Mom at 16
Of course, this was the most numbingly painful day in my life…saying goodbye to Mom. I wrote this for her memorial service, but I could not read it aloud – it was far too excruciating – so I asked Denise if she would read it (she was the most eloquent of all my friends) and of course she said yes. Tears emanated as we cried…I remember my brother Scott just sitting there, quiescent, during the whole service, still absorbing the fact that she was gone…I recall my friends still thunderstruck that this was reality. It was odd, there were no adults mom’s age at the ceremony, just most of her children and their friends…which showed where Mom was in her life. She had no “girlfriends” in her life, except for her daughters, and that came in the later years, at execrable costs. Lord knows her husband was never a friend (or a spouse)…she only knew her immediate family for most of her life after marriage. And the questions that arise about that part of her will always remain a mystery; it died with her. At the conclusion of the reading of this soliloquy, Bedelia sang Mom’s favourite song, “Wind Beneath My Wings” so unbelievably powerful, that it rocked the very core of our aching souls…It was so hard to say goodbye, but we knew…Mom was just a song away…
Goodbye, Barbara Jean
September 20, 1940-April 5, 1993
I don’t know where to really begin. I should first say thank you to all of you who were gracious enough to come ~ kind enough to be here in my family’s and my great sorrow.
I’m best at describing and expressing how I feel with pen and paper ~ but at this time, my voice cannot speak the words wrote, the words I feel, so I asked one of my soul sisters to read them for me.
What is there really to say? Everyone who knows me knows how much I treasure my mother. It wasn’t the conventional mother/son relationship…we were more like friends (Heh! Ma always loved a good cliché!)
We can take peace within ourselves and be thankful that she went away in her sleep ~ gently, quietly ~ finally content in the knowledge that we loved her ~ finally feeling there’s a need to smile. She clawed her way through 34 years of hell, escaping, at last, to a new form of happiness, which was her last few months. Evil incarnate no longer haunted her, mentally abused her [or us]. She was rid of the monster, freed of that anguish, and at last could say she was happy. She told my brother and me, for example, that this past Christmas was the best she’s experienced since she was a child.
I know I’ve mentioned this to a few of you, but I feel I should repeat it. Mom believed in fate. All the debates could not stop her beliefs. She felt that when it’s your time to go, you go. Period. She wasn’t a churchgoer, but she kept her own internal religious beliefs. Keeping these beliefs in mind, then, we must accept her philosophy and believe that, YES, it was her time. She was strong enough to wait long enough to escape doom before she just…let go. She held on long enough until she was content, until she realized it was okay now. Of course she knew that whenever it was her time, it would be hell for most of us, but she always told me that when it was, “…do not mourn too long”. Crying is natural, so, yes, cry ~ but also laugh ~ remember ~ never forget ~ but cry not forever. Besides, if we are going to believe it was her time, then tears will not bring her back. I used to tell her, “You’re nuts.” Then we’d laugh. But she really believed in that fate.
Yet, how does one not mourn when you lose someone who is part of your blood from day one? How do you not halt your heart from leaping? And then you start feeling angry ~ angry at life ~ angry at other people’s happiness ~ angry at survivors ~ angry at your family ~ angry at anyone who’s older than Mom ~ and ultimately angry at this entity she named God. “How could you do this to us God!?” you scream to her god. “How could you take away the one constant thread in our life and expect us to believe in you!? And without even the chance to say goodbye?!” Then you start hating her god and denouncing her god.
Then…I remember Mom. Then I realized I’m wrong to curse her god because to do so was to curse her belief system. Then the anger disappears and then you cry again ~ then sigh ~ maybe wonder a simple “Why?” I take comfort, then, when remembering Mom’s favourite poem ~ I’ve always loathed it because, well, as a non-believer I thought it to be pretentious ~ but she cherished it. It’s called “Footprints”, and she stood her ground. She loved it, believed it ~ she felt she lived it. So, again, if we are going to accept Ma’s beliefs, then we must accept that she felt she was the one being carried by this “lord” in the poem, and that now, she always will be.
She was the mother of us all. Can anyone in this room who knew her say that they called her anything but “Mom“? Any friend was automatically one of her “children”. Who else but she could bring together everyone who is here? Friends who lost touch years ago ~ constant companions ~ estranged but unforgotten family ~ friends who are strangers to other friends? All together for one reason…Mother of us all…
I don’t know if this vast, empty hole which houses Mom’s love will ever be filled completely, or if this sadness will ever cease. For some, I gather, the tears have stopped, for others the tears have not yet begun. I guess an overwhelming sense of loss will linger within me always, with every moment I breathe. But I tell you, we must all move on ~ go on. Mom would reprimand us (loudly, of course) if she thought her passing would halt our lives for more than one moment.
But Ma’s leaving has taught me a lesson ~ that bitterness leads to bitter lives. We must live ~ and when we wish to recall, just…remember. We have history ~ never stop thinking or talking about her and what she meant to us, negative or positive (no one is a saint in this world full of sinners). We have memories, photos, knowledge. The point of power is in the present. That’s what I believe because of its truth. We must believe in our present, and believe in our future ~ and never ever forget our past. Let the bitterness fade away. All we have is each other now…
I could go on for one million more pages, but I think its time to let go now…not to her spirit, which I still feel around us…but to her physical presence…the body is merely a shell to that spirit, anyway. Now, that spirit is within all our shells ~ all our lives. When we hear the night owl sing her song, it’s Mom. When we feel a quirt of cold breeze on our sweating brows, that’s Mom. When we hear Garth or Reba or Gary Morris or any of her other favorite singers sing on the radio, that’s Mom. When we turn on the television and see “Roseanne” or “Letterman” or the “Commish” or “Magnum” or the “Golden Girls” or any other of her favourite TV shows, that’s Mom. The world, our lives, our dreams are filled with her…so all we have to do is listen to the sky, and we’ll hear her…all we have to do is listen to her favourite songs, and you know she’s right next to you…inside you, until your time here is over. Then, no matter your beliefs, your spirit will walk to her when it is your time to greet her…in her heaven, on another plane of existence…wherever souls go…and, if you just listen…
…I think I hear her now…
…my mother…Mother hindsight…Mother of us all…
April 10, 1993
**The intro to my mother’s eulogy was written about ten years ago, around 1999-2000. At the time, I was gathering together all my writings, my songs, and my musings for a collection I was working on, to be self-published. That never happened. So, on this 16th anniversary of the morning she died, I decided to post both the intro and the actual text of that memorial.