Home > Uncategorized > A Eulogy For Mom

A Eulogy For Mom

This was the eulogy I gave on Mom’s funeral on 4/20/12.

This is life.  We are born and we die and there is all that is in between.  Some days our time in between can be compared to walking in the fields, surrounded by blooming flowers and green grass.  At other times, the in between can be likened to climbing a mountain and reaching the peak, looking out from that high place on the rivers below and other snow-capped mountains.  But at some point, somewhere along the in between, we walk down the mountain into the valley through thistles and thorns.

A few weeks ago, Mom and I were sitting in her hospital room and she asked, “Are you going to have a service?”

“For what?” I asked, not knowing what she was talking about.  We’d been talking about her dogs.  Was she wanting me to have some sort of service for her dogs?

“A memorial service.  For me,” she said.

“Of course,” I answered.

Then, in her typical fashion, never being the type of person to leave the details to someone else, she told me exactly how she wanted the service to be.  She gave me a list of songs to choose from, told me the service had to be, had to be, celebratory, and not sad in any way.  Then she declared that she wanted only one passage of Scripture to be read, Psalm 23.  “Make sure,” she told me, “that you highlight that one verse, ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I know you are with me.  Your rod and Your staff comfort me.’  She said this verse in particular had helped her and comforted her on many occasions.  When she found herself in that stage of life, going through the valley surrounded thistles and thorns, the presence of God comforted her and gave her the strength to keep going.

When she finished giving me these directions, I asked, half-teasing, if she wanted to write down what she wanted me to say.

“Nah,” she said, waving her hand at me, “You can take of that.”

The day after she was diagnosed with stomach cancer I preached at CrossRoads and I spoke from the Gospel of Mark.  The stories I was speaking on dealt with a couple of occasions where Jesus healed some individuals and in my notes I’d written down something along the lines of “even though God doesn’t heal everyone, the one thing we do see is that He is near and present even in the midst of our pain.”  I wrote those words before I’d even learned of her illness.  When I preached that sermon later that weekend, when I came to that point in my notes, with Mom sitting in there just having learned of her illness, I could not look in her direction and I had a bit of trouble keeping my composure.

After the service, she came up to me, hugged me, and whispered in my ear, “You’re such a crybaby.”

“That’s ok,” I whispered back, “I’ll get even later when I tell all those stories about you at your memorial and you won’t be able to do anything about it.”

Then she tried to be all motherly by saying, “I love all of your stories.”

A bit about her life.  Although she was born in Chicago, my mom grew up in San Antonio along with her two sisters, Janice and Pat, and her brother, John.  She possessed a bit of vagabond spirit as she lived in San Antonio, Seguin, Austin, Dripping Springs, St. Louis, Phoenix, Plano, McKinney, and then Arlington.  And maybe one or two other places along the way.

She was married and divorced two times and raised three boys, myself, Jason, and Rob.

She had one grandchild, Samuel.  She often reminded me that she only had one grandchild.  My response to her was, “Well, you do have two other sons.”

Besides, the way she spoiled Samuel with toys, cookies, candy, pizza, stops at McDonalds and Taco Bell along with trips to the movies and the arcade and Target, I’m not sure she could’ve afforded a second grandchild.  Not that lack of money ever stopped her from doing anything.

During these last few weeks, believing that she was going to heaven to meet God, she finally came clean on her grandmotherly ways.  “I never followed your instructions about Samuel,” she said, “I gave him all the cookies, ice cream, and soda he wanted.”

“Yeah,” I told her, “I figured as much.”

We had that sort of relationship where we could tease and joke with one another.

She told me there were two reasons she moved to Arlington:  to be near family in case something happened and to be closer to Samuel.  She loved her job at the Forum, partly for the job, and partly because she was off on Fridays.  Every Friday during the summer she and Samuel were traipsing over Arlington doing something.

There are certain things about her that I will remember, images of her that will always stick in my mind.

To begin with, Mom loved to talk.  This is probably no surprise to many of you who knew her, but she really loved to talk.

A few years ago, a relative of my Dad’s passed away and Mom rode with me to the funeral in San Antonio.  There was an accident in Georgetown that shut the highway down in both directions, which turned our four hour trip into a seven hour trip.  She talked the entire seven hours.

