Winter’s End: Saying Goodbye to My Mom
Two weeks ago at this moment, I was offering my mom’s eulogy at her funeral mass. Several people who were present and some others who couldn’t make it in person asked me to share a copy of my words, so here they are.
Even as someone who has made a profession of writing, this was by far my hardest assignment yet. As is always the case when we lose someone we love, it is near impossible to find words to capture the kaleidoscope of feelings that comes with a loss of this magnitude. The loss of my mom was something my brother and I have been getting ready for in some ways for many years, though no amount of forewarning can prepare you to say goodbye to the person who brought you into this world.
The past weeks have been a beautifully intertwined and always-evolving practice of compassion, gratitude and grief. I’ve been inspired to allow everything that moves through me and feel each unique wave deeply. As my family and I continue to process and carry forward in healing, I’m buoyed by the love and support of our communities at this time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
My mom was so many things to so many people, and that has never been more clear to me than in the last few days since she passed. Any of you who have lost a close loved one may be familiar with the experience. As condolences begin to pour in from sometimes-unexpected sources, you have the comforting realization that the person you’ve lost had a larger impact and was better loved than you knew.
Since my mom’s passing, it’s been heartwarming to hear stories from so many of you who loved her. Across the reflections shared by people who span many different sectors and times in her life, several common themes emerge. Time and time again, I’ve heard people share their memories of my mother’s generosity; her intelligence; her work ethic; her determination; her strength; her warmth; her loyalty; and above all else, her love.
From adopting rescue dogs to always being the willing and eager host for gatherings of friends for my brother and me, my mom had an open heart and never hesitated to love. For anyone who needed help, she made it her personal mission to fill that need, and I’ve heard from many of her friends this week who shared stories of moments they could use help when she showed up, places they required support where she stepped up.
She placed such emphatic pride in her role as mother that she eagerly outstretched that love to any friends Mike and I brought into the house as if they too were her own children. As news of her passing spread, Mike and I heard from so many friends of ours who recounted feeling so safe, loved and supported in our mom’s home. A number of our friends had even affectionately come to call her “Mama Bro” or “Mommy 2.”
Meanwhile, Mike and I were fortunate enough to be the most enduring recipients of her love. Since our childhood, the affectionate exchange that my mom always shared with Mike and me was “love you more than the world, and then some.” We never doubted that and we never will.
Although my mom is no longer physically present with us, the lessons she taught us about the world and the things she showed us about ourselves have shaped us and will continue to guide us for the rest of our lives.
My mom demonstrated the virtue of generosity, and through her selflessness, I also learned the value of self-care. My mom demonstrated the value of work ethic and a job well-done, and through her penchant for perfectionism, I also learned the importance of embracing flaws and cutting yourself a break. My mom demonstrated the ability to simultaneously wear multiple hats and juggle many priorities, and through that controlled strength, I also learned the value of vulnerability and surrender. My mom demonstrated the importance of holding yourself and others to a high standard, and through those expectations, I also learned the invaluable grace of forgiveness and acceptance.
Despite all of our well-manicured facades, all of us face our challenges, all of us feel pain, and all of us know struggle. Through her long illness, my mom certainly shouldered her fair share of hardship and hurt, and in moments, that pain hung over her and between her loved ones like a cloud.
But now, in this first week of spring, I’m watching the clouds of winter begin to dissipate and the beautiful buds of new life return. And as we say goodbye to my mom, I’m reminded that when the impermanence of our personal pain passes, what we’re left with is love. And that’s my mom’s legacy. Just love.
I would be remiss if I didn’t spend a few moments acknowledging my brother Michael. My brother was by my mom’s side until the very end. As her health declined especially in recent months, he was there to bring her food, do her laundry, share his music and brighten her life in the way that only he could. He never turned away, never flinched, never faltered. Michael, thank you for showing up for mom in ways I was not capable. Thank you for being the biggest and steadiest source of light and love in her entire life. And that huge heart of my mom’s that I keep hearing friends and family remember – I see that living on and shining so brightly in my brother and I constantly marvel at the pure and loving way he moves through the world.
More than anything in the world, my brother and I wanted for our mom a life of happiness that was free of pain. In leaving this life, my mom released any heaviness and hurt she was harboring, and lighter for letting that go, I can now feel her newfound freedom all around me. Anytime I feel untethered at her absence or unmoored by her loss, I need only look so far as my own daughter, Marianne’s beloved Pearl. In all those frequent moments where I find myself awestruck by the bottomless depth of my love for Pearl, I will feel my own mother’s love encircling me as well.
My memories of my mother will not be tinged with pain or tainted by sadness. When she dances back into my mind, I will see her surrounded by blissful happiness, abundant in radiant health and filled with a perfect peace. When she comes back to me, I’ll be reminded of everything she gave to those she loved and let that charge me to be more present, more generous and more loving in this life. I invite all of you to do the same.
Mom, thank you for bringing us into this world, and for all that you gave and taught us. May you be happy, may you be healthy, and may you be free of suffering and full of peace. We love you more than the world and then some.