Monday, March 23, 2009

Words To My Father - A Eulogy For Mom

Dear Dad,

There are days when it seems impossible that it’s been more than 30 years since you left us.
That it couldn’t possibly have been back in 1978.
Today, however, is not one of those days.

As I look around the room this evening and I see the faces of grandchildren and great grandchildren who never had the opportunity to know you, I realize that several generations have been passed down.

And knowing that both of your children have now surpassed the age that you were, it’s quite clear that our memories simply hide the fact that you left us much too soon.

But yet, there’s another reason that makes it so painfully obvious…and that’s what brings us here today.
The woman you left behind.

I’m quite sure your first concern would have been – how will Ma take care of herself without me?
How will this woman, who never learned to drive, never finished high school, manage to make it on her own?

What we may have all forgotten is that this woman had been taking care of people all her life.

As the youngest of seven children, she was made to quit high school as a junior and go live with her grandparents to care for them out on their farm. Can you imagine that happening now? To have a 16 year old girl quit in the middle of high school and go care for her grandparents for the next two years?

And Dad, I’m sure you would no doubt remember all the years our grandmother lived with us, occupying a hospital bed in your bedroom. And Mom, lifting her in and out of bed, the wheelchair, the bath and everywhere else she had to go. This woman did this for nearly seven years.
And all while raising two kids and working part-time.

Lest it be taken for granted, raising two children in any era is a hard enough chore on its own. And Dad, I know you were there for us as well, but it was always Mom who was there to bandage a knee, help with the homework or write a letter when we were away.

And more than anything else, Dad, she took care of you. More than you ever would have admitted. Yet, deep inside, I’m quite sure you knew how very special she was to you.

And let me add right now, that while Mom did indeed take care of a lot of us in her life, there were some people around her that helped her immensely. Dad, you would have been very proud of how some of your family members kept a continual watch on her and came to her assistance on numerous occasions.

And to the members of Mom’s family that visited and kept in touch over the years, I can tell you that Mom enjoyed the company and the connection you brought with her past. My sister and I are very grateful for the comfort.

Dad, you passed quietly into a warm summer morning. And Mom, who was subjected to a very difficult year and who struggled in her last days, called you the “lucky one.” Lucky, because you didn’t have to endure the pain and suffering that an old body can bring.

Lucky, because we didn’t have to witness the shortness of breath or the loneliness of a mind confused by the darkness or the unfamiliar surroundings of a strange room.

But what she didn’t realize is that we were the lucky ones.

Lucky, because she was there for us long after you were gone.
Lucky, because she was able to witness the grandchildren and great grandchildren you never got to know.
Lucky, because we had her with us all these years.

And Dad, maybe it’s because she had so much time alone after you left us that one of her favorite pastimes was to “remember.”
“Remember to remember” was her favorite saying.
She could always conjure up some memory that most of us had long forgotten.
And in the final months of her life, even as her short term memory was giving way, she struggled to search in the deepest corners of her past to remember every facet of her life…and how happy she was when she shared it with us.

One of the last memories I asked her to share was a poem that she had written and had published when she was 24 years old. The title of the poem was “The Ones He Left Behind” and it was about the husband of her sister who was killed in World War II.

She couldn’t remember what day it was, but she recited each line as if it had been written yesterday.

Another of her favorite sayings that she would always seem to slip in at the end of every conversation was, “Be happy.” And while I’m sure we’ll all refuse to heed that suggestion today, I have a feeling each of us will look back in the next couple of days and smile at her continual wish for all of us.

And so, Dad, the woman you left behind has come home to you. You two can once again continue on your Sentimental Journey.

As for those of us left behind, we will never forget.

We will forever, remember to remember.

Sleep well…both of you.



Sentimental Journey - The Lyrics

Gonna take a sentimental journey
Gonna set my heart at ease
Gonna make a sentimental journey
To renew old memories.

Got my bag, got my reservation
Spent each dime I could afford
Like a child in wild anticipation
I long to hear that "All aboard."

Seven, that's the time we leave, at seven
I'll be waitin' up for heaven
Countin' every mile of railroad track
That takes me back.

Never thought my heart could be so yearny
Why did I decide to roam?
Gotta take that sentimental journey
Sentimental journey home.