Eulogy for Mom – “Mom and the God-Shaped Hole”
Shortly before my mom went into the hospital, we happened be on our summer vacation and spent a couple days visiting her. She was already becoming very short of breath, she knew she was sick.
I remember distinctly sitting across the table with her, and for one very shocking minute, she looked up at me with her beautiful brown eyes and what I saw took my breath away. It was not my mom looking at me, but a little girl, lonely and afraid. Hungry eyes full of pain.
When Mom was a small child she lost her own mother, leaving a profound grief, a hole in her heart that would never be filled. Blessed with a large, loving family and an amazing inner strength, she carried on with life. Years later she met my father, finally someone who looked at her perhaps the way her mother had – with unconditional love and acceptance.
She clung to Dad for the rest of his life, and when he died, a hole opened up in her center. Literally. Some months after he died, she had an unexplained hole appear in her abdomen . So strong was her love and attachment to him. The hole eventually closed, but she never fully recovered from losing Dad. She expressed to me years later that she had completely lost the ability to feel joy. Ever.
The point is, Mom was deeply familiar with overwhelming grief, and with the inescapable human hunger for love and acceptance. But- more importantly, she recognized that need in other people. My mom was the champion of the outcasts.
When I was a baby, I became very ill, enough to be hospitalized. Mom told me that she realized “this baby needed her mother”, and she quit her job to stay home and take care of me. In retrospect, I realize that was a significant financial burden to our family. But she saw that I needed a mother’s touch, a mother’s love.
I remember Mom playing with me on the floor, tucking a raggy little baby doll into a shoe box bed and covering her gently with a Kleenex for a blanket. Years later I got a lovely new doll with real plastic furniture, but it was never as much fun as when Mom was playing with me.
Throughout the rest of her life, Mom recognized the needs of others, and sacrificed whatever time and money she could to help. She lived meagerly on a wee Social Security check yet somehow managed to give lavishly. I could tell stories for hours at this point, but anyone who knew her will testify to the ridiculous generosity of her spirit.
Not that my Mom was a Mother Teresa or anything. She smoked and drank and cussed like a trucker, especially in her later years. Mom did not mince words or stand on ceremony. She was not squeamish about anything. She had a brilliant analytical mind and an insatiable curiosity – it was virtually impossible to gross her out.
Having grown up in a large family, she loved people, and loved being around people. And people loved her. She was so down-to-earth, and so easy to talk to. In my younger years I often struggled with jealousy because her love knew no bounds, and I wanted it all for myself. It seemed there was always an extra kid in our house that she was watching, and my friends spent far too long at the kitchen table talking to Mom instead of hanging with me!
After we moved to Florida our house became like a hotel. Cousins came to live for extended periods. Holiday parties and other occasions for partying always included visiting friends and relatives and just about anyone she met that didn’t seem to have a place to go.
Food and drink and laughter. And love, boundless love unless she perceived ill intentions – she had no tolerance for “phony people” or if she perceived devious or malicious intent. But to “real people” – the pure of heart- no matter how creepy they appeared, Mom did not discriminate. More than once I questioned her hospitality. “Ew, do you really LIKE those people?” She would just shrug and say “they have no one else, nowhere else to go.”
Whether you knew my Mom as a relative, as a volunteer, as a business person, or just as a lucky friend, you know. Mom saw inside you, saw your pain and wanted to make it all better. Spending time with her, laughing and smiling that beautiful smile, always made you feel better.
About thirty years ago Mom fought a brutal battle with Ovarian and Endometrial Cancer. She was convinced that the reason she was allowed to survive was because “she still had work to do”. She was always trying to figure out how to solve the problems her children and grandchildren were having. Whether they wanted help or not. It was her job.
The last hour of her life, I sat alone with her. Despite heavy medication coursing through her veins and soothing music my brother had put on, her brow was furrowed. I held her hand tightly, pushed her hair back and looked intently into her foggy, unfocused eyes. I promised her everything would be okay, naming specific people I knew she most worried about.
I thanked her and assured her that she had been the most wonderful mom I could ever have asked for, she had taught me to be loving and generous and how to be strong and work hard. “I GOT this mom, I’m gonna take care of things here, it’s okay for you to let go.”
“Continue your journey back to the loving arms of your mother who held you when you were a baby and my Dad who loved you unconditionally, to Jesus, to your Creator. And how cool is that gonna be? and we talked about this before – time is an earthly construct – so you know I will be with you too, in the blink of an eye, and we all will be together, everyone you love, and we will all be happy, no more suffering, just joy and love forever.”
That must have been what Mom was waiting for – assurance that her job was done and done well, that there would be no more suffering, no more holes to fill. Moments later she quietly stopped breathing and continued her journey to everlasting joy.