On the way back from San Antonio, I got in the car, started the engine, and turned on the radio before she got in the car.  She was still talking to somebody else.  I hurriedly tried to find some sort of talk radio program so that she might think I was interested in that program.  The only thing I could find was some show about gardening and landscaping.  I could care less about listening to a radio show on gardening, but I hoped that it might give me a reprieve for a bit.  Thirty minutes into our drive, she reached over, turned off the radio, and said, “Enough of that, I want to talk.”

While she was in the hospital recently, Gene-o stopped by around lunchtime to visit with her.  I took the opportunity to go get some lunch and came back an hour later.  When we returned, Mom said, “We’ve been talking about our childhoods.”  Gene-o later told me he’d gotten in the first three sentences and Mom had commandeered the conversation after that.

One of the ICU nurses attempted to give her grief for talking so much, to which Mom replied, “I’m going out talking.”

She loved being around people.  She wanted to laugh, smile, and enjoy life.  Wherever she lived, wherever she worked, it didn’t take her very long to develop a circle of friends.  To her, it didn’t matter if you were a high-level executive at an insurance company or a checker at Albertson’s, she treated everyone the same.  Good or bad.  She would help anyone , but she would also give anyone a piece of her mind.  To her, people were people and the extent of your education or the size of your bank account didn’t make you any better or any worse than anyone else.

I consider it a testament to her as a friend that her friends repeatedly visited her in the last month.  If they couldn’t make it, then they were calling and emailing to check on her.  When I wrote these words, I was going to say that if one of them had been in the same situation, then she likely would’ve gone to visit them.  In the last week, I’ve learned from numerous people that she was there for them.  She drove one person to her chemo treatments.  Another she stopped by to check on every day.  And another told me that Mom called each and every day when they were sick.

Of course, she also loved her dogs.  Emphasis on the plural.  One was never enough.  And to set the record straight, I know she’s been telling everyone that when I was growing up one of the three dogs was mine, but they were all hers.

If it came to choosing between her sons and her dogs as to who was right and wrong, the dogs often won.  If one of them ate my brand new basketball shoes, then it wasn’t the dog’s fault, it my fault for not barricading my door so the dog couldn’t get in my room.  If the dogs jumped the fence in the middle of winter, it wasn’t the dog’s fault that it got out, it was ours and we needed to go find those dogs and bring them home so they wouldn’t freeze to death.

She was also a strong, tough woman.

She needed to be strong and tough in order to raise three boys as a single mom.  Especially the three boys she was given.  It might’ve been easier on her with another set of three, but she had us and we were no walk in the park.

When the phone rang after school, we knew that we’d better be home and we’d better answer the phone or else.  Later, we knew to be home before it got dark or else.  There were many times when I found myself sprinting down the street trying to get home before the sun went down.

When we got out of line, she was the enforcer.  She wasn’t afraid to use a belt, but for a very brief period of time, she tried to be progressive and she attempted alternative methods of punishment.  I remember having to sit at at the table and write 500 times, “I will not punch my brother in the face.”  When that didn’t work, she resorted to sending us to bed, even if it was five in the afternoon.  After a few weeks of these new methods of punishment, she went back to the old way, the way that worked, the way of the belt.  And she was wise to my attempts to pad my backside with baseball cards.

I can remember her saying, “You don’t have to fear your father and you don’t have to fear God, but you sure as heck better fear me.”  Oh, we did.  We definitely did.

Her situation as a single mother of three demanded that she exude toughness and strength, but I know that she loved us and was trying to do the best she could.  That often meant working two or three jobs to provide for us.  Three growing boys weren’t cheap.  That meant continuing to work multiple jobs so that she could help pay for college.

And when we were out of college, she continued working at least two jobs.  I think she did so for two reasons:  One, she liked being around people, and two, the extra money allowed her to be generous to other people.  She wanted to give to other people.  This last Christmas, she received an unexpected christmas bonus and instead of using it on herself as I tried to get her to do, or even to save some of it, she spent it on Christmas presents for her family and friends.  That was my mom.

Growing up, we didn’t have much, but when opportunities presented themselves, she made sure that we engaged in new experiences.  Prior to us moving from Phoenix, Mom thought it would be a great idea for us to see the Grand Canyon.  One Saturday morning, we piled into Mom’s single cab Datsun pickup truck and drove the four or so hours to the Grand Canyon.  When we arrived, we ate at McDonald’s, and then we spent at least, at least, ten minutes peering over the guard railing looking at the Grand Canyon.  Then we piled back into the truck and drove home.

