Then Cathy had me read a Facebook post from a friend of ours who was basically done with all the negativity, anger, divisiveness and even hatred of others we are seeing in the world right now. The sad thing for me is that regularly it is people claiming to be Christian who are fomenting and encouraging the anger and fear.
That, too, made me grateful for my mom. I grew up in a family that aimed to love each other, even with our differences. Not only that, but my mom, a strong introvert, lived her life welcoming people, even those different than us into our home and family. Mom especially liked to encourage life’s underdogs.
Today I thought others might benefit from getting to know my mom and some lessons I learned from having her as my mother. I'd like to share the eulogy I gave at her funeral.
Given June 9, 2021
On behalf of Dad, Joe, John, and Jane, thank you for being here. Thank you, Father Todd, for your kindness, especially to my parents.
Whether you called her, Mom, Grammy, or Jan, she wanted you to remember her as she was before the cancer that took her. She was always a private person; the cancer made her more so.
Like my dad, Mom was a photographer. She didn’t want the picture people had of her to be from her last weeks. Literally. Two months ago, Mom decreed as only Mom could, “No more pictures.”
My brother, Joe, commented after a particularly rough day for Mom that no snapshot can capture a life. Our lives are more movie than still photo. If Mom’s life were a movie, it wouldn’t have the glamor, glitz, noise, or treachery needed to be a Hollywood hit. Mom said our family’s life must seem boring to most people. She was glad for that. Mom was not much for drama.
Mom found her contentment in being outdoors, camping, gardening, reading- in simple pleasures. She found her joy in traveling and being with friends and family. Mom never needed, nor wanted, the spotlight.
Mom found her success in the well-being of others, especially her children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren. Grammy loved her kids, grandkids and great grandkids. Weddings, adoptions, births, concerts, games, moving or home remodeling, celebrations, or troubles—Grammy and Papa were there for us.
I am a pastor now and at every funeral or memorial service I do, I aim to learn something from that person’s life. Mom’s life might not have made for an exciting Hollywood movie. But perhaps there is as much or more value in her simple, but meaningful life. Here are just a few of lessons I learned from Mom.
I learned from Mom, and Dad too, that small, wise, loving decisions made day after day are the ingredients of life well-lived. Mom and Dad’s commitment to each other, their family, friends, and their church impacted hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people over her life. Mom not only loved her family and friends, but she also loved any of her family’s friends. Any friend of ours was welcomed into our home by Mom. I have been receiving emails and messages from friends remember how my parents welcomed them into our family.
She loved the young athletes she coached, her scouts, the people she served at a food pantry and so many others. I’ve learned from Mom that a quiet commitment to the well-being of others, especially life’s underdogs, is what makes a life significant.
I learned the power of prayer from Mom. Her prayers protected us and blessed us. Mom prayed us through life’s many storms.
One time when I was straying from the path Mom knew was best, I jokingly said, “Pray for me, Mom.” She immediately replied, “I do. Every day. And at Christ the King we pray for sinners every week.” Mom said it with a straight face. It was in love, but she meant it!
In Mom I learned to see potential and good in people and cultures that were different than us. The last meal was able to eat was Pad Thai. Not many 82-year-old Midwesterners from Kansas can say that. When I tell people that story, they often ask, “What’s Pad Thai?” Mom enjoyed the good in life from wherever it came.
I learned from Mom the value of curiosity and learning. I learned from Mom the joy of exploring creation. One Christmas vacation when we were still in school, Mom and Dad took Jane, John, Joe and me to camp at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It was so beautiful, and we had such a good time, years later my parents also took, Rene, Jane’s husband, Cathy, my wife, and her family another Christmas adventure down in the Grand Canyon.
But with Mom, you didn’t have to go to the Grand Canyon for it to be special. Even a conversation on a simple walk around the block was a treat.
My brothers, Joe and John, and my sister, Jane, and I have different personalities, talents, temperaments. Mom saw the good in each of us, even when we couldn’t see it in each other. She helped us appreciate each other. These last months, Mom and Dad’s dedication to our family’s love for each other became the firm foundation for the difficult journey we all have been on. I see clearer now the good Mom saw and developed in each of us.
Mom believed in each of us even when we didn’t believe in ourselves. Mom helped bring out the best in us. One of the ways she did that was by speaking the truth in love.
For example, one time I was being a self-focused, whiny adolescent, Mom pulled me aside, got my full attention, and in a loving but direct way, said, “Jeff, the universe does not revolve around you”, walked away and let me reflect on that truth! Mom’s love earned the right to speak truth to me and was more impactful than any punishment would have been. What Mom taught me and how she talked to me growing up were perhaps the most important lessons I learned in life.
--The morning Mom died, she woke up for a short time and we talked. I didn’t understand much of what she whispered, but the last words I heard from my mom were these clearly spoken ones, “Tell everyone I love them.”
Jesus came to show us love—a love lived out in humble service—is what is most important. The Apostle Paul wrote three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. Mom was so tired and ill, and she had been through so much, but I’m not surprised God gave her the energy to be able to tell everyone she loved them before she left us.
Simple kind acts of care, concern. Stubborn persistence for what you believe. Valuing the truth. These define Mom. But the main thing I learned from Mom are the importance & power of love.
Dad, my amazing siblings, family and friends, your faith, hope and love-- they are never wasted. They are eternal. I especially want to thank you for sharing your faith, hope, and love with Mom.
And dear Lord, I thank you for my Mom.
I thank you for her love.
-My mom asked me to tell everyone she loves you.
You told me you knew, Mom, but I want to tell you again, we love you and we'll miss you.
And we always will.