiving when the family was gathered together to pray, Mom told us that she hoped to write letters to all of us to tell us what was in her heart and to let each of us know something she felt was special about us. She especially wanted to do this for her grandkids. One of the last things she expressed as Dad and we kids were gathered around her was that she needed to write her letters. She didn’t need to write those letters, because she lived those letters. She lived the love that she felt, and she made everyone feel that they were special to her – because all of you were special to her.
We’re her letters. All of us who knew her and loved her can be her letters to the world. We can take those things that she gave us and use them in the way we live out our lives. In doing that, we can be Mom’s letters for others to read. And she would love that.
Mom will live on in all of us who loved her. Family was so important to her, and this is my favorite picture of my parents with my kids.