But that was only part of the trip.  Jason and I got into an argument on the drive back and after multiple warnings, Mom pulled the truck over to the side of the road, told us to get out and walk home.  Once we proceeded to exit the car, she stayed true to her word and drove off.  She stopped a quarter of a mile down the road and let us back in the truck, only after she’d asked if we’d learned our lesson.  We had.

A few miles later, we pulled to the side of the road again, this time having run out of gas.  Not a one of us was stupid enough to say a single word to her about that.

Later in life, when I would watch her with Samuel, when I would see him come home with a Target bag wrapped around his arm containing yet another toy, a soda in one hand, and chocolate smeared across his face, I would ask myself, “Who is this pushover?”

Besides being a talker and a friend, a lover of dogs, and a tough woman and mother doing the best she could, she was also a survivor.  She endured enough hard times and difficult periods that would’ve knocked other people down.  But she got up and kept going.

If I’d had to deliver this eulogy thirty years ago, my words would’ve been different.  At that time, I’d gone to live with my Dad and the parting with Mom was not the best.  Over the next few years, I saw and talked to her sporadically.  The relationship was strained and distant, but we were polite and cordial to one another.

About fifteen years or so ago, she moved from Austin to Plano because of a company relocation.  She needed the work, Rob was about to enter college, so she moved, surviving once again.  At the time, I was working in Dallas and we started meeting for lunch and dinner, just the two of us, something I never expected would ever happen.  Sometimes, we talked about the past, and sometimes we talked about the present, like when she pressured me about grandchildren.  The conversations were easy at times and hard at others, but we took the opportunity to listen to one another, something I’d never done.  As we met and talked, I encountered a different woman than the one I’d grown up with.

Part of the renewal of the relationship can be credited to time and maturity, but Mom gave all the credit to her renewed faith and commitment to Jesus Christ.  We didn’t grow up going to church, but after we went our separate ways nearly thirty years ago, I started going to church in San Antonio and she started going to church in Austin.

When asked about what made the difference in her life, how had she changed, Mom would say, “It was God.  His grace and His love.  God has given me a second chance at life.”

Here is what I have learned and hear me out to understand what I am saying.  Growing up, we had our differences and disagreements and the relationship became fractured for a period of time.

But in the intervening years, God not only changed her, but me as well.

It took me awhile but I learned that she was the mother I needed.  She was the mother I needed and I wouldn’t be here or be the person I am or accomplishing what I am or doing what I am or be the husband and father and brother I am without my mother being who she was, without her being the mother I needed rather than the mother I wanted.  I needed a strong mother doing the best she could, relying on God for the rest.

We’re born and we die and there is all that happens in between.  In her 61 years, my mom experienced a lot of the in between.  Along the way, she trusted in God to carry her through the ups and downs of life.

Our lives have been richer for her presence.  Every night for the past few weeks, I told her the same thing when I left.  “You will be missed, but you will not be forgotten.”

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Bill Hallmanb
    April 21, 2012 at 7:50 am

    Well written Chris. She enriched the lives of many people.

  2. M. Labenz
    April 22, 2012 at 8:28 am

    I laughed, and I cried. That was very well written Chris. I wanted to share that a few weeks before her diagnosis I ran into her at Walmart. It was right after church, the day Joe gave his sermon on anxiety. She was walking around in tears. We stopped and talked and she shared a little bit about her life and her struggles. She was so impacted by Joe’s message that day and was doing a lot of self reflection, in the cake mix aisle. I tried comforting her and reassuring her, but when we parted I realized she had comforted and reassured me. 🙂

    • April 23, 2012 at 8:05 am

      Thanks for passing that I along. I appreciate it.

  3. Shane
    April 23, 2012 at 1:52 am

    This was a great eulogy, Chris. I like your mother’s style when it comes to discipline. My father was born & raised in Abilene so I am also familiar with the Texas way of the belt. My condolences on your family’s loss.

    • April 23, 2012 at 8:04 am

      Thank you for your comments as well as your thoughts.

  4. Michael
    April 30, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    I just read your message. This is so her and I miss her very much

    • May 3, 2012 at 8:26 am

      Michael-

      Thank you.

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