Sunday, August 18, 2013
My mother died last Sunday, August 11. Here's the eulogy I composed and read for her memorial service yesterday.
Her loving son,
A Eulogy for Mom
Throughout her life, mom was a generous woman. She was especially generous to my sister, Rosemary, and to me, and to her grandchildren. Family was very important to her. When giving, she would often say, “I want you to have this now, when you need it. Not later, when Iʼm gone.”
Mom was also fond of crafts. Over her lifetime, she learned to knit and to sew, to do French beading, and to work with with dried flowers. She operated a crafts workshop for seniors at St. Denis Church for many years before she left Philadelphia. When she moved to Pittsburgh, she donated two-thirds of the materials that she had accumulated -- and still filled a hutch, double closets, storage spaces, and the second, walk-in shower at her apartment with what was left.
She continued to combine her fondness for crafts with her generosity after she moved here. As a project for Forbes Hospital, she -- and other residents she volunteered at Beatty Pointe -- would knit caps and blankets for newborns and make teddy bears and picture books for children in the emergency rooms. When she had to move into assisted living last December, she donated over thirty cartons of materials to St. Vincent DePaul and other charities. And Rosemary and I will have another half-dozen to donate when we clean out her rooms from Harbour.
Mom also suffered from a severe hearing loss that began during a childhood illness. She had a punctured right eardrum and severely diminished hearing in her left ear. She wore a hearing aid for the last fifty years of her life, and she learned to lip read.
As a result, she preferred to take the initiative in most personal conversations. That way, she could do more of the talking and less of the listening. At their fiftieth anniversary dinner, my dad alluded to her habit, saying, “Fifty years ago, I said, ʻI doʼ. Iʼm happy tonight to get to say something again.”
When mom couldnʼt address someoneʼs needs by giving, she was no less generous with her advice. She had a keen sense of what was best for someone else, and -- often enough -- that sense could outrun her sense of tact in telling them. Even though her pronouncements on otherʼs needs were probably right more often than not, she would feel disappointed when her advice wasnʼt heeded. Then, dad would tell her, “ Youʼre right.” And he would add, “But are you happy?”
Mom never recovered from dadʼs death, in 2004. In the years since, she felt increasingly alone, as her remaining brothers and sisters and her closer friends were dying, leaving her as the sole survivor of her eleven siblings. Her faith helped her to work through her anger and her grief as she lived on, but she looked to the day when she could cross over and rejoin her husband of sixty-one years. Her most fervent prayers were for release from this life.
In the last six months, despite the increased levels of pain in her back and legs, she regained much of the mobility that she had had before she left Beatty Pointe. The physical therapy and medical supervision that she received at Harbour enabled her to resume some of the activities that she had long enjoyed. She worked again with dried flowers and gave demonstrations for other residents. She played bridge again. And she was able to get out to lunch and a bit of craft- shopping each week. She still had to work at accepting that she could not really advise God about when he would take her.
And her prayers were answered, sooner rather than later. God released her soul with an illness that did not prolong her suffering. The generosity of her life was repaid with mercy and compassion. And in her passing, we find that consolation.
In our grief, we find gratitude: Thank you, mom, for all that you have given us.