Memorial for My Mother

This blog entry comes a few months into 2018 and the first blog I’ve written since my memorial to my dad and his passing last September 2017. Of course, this is a bit of a cheat as I’m actually going to share with you the memorial speech I gave at my mom’s service in 1997 on August 13. While we did have a chaplain from where my mother worked, I wanted to make sure it was done ‘right.’

My brother and sister both contributed, I think they recorded their sections. I, on the other hand, created at least four drafts. I remember standing up in front of family, friends, old neighborhood kids, and even my dad and my uncle (mom’s brother). I stumbled through it all and didn’t break down until we played the bagpipe version of Amazing Grace towards the end.

This past weekend, I’ve had to go back through all the boxes in our storage unit. Now, keep in mind, somehow I’ve been the ‘keeper of things’ since mom died, though there have been several purges over the years specifically when moving. The last move was done in a rush and many boxes had things thrown in to sort in a few months after we got settled. Yeah, that was four years ago. Time’s up!

The culling has been severe, but I’ve found a few gems, a few turds, and lots of memories…good, bad, and bittersweet. Reading through the various versions of the memorial, I kept thinking, “I thought I said something about X or Y?” and then I found the typed up version. I have a foggy memory that I took all the rough notes that I had been working on all the way to the last minute and made the final presented version. It seems to have everything I remember saying, plus a bit more I had forgotten about until reading.

Yes, it still hard. And yes, it brought up stuff about my dad too. Of course.

One final note before I share the memorial: Mom had passed away suddenly after a year of being sober after not being sober for many years. It was a shock and so sudden that we were not prepared at all. Having experienced both ends of the spectrum, neither are good (of course), sudden was easier in some regards, but we never got to say ‘goodbye,’ find out stories or learn recipes. But, watching someone suffer over the course of a year was brutal in its own rights.

I promise I’ll share stories and humor again soon. it’s been more trying than I imagined it would be. Some of you understand. Some don’t. And that’s okay. I hope you never have to.

Mom’s Memorial Service August 13, 1997

(My Part)

I want to thank everyone for coming and to thank those who wanted to but couldn’t.

There’s not enough time or proper words to truly describe who my mother was or what she meant to me.

Over the past few days, I have come to realize how many people’s lives we touch with our own. Sometimes only for a brief moment. And how, from time to time, someone special comes along and touches our lives.

My mother was a special person. She had an inner caring light that she shared with everyone around her. She had a strong soul that was tested heavily the past few years after her parents passed away. She triumphed over adversity with help from those around her. This past year, my mom came back to her children and became Pat to her friends once again.

I won’t go into a lengthy biography, except to say that my mom had several lives.

She had her life growing up in Pennsylvania. Twirling her baton while a marching band played. Looking to the night sky with the Astrophysical Club while Sputnik soared across the sky. Waiting tables in Ocean City, Maryland in the summer. Dancing with Gregory Hines in the Catskill Mountains when she attended Penn State College.

Her college friend, Katy Ping, said my mom would “always do what was conventional, even if it wasn’t always socially acceptable.”

She raised her kids to respect others, no matter how different they are. She was a student of the world. In recent years she kept true to form and dove head first into a complex computer mapping program for the Little Rock Police Department that few in the country can operate.

She touched each of us. We all know in what ways. Sadly, we forget until they are gone. But don’t be sad. Be happy that we had an opportunity to be with her.

Protecting her brother. Accepting a marriage proposal. Paying a babysitter. Swinging a child. Helping a single mother. Bandaging a cut or scrape. Cooking cinnamon rolls. Cooking Pot Pie. Cooking spaghetti and meatballs…

Listening to a beginning trumpet player, then a flute player, and then a choir singer. Giving praise for excelling and support for failure. Make each of us realize how special our individuality is. How important it is to NEVER stop learning. She never did.

Mom had some hard times, but she had great friends and you will never know how much it means to us that you helped her. And while it took her strength to take that final step, never forget that you gave her extra time. This past year has been filled with loss and mom has helped all of us through it.

I won’t go into much more. To be honest, I’m having trouble during all this remembering specific conversations with my mom. I hope they will come to me in time.

What I do remember is also what is helping me get through all this:

She loved her life being a crime analyst at the police department as well as the people she worked with. The technology both thrilled her and aggravated the hell out of her. She loved the vastness of the ocean and the promises of space. A campy science fiction show called Star Trek held for her the idea of a future where people got along and quested for the unknown, always learning as they explored.

She was happy living in Sheridan with a man instrumental in bringing her through the hard times. Mom told us kids how much she loved Carroll and so we all considered him her husband.

And she also seemed happy that her children had grown up into being people she enjoyed being with.

She was happy. Even though she’s gone now, I know she was happy.

Her friend Dave Parker remembered a conversation he had with her about dying. A passage in the book The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran held special meaning. A teacher once told her she could never sing. She didn’t have the voice. So she never tried.

“Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”

In closing, I just want to say I remember her always being there. Whether nearby or far away. I know mom was thinking about me. And while I might not have been at the front of her mind, I knew that no matter what, If I ever needed to, I could always go home.

Say “hi’ to grandpa, mom.