I spoke these truths at my mother’s funeral in 2000.
I have the deepest respect for my mother and I’ve always wanted to be able to offer this kind of public testimony for her–because she was a “background/behind the scenes” kind of person who I felt needed to be exalted…
My mom supported and encouraged so many others with their dreams and their problems, but never seemed to need to be the center of things or to shine herself. For me this made her a kind of hero. She was definitely the “wind beneath my wings” … whether it was acting in a highschool play, going off to college, traveling through Europe, moving to VT, or deciding to give up a career and be an at home mom.
It was my mother’s constancy of unconditional love and acceptance that made so much possible for me. I always wished that she could have had some of the glory and opportunities that I did so it is an honor to glorify her here today.
And I always thought that I would have to get up here and tell people about how special she was, but after this summer– after all the love letters &cards, poems & paintings, presents & meals that were sent her way, I know that others realized the gift she was too.
And more importantly, there is the testimony that her children offered, each and every day this summer in the hospital and at home, as they lovingly cared for mom, and left their personal lives and homes behind. I was and am touched so deeply by their devotion and by their unified strength– how they came together and loved my mother whole-heartedly. I am continually in awe of this, and I was blessed to be here on some short visits and in her last days to witness this love story.
I’d like to share some glimpses of those last days and hours with you when all of us rallied around mom; there were so many beautiful moments, so many blessings in the sadness of it all….
So here is a spoken slide
show of those moments together:
~my brother-in-law Dr. Ken Cramer at my mother1s side, listening to her lungs with his stethoscope, tears streaming down his face
~my mother’s eyes closed and unresponsive for hours, suddenly opening wide and looking all around after hearing the cry of my newborn son
~wall to wall air mattresses, arriving daily to be placed around my mother’s bed so that each of her children could be there to support her in her last hours
~in the wee hours, these beds filled with family who haven’t slept under the same roof in fifteen years
~having the little ones toddling around, John and Sequoia and Josh, and to see the love they had for their mom-mom
~my aunt cass (my mom’s sister) who massaged my mom’s feet each time she came, even after my mom had passed
~to hear laughter coming from a full kitchen of siblings and spouses, relatives and friends; and the meals that arrived daily to feed of all of us
~to share in the sorrow of these days with with each other’s partners, Kenny Cramer, Ken Burcham, Casey, Tim, Rich, Frank, and Danny’s Diana who always had that beautiful smile and a gift for mom
~to find mom’s brothers and sisters together again to support her
~to see the natural rhythm of the bed-side vigil, always one or two to sit beside mom without the need to ask… holding mom’s hand, telling her how beautiful she was, giving her water with a sponge, wiping her mouth and brow: her brother bill, her sister chris, her sister in law Barbara
~the times we all gathered around mom, sobbing, holding onto each other and to her, telling her how we loved her and were there for her, thinking she was taking her last breaths, only to see her open her eyes and wonder what was going on…
~watching Kenny’s tears turn to laughter after this, realizing that his stethoscope & medical examination didn’t /couldn’t account for everything, particularly mom’s determination
~having Big Dan say at one of these gathering times around mom, that if he was a painter, he’d paint this beautiful picture
~the sight of my nephew Corey in tears behind us, and how my niece Jamie fell into my sister Michelle’s arms after my mother passed
~little bonnie lying beside mom that last night, staying with her in her last hours, and mom waiting to begin to finally let go until Bonnie got up to make a pot of coffee
~the incredible pain and blessing of each of us being present around my mother as she took her lasts struggled breaths, continuing to breath even after her heart had stopped
~the sound of each person’s utter grief
~to have my son Lloyd there when my mother passed, and my son Aidan waking just before she was dying, continuing the awesome connection between his new life and her ending life this summer
~to watch the love that each one of us gave to her even after she passed… causing the nurse and the undertaker to eventually leave to come back hours later to do their work
~to witness the relationship and love that had developed between the nurses and my family
~to see my nieces Bekah and Jordan sitting beside my mom alone after she had died and lovingly touching her face… while Andrew and Lloyd jumped on her trampoline
~to have big Dan bring us all together around mom’s body to offer our words of love one last time, and to hear him talk about how special we all were
~to watch my mom’s body being taken, and stand there among sobbing sisters, and aunts and uncles on the sidewalk, in the yard and on the porch as she left our lives
~to see what a comfort big dan was to my mother, his devotion, his daily tears, his touches, and to see the reflection of that in the affection and respect held for him by my sisters- for this he has my undying gratitude
For each of us I think that there will be a “Bonnie” shaped hole in our
hearts and lives from this time on. Mine felt like a crater this morning,
but there is also the blessing that this summer has been for all of us.
My mom’s life, even in its ending, was certainly a success, and so I’d like to close with a poem by Emerson entitled the same. I found it on a card I sent to my mom years ago that she had saved. It is as true today of her as it ever was,
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty to find the best in others, to love the world a little bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson